By Poornima Weerasekara, Oct 19, 2010 11:19 AM
California’s midterm ballot looks like a complex multiple-choice quiz, with options to vote for 12 state-level officials and nine propositions. Then there is the county-level ballot, with another list of candidates vying for local offices and measures pertaining to school boards, water boards and other complicated but important issues.
“It is not apathy that is keeping people from voting,” says Elizabeth Leslie, communications manager for the League of Women Voters of California. “It's the sense of feeling overwhelmed by the pamphlets, emails, advertisements, news media and the official information that they get, that discourage people from coming out to vote.”
Leslie says that almost 6.5 million Californians who are eligible to vote have not even registered.
The nonpartisan Easy Voter Guide Project provides a starting place for new voters and busy voters trying to make sense of it all.
www.easyvoterguide.org : is a one-stop resource center focusing on statewide issues, with community-designed videos and handouts that explain why voting is important, what you need to do to vote, and what’s on the statewide ballot. The handouts, which can be printed fromthe site or ordered by mail, are available in English, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese
www.smartvoter.org: is a resource for issues on county and city ballots, including the location of your local polling place. Useful to check out county-level measures and who is running for local office.
www.sos.ca.gov/elections: offers the Official Voter Information Guide in seven languages.
Through the project, organizations can also invite an Easy Voter Guide ambassador to explain the voting process and the ballot to ethnic communities in Mandarin, Spanish, English or Korean.
The project also conducts voter awareness campaigns at state libraries that target new voters.
“We try to dispel myths on voting,” Leslie says. “We reassure people that immigration officials are not at the polling booths and encourage people to take their kids to the polls.” The project stresses that you do not need to complete each item on the ballot.
“We tell people that they can only vote for what is important to them,” Leslie adds. "This is an easy stepping stone for those who are new to the system or are only concerned about a subset of issues.”
The project is a collaboration between the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund and the California State Library, with funding from The James Irvine Foundation, a private philanthropy focused on strengthening the participatory democracy in California.