How much does it cost to print the electoral guide?

In summary

The state’s official voter guide includes printing, shipping and other costs. The guide for the March primaries cost $13.2 million, with just one ballot measure. What will be the November price, with many more proposals?

What is the cost of democracy in California?

If we calculate that based only on the pages informing the state’s 22 million voters about Proposition 1 in the official March voter guide, about $8 million.

Each page of the primary voter guide cost $117,880 for printing, translation, audio, mailing and postage, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The total cost of the 112-page March voter guide was $13.2 million.

That compares with $7.2 million for the 64-page 2022 main guide, $6.3 million for the 48-page 2020 guide, $7.2 million for the 96-page 2018 guide and $3.7 million for the 32-page guide from 2016 according to the Secretary of State’s office. .

The bulk of this year’s guidance was the text of Proposition 1, which took up 68 pages. The two-part measure, which passed with just 50.2% of the vote and was placed on the March ballot by the Legislature, authorizes a $6.4 billion bond to build treatment facilities and supportive housing for people with mental health and addiction issues, and requires cities to spend more of a specific set of tax revenues on housing rather than other services.

Primary elections with lower turnout typically include fewer proposals, especially since 2011, when the Legislature passed a law so that initiatives only appear on the general election ballot.

In November 2016, the voter guide reached a record 224 pages and cost $15 million to produce. It included 17 ballot measures, including 33 pages of the text of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.

This November’s ballot now has 12 measures, but that number is likely to increase before the June 27 deadline.

There is a 500-word limit on arguments that proponents and opponents of ballot measures can present, but that does not apply to the text of proposed laws.

It’s always better to have more information for voters, says Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that has also sponsored several ballot measures.

“It’s unfortunate that the cost has increased so much, but at the end of the day, voters need as much information as possible to make an informed decision,” he said.

It is also important to print the guide and mail it to each voter to ensure it is accessible to everyone, he added. While the Secretary of State publishes an online version, not all Californians have easy access to the Internet.

Official sources, whether through the state or counties, are where most voters get their information, said Mindy Romero, founder and director of the Center for Inclusive Democracy at the University of Southern California.

“People will turn to other sources, including friends and family, but still, those official sources are where most voters get their information, so they are important,” he said. “Voters need the information and they have a right to that information.”

Still, there could be some cost savings. Balber said he receives three copies of the voter guide each election: one for her name, one for a misspelling of her name and one for someone who was previously registered at his address.

The Secretary of State’s office said it conducts list maintenance daily. Voter registration files are updated in VoteCal, a single statewide voter file established in 2016, and through address updates at the DMV or post office, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

The state could also allow people to opt out of paper guidance, but that should never be the default option, Balber said: “We would never want to take that away from the public.”