If you’re planning on casting an informed vote in November, you’ve got some homework to do.
Official state voter guides have started landing in mailboxes, though given the weight of a tome that spans 17 different ballot initiatives “voter guide” seems like a bit of an understatement. “Initiative encyclopedia” may be a more accurate description.
The volume weighs in at 224 pages and 10.3 ounces, much of it devoted to explaining a dizzying array of policy proposals that include legalizing pot, ending the death penalty, expediting the death penalty, banning plastic bags, redirecting revenue from bag purchases, raising taxes on tobacco and top earners, and preserving a hospital fee structure of head-splitting complexity.
“It is the longest, we believe, in history,” said Sam Mahood, a spokesman for the California secretary of state’s office.
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Given that most voters tend to be “low-information” and distracted from election preparation even in years with leaner ballots, the barrier to comprehension is “definitely heightened in a year like this,” said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis.
“There are a lot of concerns that with such a packed ballot, with all those ballot initiatives, that people could get reading fatigue or information overload,” Romero said, so “they might just close it up, say ‘I’ll look at it tomorrow.’”
The good news, said California Voter Foundation president Kim Alexander, is that it all fit into one publication despite worries that it couldn’t be bound into a single volume. She heralded changes from past years boosting “plain language and better design,” like tabs tracking which initiative a voter is reading about. She argued the sprawling document could actually encourage voters.
“There’s something on the ballot for everyone: we have drugs and porn and guns and death and taxes and plastic bags,” Alexander said. “There are a lot of things on the ballot that are going to draw people into the election.”