Editor's note: This is a guest post by Melissa Breach, Executive Director of League of Women Voters of California. League of Women Voters of California is a member of Future of California Elections.
In the November 2014 election, only 31% of eligible Californians voted, and young people and people of color continued to be alarmingly underrepresented. Although many factors contribute to low voter turnout, intuitive and accessible voter information is an important tool to engage and expand the electorate.
For over 95 years, the League of Women Voters has advocated to expand and protect the right to vote. As part of our ongoing efforts to provide accessible and quality voter information, the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund (LWVCEF) has released a Best Practices Manual for Official Voter Information Guides. This manual is an easy-to-use resource for election officials and community groups working to educate California’s diverse electorate. This initiative is designed to make voter information more effective, inviting, and useful by giving the right kind of information to voters in the right way.
Created in partnership with the Center for Civic Design and the Future of California Elections, and supported by a grant from The James Irvine Foundation, the manual was informed by over a year’s worth of research. We gathered feedback from diverse stakeholders including election officials, community organizations, good government groups, and frequent and infrequent voters from across California. The voices of 100 research participants—including voters, potential voters, and infrequent voters who closely matched California’s demographics—deeply impacted the conclusions and recommendations in the manual.
One of these voices included a bilingual, low-literacy individual who stated, “The whole time I’ve been ignoring this book, and it had all this information inside. Now that I’m reading it, it makes me feel more confident.”
Our research uncovered three main insights into improving voter information:
We believe that using our recommendations will lead to voter guides that raise voter confidence and increase participation. Some of these ideas are already being implemented in one or more California counties. While we suggest several simple fixes, some ideas may face regulatory, legislative, and financial barriers—challenges we welcome to better serve California’s diverse electorate.
To help implement the voter guide recommendations from the Best Practices Manual for Official Voter Information Guides, League of Women Voters of California is offering a series of four webinars. Sign up for the webinars.