Friday, October 21, 2016

Top Ten Online Resources for California Voters

California voters are facing a very long ballot this election, but fear not! There is an amazing amount of user-friendly information online. This list will help you find the best of the best, whether you are looking for answers to basic voting questions or need a deep dive into the candidates and ballot propositions.

1. California Secretary of State
The Secretary of State is the chief election officer and publishes the official state Voter Information Guide, where you can access the text, fiscal analysis and pro/con arguments for the 17 ballot propositions. A new feature is the Quick Guide to Props, in partnership with Maplight, with links to help voters follow the money and find out who's funding the proposition campaigns. You can also check your voter registration status or complete an online application to register or update your registration record (Oct. 24 is the deadline). Some resources like online registration and the voter information guide are available in nine other languages in addition to English.

2. Voters Edge
Two nonprofits - the League of Women Voters of California
and Maplight - teamed up to give voters this state-of-the-art tool you can use to look up every contest on your ballot and drill down to get detailed information like candidate statements, donor information and news articles. You can also select and save your ballot choices. Much of the site is available in Spanish as well. This site is especially useful when researching "down ballot" local contests for which voting information is often difficult to find.

3. California Voter Foundation
CVF's site is home to the California Online Voter Guide, providing comprehensive information on all state and federal contests in California, as well as deep links to additional resources. Highlights include CVF's Voting FAQ and the 2016 Proposition Song, an impartial, rhyming overview of all 17 propositions delivered in just five minutes. Be sure to sing along!

4. County Election Offices
Most questions voters have about voting and registration are best answered by their local registrar of voters, especially because election practices and procedures vary from county to county. CVF's site provides a directory of all 58 county election offices with contact information for each county and links to lookup tools voters can use to check their registration and ballot status, access their sample ballot or find their polling place.

5. California Choices
A project of the nonprofit Next10 and UC Berkeley's
Institute for Governmental Studies, this site is a must-visit for voters looking for a quick way to sort out which groups are supporting or opposing each proposition. It provides endorsements from a range of organizations as well as labor unions and political parties. A great shortcut for busy voters!

6. Public Media Guides
Many public and non-profit news organizations are providing outstanding web resources this election. CalMatters covers all 17 propositions, as does KQED's Election Guide. A collaboration of four California public radio stations, California Counts provides in-depth coverage of election issues and contests and also KPCC's Human Voter Guide, answering actual questions from California voters.

7. SeePolitical
The folks at SeePolitical have created an entertaining and
informative set of videos about the California propositions, animated and designed to engage voters visually. They are a great resource for voters looking for an alternative to text-based voting information. These videos have been translated into Spanish as well and are a great tool to use in classrooms or to show during an election house party.

8. Easy Voter Guide  
A project of the League of Women Voters and the California State Library, this guide is a great alternative to the 224-page Voter Information Guide!
Written at a 4th grade reading level, this guide is helfpul for all voters who want a simple explanation of the ballot and propositions. It's available in print, online and in five languages.

9.  FPPC's Top Ten Donors
Voters wanting to find out who's funding initiative campaigns can use the California Fair Political Practices Commission's Top Ten Donors site to do their homework. If a top donor is getting money from other sources, the FPPC helps you drill down and see who their actual donors are. It also shows if donors are in-state or out-of-state.

10.  Google
Google has collected essential voting information for all 50 states. If you type a voting-related question into Google, the site will likely answer it straight up, rather than just show you pages related to the question.

A few other suggestions:  it can be helpful to look at the voter guides put out by political organizations. For example, the left-leaning Courage Campaign offers a Progressive Voter Guide; while on the other side of the spectrum, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has its own recommendations. Whether you agree or disagree, seeing these guides from groups with an agenda can help you make informed choices.

There are some other creative resources out there to recommend as well. The Proposition Haikus is a short and sweet overview of all 17 propositions. A newcomer this election is, created by a group of citizens in the San Francisco Bay Area to provide a concise, nonpartisan review of each proposition. The site is beautifully designed, engaging and smartly-written.

