Opinion

Guide helps voters navigate the election labyrinth

An election-season shirt and tag. (Photo: IQConcept,via Shutterstock)

It’s been called the most important election in our lifetimes. Indeed, the 2016 election will go down in history as truly unusual and at times, unpredictable. Here in California, voters have taken note, with registrations hitting a record high. But this year, the nearly 18 million California voters heading to the polls in November will face the most complex and expensive statewide election in decades. In this intense political climate, it’s never been more important that voters have access to unbiased, comprehensive ballot information.

This is why Next 10 and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies created California Choices – an interactive, nonpartisan voter guide that helps Californians through the voting process. The tool not only offers in-depth background information on each proposition, but also provides voters with endorsements from more than 40 organizations and entities from across the political spectrum. The California Choices Endorsement Table summarizes ballot measure endorsements for all 17 initiatives in one easy-to-view page.

While we’ve partnered on the production of California Choices for each election since 2010, allowing over 215,000 voters to consult the tool a total of 286,000 times, we believe the guide has never been more critical.

With over 17 statewide propositions on the ballot, Californians have more issues to become familiar with than in any general election in the past 25 years. And the complexities of this year’s election cycle have made it harder than ever for Californians to adequately research each proposition. A recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California indicated that 57 percent of California voters believe there are too many propositions on the state ballot, and an even larger majority (79 percent) of voters find the wording for initiatives too complicated, and thus confusing.

California Choices helps address information overload by allowing users to make their selections for each measure, and then use the “Save My Votes” feature to save their choices to share with friends or email for their reference at the voting booth. This simplifies the process when dealing with so many measures.

In addition to the sheer volume of initiatives, impartial information about each proposition is hard to come by. Ballot measure spending is expected to break records in 2016, with total expenditures projected to surpass $400 million, led by a few key spending frenzies. Just two ballot battles are responsible for over 53 percent of the money raised in the election so far. Prop. 56, which would increase the cigarette tax by around $2 per pack, has led opponents and supporters to raise more than $94 million, with tobacco companies outspending the measure’s backers two-to-one. And this is only the second most expensive issue of the year.

Spending around Prop. 61, which would restrict the price the state pays for prescription drugs, has topped $101 million. Drug companies and trade associations have raised the vast majority, $87 million, while supporters have raised more than $14 million. With such large discrepancies between the financing of campaigns in support of, and against measures, the public can find it difficult to get a straight answer on the issues.

While we’ve partnered on the production of California Choices for each election since 2010, allowing over 215,000 voters to consult the tool a total of 286,000 times, we believe the guide has never been more critical. Thousands of users have already turned to California Choices this election season to learn more about each proposition. The site’s interactive features help voters cut through the noise, with tools such as pro and con arguments, polling data, video ads and press coverage, an endorsement summary table, and the “Save My Votes” feature.

It is important for voters to feel individually informed, engaged, and empowered to make their own Election Day decisions. We encourage readers to visit CaliforniaChoices.orgtoday to get informed and save your votes ahead of November 8.

Ed’s Note: Noel Perry is a businessman and founder of Next 10, a nonpartisan nonprofit think tank in San Francisco that produces the California Choices website. Jack Citrin is the Director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, which partnered with Next 10 to produce California Choices.  


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