Websites Help California and Washington Voters Understand Ballot Measures

A century after progressive reforms brought the referendum and initiative process to the West, voters still enjoy the privilege — and bear the challenge — of wielding the levers of government. In 2012, California and Washington voters face a daunting array of ballot measures, from education financing to marijuana legalization, same-sex marriage to food labeling. For those who haven't voted early, there's still time to get familiar with the proposals, the issues, and where various groups stand on them.

California Choices is an online resource guide that enables interested voters to get concise descriptions of each proposition, read nonpartisan analyses, browse opinion polls, and consult a handy matrix of which newspapers, civic organizations, unions, and political parties endorse those measures. You can make your own choices and share them with others through social media. California Choices is the result of a collaboration among Next10, the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego, Cal State Sacramento, and the Bill Lane Center for the American West's California Constitutional Reform project.

The Living Voters Guides for Washington State and California take a more personal approach, enabling users to pin notes to ballot measure descriptions, arguing their reasons for and against each proposal. Those who prefer not to express themselves in writing can use a slider to indicate the degree to which they support or oppose a particular measure. You can also "subscribe" to measures to get email updates as additional users share their positions. The Living Voters Guide, created by the Seattle City Club and the Engage Project at the University of Washington, also includes local-level propositions within Washington state.