If you want the back-story on a proposition, try Ballotpedia. A few other helpful news resources:  the Sacramento Bee's Voter Guide and the LA Times' Guide to the Propositions.

Happy surfing!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Now Playing! The 2016 Proposition Song

Every election could use a song, especially this one.

To help Californians prepare to vote on a whopping 17 propositions, I wrote a new "Proposition Song", performed with several friends around Sacramento and recorded and produced into a music video.

It's a big project made easier with the help of numerous people who volunteer their time and talent. Hats off to this year's Proposition Song Players - Jeff Bruner, Tim Onorato, Carl Salmonsen, Lou Galgani and Bob Keller.

Big thanks also to Steve Anselmino who used his magical video editing skills to pull the music video together. Our sound engineer, Flyin' Cowboy, spent hours recording and editing the song. Dan Perlea, a professional photographer, volunteered to shoot our performance videos in front of the State Capitol.

The first Proposition Song debuted in 2000; this year's makes the seventh song I've put together and produced on behalf of the California Voter Foundation. It is a super fun project and I appreciate the chance to blend my love for folk music and jamming with my love for voting and democracy. If you'd like to see past songs, we have collected them all on the CVF site here.

So please watch, listen and most importantly sing along! Those who want to play and perform the song are welcome to do so and can access an MP3 of the song, as well as lyrics and chords and the news release, on the song home page.

Now Playing! The 2016 Proposition Song

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Secrets to Jam Session Success

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the UK-based website Musical U, and shared my philosphy and ideas about participating in music jams. You can read the entire Q&A article at

Next week I will be heading to Tuolumne for the Stawberry Music Festival where I will once again be teaching my "Learn to Jam!" workshop and sharing my 20 tips for jamming etiquette, or "jamiquette" plus offering my Pete Seeger-inspiried "Learn to Jam!" pamphlet to festival goers.

An easier-to-read version of these 20 Jam Tips is available via my blog.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

How Was Your Election Day?

I have heard many stories from voters who had or witnessed challenging and difficult voting experiences last Tuesday and also a number of reported problems with voting technology on Election Day.

Many pollworkers have also written to the California Voter Foundation to express the probems they encountered.

If you have a story you want to share, good or bad, please post the details in the "Comments" section of my blog. Please include your name, and the city or town and county where your experience took place. I will review these comments before allowing them to be visible on my blog.

If you just want to share your story and keep it private, or if you want your post to be anonymous let me know. Please note that I will not post your comment if it doesn't have a name or email address I can use to verify the story.

You can also email your stories directly to me at kimalex - at - cal voter - dot - org.

Here are some of the stories I have heard so far.


News organizations reported that 140 electronic voting machines in about 10 percent of the county's polling places were not operating due to a coding problem that prevented the machines from contacting the central system. The county sent out technicians to fix what was described as a "glitch" and election staff stated the machines were operating again within an hour and a half. The pollworkers reportedly passed out paper ballots while the voting machines were offline.

More at


Various problems were reported in Los Angeles, the state's most populous county.

There was a systemwide voting equipment problem in the county's 4,000+ polling places.  The machine used to check for overvotes required a password that pollworkers had not been provided. Pollworkers preparing to set up polling places for a 7 a.m. opening were instead calling the county election office trying to learn the password. Then they could not get through because thousands of people were trying to call the hotline simultaneously. It was reported that by 7 a.m. the county had issued a notice to all the polling sites with the needed password. The scanner wasn't critical to the voting process but pollworkers weren't provided with a contingency plan and the glitch delayed the opening of all the county's thousands of polling places on Election Day.

