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Website gets voters caught up on election info


Unsure about how to vote or what measures will appear on those ballots on Nov. 2? California Choices, a nonpartisan election information website with Stanford ties, hopes that voters feeling that way will visit the site before heading to the polls on Tuesday.

The site, which officially launched in September, provides a range of information on this election’s nine ballot measures—from the political stipulations of a given measure to what other Californians think of it.

The project is a collaborative effort among San Francisco-based research nonprofit Next 10, Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West, UC-Berkeley and Sacramento State. It originated from Next 10 founder Noel Perry’s talk at a conference on constitutional reform hosted by the Bill Lane Center last year.

(CAROLINE MARKS/The Stanford Daily)

“We thought it might be helpful to have a website where we could bring all these ideas and proposals together from a non-partisan perspective,” Perry said, adding, “California Choices fits with the work Next 10 is doing—trying to make difficult information more accessible to voters.”

Lane Center co-director David Kennedy ‘63 added that Tuesday’s election has even more significant implications for California voters than previous elections because of its possible effects on the state’s economic growth, taxes and even the decisions that voters will make in later elections.

The ideas behind California Choices go back to 2004, when Perry founded Next 10. Even then, he held deep concerns about the future of California state politics and the large number of voters who still remain undecided just days before an election. He wanted voters to better understand the stipulations of the choices they make in the polling booth and the range of options available to them.

To that end, the information on the website, researched by scholars from Next 10’s three collegiate partners, features the policy positions of 50 influential organizations, newspapers and political parties as well as steps that individual voters can take to inspire political reform on their own.

While most of the information comes from Berkeley researchers, all the faculty members at the Lane Center and two Stanford graduate students also contribute. In fact, Kennedy said the center are working to convince Stanford to hire more researchers. But he declined to give further details on the University’s position.

“[But] we’re not advocating,” said Kennedy. “A lot of thought goes into that, and one way we approach it is we simply try to record who’s lined up on which side of the issue.”

In fact, the website allows voters to share their views on political reform via uploaded YouTube videos as well as Facebook and Twitter—a feature that will also help with spreading awareness about the website, Kennedy said.

Despite Kennedy’s claims that publicity remains “the biggest challenge” for the site, their statistics suggest otherwise. The website garnered 70,000 visits within the first few days of its official launch, he said, and it currently averages up to 3,000 daily, which Perry expects to increase between now and Tuesday.

In his eagerness to educate as many Californians as possible, Perry, a former venture capitalist who also acts as the major funder for Next 10, will be shouldering the financial responsibilities for running California Choices, most of which is devoted to hiring a website developer. He declined to give more specifics about operation costs, other than “thousands of dollars.”

“I hope that voters are able to better understand the pros and cons of different propositions by having read the information [on the website],” he said.

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