Californians planning to vote by mail are beginning to read through their November ballots, assessing six statewide propositions, trying to find the truth after months of television bombardments by, usually, the groups opposed to them.
Newly updated and nonpartisan, California Choices (www.californiachoices.org) is a clearinghouse for state voter information including endorsements, polling data, pro and con arguments, video clips from supporters and opponents, recent press coverage, and in-depth background information.
“Voters can consult California Choices for clear and concise information about funding for water infrastructure projects, making changes to the state’s ‘rainy day fund,’ and they can learn about changing low-level criminal sentences, along with health care, insurance and gaming ballot initiatives,” says Noel Perry, founder of the nonpartisan nonprofit organization, Next 10 (www.next10.org), which presents California Choices in partnership with the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (www.igs.berkeley.edu).
Voters can access the California Choices “Endorsements” page to see how more than 30 groups from across the political spectrum — including Chambers of Commerce, labor unions, political parties, environmental organizations, and newspaper editorial boards — would vote on each of these ballot initiatives.
“Voters want to see the positions of organizations they trust — this information helps inform their vote,” says Mr. Perry. “The ‘Endorsements Table’, which lists the positions on more than 30 organizations, is the most visited page on our website.”
Voters can also access arguments for and against the ballot measures, multimedia including TV commercials and radio ads, and recent polling from a variety of organizations. The interactive site allows users to save their voting preferences using the “Save My Votes” feature, which lets users access those preferences at any time from mobile phones or other devices.
On the ballot this year:
• Proposition 1 would authorize $7.5 billion in bonds for water infrastructure projects in the state. The bonds would finance improvements in drinking water quality, watershed and restoration projects, water management plans, storage projects, water recycling and treatment projects, ground water cleanup, flood management and more.
• Proposition 2 would change the requirements for the state’s “rainy day fund,” putting more dollars toward repaying state debts and limiting the use of funds for emergencies and budget deficits.
• Proposition 45 would give the state’s Insurance Commissioner the power to regulate health insurance rate increases for Californians who have individual and small-business policies.
• Proposition 46 would increase the state's cap on medical negligence lawsuits from $250,000 to over $1 million, and mandate that doctors receive drug and alcohol testing under certain circumstances.
• Proposition 47 would reclassify some nonviolent lower-level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
• Proposition 48 would ratify gaming compacts between California and two Native American tribes.
“The impact of California’s ballot initiative process on both state and local issues is unprecedented across the country — it essentially allows all voters to decide what is law,” says Jack Citrin, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley. “Interest groups and elected officials pour millions of dollars into these ballot races to convince voters — and sometimes, to confuse them. We’re here to give Californians the facts so that the voters understand the issues and that they, rather than money alone, determine whether a ballot initiative is adopted.”
California Choices was created in 2010 to educate Californians about government reform. Since then, more than 200,000 voters have used the site at home and at the polls.