More from the LA Times here:

And here is a message from one LA County pollworker who contacted me:
On Tuesday I was a pollworker at a combined precinct location in Chatsworth, California.  None of the three precincts were able to get their voting machines operating promptly due to an "enter password" message.  No password had been required in the past and no mention of it was included in the County training or in the manuals.  The telephone lines were jammed so no immediate help was available to us.  The County finally sent out a broadcast voice message about 7:00 a.m. (about the time the polls were to open) to all the Inspector mobile telephones with the password.  It can take ten minutes to initialize and set up the machines so this was unacceptable error by the County of Los Angeles and should be investigated.  Apparently thousands of the 4,698 precincts had a similar problem.
KPCC Radio in Pasadena took lots of calls from confused and upset voters - so many that they have decided to hold a forum where voters can come and talk about their voting experiences. It will take place at KPCC's auditorium in Pasadena 7:30 - 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13 - register online at .


The Election Protection coalition issued a news release on Election Night summarizing problems voters reported to its hotline from a number of states on June 7. As their news release notes, more than half the calls they took came from California voters. The release details specific problems in Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties and is online at

Monday, June 6, 2016

Top Ten Online Resources for California Voters

Here's a list of the top ten sites the California Voter Foundation recommends to help voters get ready
to vote on June 7.

Whether you need to look up your ballot, verify your registration status, find your polling place or follow the money, these sites will help you vote with confidence!

Polls are open 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. Remember if you have a mail ballot but need to replace it, you can do that at your polling place on Election Day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ten Things to Know About California's Primary

I'm happy to introduce Ten Things to Know About California's Primary, a list of ten tips for voting in the upcoming June 7th election.

One of those tips is to encourage California's independent voters to verify they are registered as "no party preference" and not accidentally registered with the American Independent Party (AIP). 

A Los Angeles Times survey of 500 AIP voters found nearly three in four did not know they were registered with the party. The Times' coverage features first-person stories, including one by a Times reporter who found herself mistakenly registered AIP, and one story on the need to clarify the options on the state's registration form

Luckily for California voters, the Times has set up an online lookup tool where they can check if they are registered AIP or No Party Preference. More tips for how to check your registration status and what you need to do to get ready to vote on June 7th are below. 

Ten Things to Know About California's Primary

published by the California Voter Foundation

On Tuesday, June 7, California will hold a statewide primary election and voters will help choose which candidates will be selected as the political parties' nominees for U.S. President. Many other federal, state and local contests are on the ballot as well. 

Here are ten tips for voting in California's Primary:
  1. You must be registered to vote at your current address by Monday, May 23.

  2. You can check your registration address and declared party preference by contacting your County Registrar of Voters. You can contact them by phone or email; some offer voter registration status lookup tools from their official election web sites. You may also receive an official county publication or notice in the mail showing your current party preference.

  3. Unlike your voting options in all other California political contests, your voting right in the Presidential primary depends on the political party you are registered with. Though California has an "open primary," the political parties decide whether to open their primaries to independent voters. (In the November general election, you can vote for any party's Presidential candidate regardless of your party preference.)

  4. If you are registered with a political party, you can only vote for a candidate running for President in that party.

  5. If you want to vote for a Republican Presidential candidate, you must be registered with the Republican Party.

  6. If you want to vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate, you must be registered with the Democratic Party or be registered as "No Party Preference", which is the term used in California to register as an independent (also called "decline to state"). Independents make up nearly one-fourth of California's registered voters.

  7. "American Independent" is not the same as independent. It is an actual party and if you are one of the nearly half million Californians registered with this party, your Presidential primary choices will be limited to this party's candidates.

  8. If you want to register, update your address or change your party preference you must complete a voter registration application and submit it by May 23. You can register online at or request a paper application by calling 1-800-345-VOTE, or call or visit your county registrar of voters. But don't wait until the last minute. The sooner you apply to register or change your registration, the more likely you will receive official state and local ballot information in advance of Election Day.

  9. If you ask at the polls to vote for a presidential candidate for whom you are not eligible to vote, you will be invited to cast a provisional ballot. Your choice for president will not be counted but the rest of your choices in other contests will be. If you write in the name of a candidate who appears on another party's ballot, your vote in that contest will not be counted but your other votes will be.

  10. There are 34 U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot. Look at your ballot carefully. Because there are so many, the candidates may be listed in two or more columns or on two pages. Be sure to cast only one vote for U.S. Senate or your vote will not count.