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California Choices Helps Voters Understand State Ballot Measures

If the 143-page Official Voter Information Guide that came in the mail leaves you lost — nonpartisan summaries of the state ballot measures, plus endorsements, can be found on the California Choices website.

The mailman dropped an Official Voter Information Guide to homes this week — and it arrived with a thud. The 143-page booklet is dense with information and may be overwhelming to California voters.

But a nonpartisan website, California Choices, wants to help voters understand the 11 state ballot measures in the Nov. 6 election, and know which organizations and newspapers support and oppose each proposition.

Voters will find information about the state propositions, along with an endorsements table showing where non-profits, newspapers, unions and political parties stand on each one.

"The initiative is to provide nonpartisan information for voters to help them make up their minds on the propositions," said Nick Robinson, director of the library at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, which co-sponsors California Choices along with UC San Diego's Department of Political Science and Next 10, an independent nonpartisan organization founded by venture capitalist and philanthropist F. Noel Perry.

California Choices is not the only online source of nonpartisan information. Other websites — including the League of Women Voters' Smart VoterKQED and Ballotpedia — offer unbiased guides to the state propositions. Some focus on a particular element, such as the indepth campaign spending information from Maplight.org.

One thing that sets California Choices apart is its extensive table of endorsements, which includes both supporters and opponents for each measure, including newspaper editorial positions. 

"The most popular thing is the table of endorsements," Robinson said. "It's one thing we do that I think no one else is doing."

Ballotpedia also notes some supporters and opponents, though its lists appear to be less comprehensive.

In addition to the endorsements and basic information about each proposition, California Choices also provides links to sources of campaign spending, the latest polls on each one and coverage in the news media.

California Choices has information also about state ballot measures from three earlier state elections: this past June's primary and the June and November elections in 2010.

Which service do you use to understand the context of the Nov. 6 ballot measures? Comment below.

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