Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top 10 Online Resources for California Voters

Voters looking for last-minute information will find a bounty of great resources online. Here is a rundown of some of the best for the upcoming November 6 election:

1. California Online Voter Guide – now in its 22st edition, the California Voter Foundation’s nonpartisan guide lists all state and federal candidates on California’s ballot, along with their web site addresses and contact information. Propositions, a “Voting FAQ”, and CVF's "Proposition Song" are also featured.

2. SmartVoter – produced by the League of Women Voters of California, this online guide provides comprehensive ballot information for all elections in most California counties, from President down to school board. Simply type in your address and a personalized list of the candidates and contests on your ballot is displayed. Biographical highlights, priorities and endorsements are featured for candidates who supply them.

3. Maplight – The "Voter's Edge" guide is a fantastic resource providing up-to-date and easy-to-read lists of donors for and against each proposition. News articles, editorials, endorsements and campaign ads are also featured.

4. Official California Voter Information Guide – produced by the Secretary of State, this guide is mailed out to every registered voter’s household. It provides nonpartisan information on the ballot propositions, such as an independent analysis by the state Legislative Analyst, pro/con arguments from proponents and opponents and texts of the propositions. Can’t locate your printed guide? No worries. An online, expanded version is available.

5. Easy Voter Guide – produced by the League of Women Voters of California, this is a great resource for those who are looking for a short and sweet overview of the propositions. It’s available both in print and online, in multiple languages, and designed to be read at the 8th grade level.

6. County Election Offices Roster – this is the page CVF refers voters to most often. That’s because most of the questions voters have, such as questions about registration, polling place location, ballot information and vote by mail status, can only be answered by their county election office. Fortunately many counties provide online tools that help voters find answers to the most simple questions, such as registration status and polling place location, online 24 hours a day, and CVF's roster links directly to each of those tools where available.

7. California Choices – a fantastic, comprehensive and easy-to-use resource to help familiarize voters with the statewide propositions, this site is produced by Next 10 and academic departments at Stanford, UC Berkeley, CSU Sacramento and UC San Diego.  It features a user-friendly table of endorsements and a way for voters to share their opinions on the propositions with their friends through the site.

8. Ballotpedia - this site covers initiatives across the nation, including those on the California ballot. One of the best features of this site is the historical polling data that tracks initiative support and opposition in public opinion polls over time.

9. Living Voters' Guide - this new project grew out of a similar effort in Washington State, and allows voters to share their opinions on propositions with others via the Web. You can use it to find out what other voters think about the propositions and add your own opinions as well.

10. Voter guides with a slant - some voters want their election information with an opinion attached to it. Even if you don't agree with the editors' opinions, these guides can be really helpful if you understand their point of view. Two great examples from this election are the Courage Campaign's Progressive Voter Guide and the "small L" libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation's California Voters Guide, which followed an earlier, hysterical write-up of the California ballot propositions published on its site over the summer.

Kim Alexander is president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to improve the voting process to better serve voters. This essay is available for republication upon request.

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