Don’t Just Vote, Vote Smart: Resources for Maximizing Your Interests at the Polls

Don’t Just Vote, Vote Smart: Resources for Maximizing Your Interests at the Polls

Voting is an important public right and civic duty. However, voting in a way that maximizes your interests requires more than just checking boxes on a ballot – it takes research.

This research takes time and may seem daunting. Fortunately, there are many existing tools that can help make it easy to answer important questions, like:

  • What do measures and propositions actually do?
  • What do candidates stand for, and what have they done in the past?
  • Who has financed support or opposition campaigns for these propositions and candidates?

We have collected some resources to help you enjoy learning more about the contents of your ballot. However you might be voting this year (by mail, official ballot box, or at the polls), make a plan, and don’t forget to vote by November 3rd

County Voter Guides

Your county voter guide provides a great first look into candidates and initiatives. Every registered voter should have received a county-specific voter guide in the mail that contains:

  • Important logistical information including procedures on how to vote, ballot drop off box locations, and in-person vote center locations,
  • A sample ballot,
  • Brief statements from all candidates running for offices other than U.S. President, and
  • Full text of local measures in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

If you can’t find your paper voter guide, you should be able to find a digital copy on your county’s website (here is the Sacramento county’s voter guide). You can also review a California-wide voter guide produced by the Secretary of State. This contains similar information and should have also come in the mail.

Organizational Voter Guides

Many non-profits and other organizations have voter guides that state which candidates, propositions, or measures the organization supports or opposes. If there are organizations you support (think about those monthly donations you may make), check if they have posted a voter guide for this upcoming election on their website. 

If you would like to read a bit more and learn more about both sides, many non-partisan groups have developed clear and engaging guides for curious voters. We’ve collected a few of our favorites to share with you!

BallotPedia

Ballotpedia is non-partisan, neutral resource that aims to provide people with accurate and objective information about policy and politics. There are many helpful resources on their California webpage, but for this election you may find the following web pages particularly useful:

Voter’s Edge

Voter’s Edge asks you to enter your address and provides you with a sample ballot. Explore candidate endorsements, top priorities, political resumes, and even campaign donor information. This non-partisan non-profit has done the hard work for us, compiling videos from diverse sources, summaries, and organizational information on one centralized sample ballot for you to explore. They even let you save your choices so when you sit down to vote (or head to the polls), you have your selections ready to go. Voter’s Edge provides links to your Easy Voter Guide as well, available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean.

CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics. They have put together a full-service (and fully-entertaining) voter guide for California’s election:

  • Proposition Guide: Explore both sides of every proposition through an engaging 1-minute video. Scroll down for information about fiscal impacts and additional news stories to educate your vote.
  • Gimme Props: Want to gamify the process? This quiz asks a series of simple questions on each issue to help you understand which side may best align with your ideals.
  • Crossword Puzzle: Looking for further entertainment? Put your prop knowledge to work in this crossword puzzle featuring in-depth knowledge of each proposition! 

Campaign Finance Tools

While Ballotpedia contains a lot of information on campaign finance, the following resources can help you learn more about who financed campaigns supporting or opposing the contents of your ballot:

  • Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Top 10 Contributors List, November 2020 General Election: The FPPC uses data from the Secretary of State to generate a list of the top 10 contributors to support and opposition campaigns for each proposition on the ballot. This is a great resource to explore first.
  • Secretary of State, Campaign Finance Activity, Propositions & Ballot Measures: Provides the full dataset that the FPPC uses to generate the top 10 contributors list.
  • Secretary of State, Campaign Finance: Candidates & Elected Officials: Provides a full dataset of contributions to each candidate running for a position in the California State Legislature.
  • Federal Election Commission, Browse Data: Provides a full dataset of contributions to each candidate running for U.S. President, the U.S. Senate, or the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Center for Responsive Politics, orgopensecrets.org: Provides great background information on federal-level campaign finance along with the same information as the Federal Election Commission’s webpage listed above.

Friends, Family, and Your Community

This research doesn’t have to be a solitary activity! Sharing notes and talking with others can help you process which candidates, propositions, or measures you truly want to support. You can also help others by encouraging them to do their own research – or you might even send them this blog post!

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DISCLAIMER: This is an unofficial organization that is not connected to any one government entity.

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