It’s hard to see how big a change is when you are in the middle of it. An edit here, a new design tweak there, and pretty soon, you have a whole new voter guide.
That’s what happened in California, where more than half of the counties updated some or all of their voter information guides for the 2016 June Primary Election. Some of the changes are large. Some are in content, others in the page design. But they add up to better information for voters in California.
The project to create templates, content, and images that any county could use for a voter guide, as part of the larger program of the Future of California Elections, started by working with three counties—Orange, Shasta, and Santa Cruz.
Our goal? Helping more counties use these templates for the General Election. And even more dramatic improvements.
Our original plan was for the pilot of the new voter guides to just include these three counties. But, before the election, there was enough interest to broaden the project. Nancy Frishberg ran training workshops across the state, and we worked with a few more counties with individual consults.
After the election, we wanted to get a sense of what kinds of changes made it into the voter guides for the Primary.
Instead of telling you about the changes, take a peek at what a few of the pages looked like, before (June 2014 ) and after (June 2016) the updates.
In case you are wondering, most of these examples are from counties who worked on their own, using the templates and sample content we created. We were pleased to learn that local election offices are able to make good use of those resources.
So, we took a look at the voter guides from all 58 counties. The result: 33 counties used some part of the new materials.
7 went all the way with a complete redesign
23 adopted some elements, often the cover or specific content like the new explanation of the Top Two primary system
3 included the new Voter Bill of Rights, as published by the Secretary of State’s office.
Even the small, tweaky-seeming changes to voter guides can make a big difference in helping voters understand what their options are and what’s on the ballot. The changes may not be obvious to voters, but voters will feel the differences as they read through the guides, and when they get to marking a ballot.