Election Websites: California

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CA BONE2Researchers assessed state election websites for the Pew Center on the States between May-November 2010, using detailed criteria evaluating the content, lookup tools, and usability. Websites may have changed since they were assessed. See methodology (PDF).

Strengths include:

  • Extensive array of content on voter registration, ballot contents, how to cast a ballot, absentee voting, military and overseas voting, election results, and how to contact election officials.
  • Voter registration information includes deadlines and targeted information for groups of voters, and the ability to complete and print a ready-to-mail registration form.
  • Complete ballot information includes candidate lists, campaign finance information and ballot measure texts, summaries, and nonpartisan analyses.
  • User-friendly wizard for voter registration form helps users fill out a PDF before printing.

Recommended improvements include:

  • Offer lookup tools that allow voters to view their registration status (41 states offer), polling place location (49 offer), sample ballots (22 offer), and status of absentee ballots (29 offer) and provisional ballots (19 offer). California is one of only two states to provide none of the five recommended lookup tools on their websites.
  • Provide state residency requirements for registering to vote (44 states offer).
  • Present important information in HTML rather than in PDF documents, which are more difficult to read and search online.
  • Provide instructions for people with disabilities on how to use special voting machines in polling places (33 states offer).

Noteworthy Feature: A “Multilingual Voters Section” includes telephone numbers for voter registration hotlines in several languages, and election materials in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Initial Quick Fix: Provide a prominent link to the certified list of candidates and their detailed contact information. (The Voter Guide includes this information only for statewide candidates who accept spending limits.)

Summary: California provides rich and detailed voting information for users, but offers none of the five recommended lookup tools, reducing its overall score. Improved navigation and content organization can help voters find needed information.

www.sos.ca.gov/elections and www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov were assessed for content and lookup tools.

www.sos.ca.gov/elections was assessed for usability.

Media Contact

Stephanie Bosh

Officer, Communications

202.540.6741