California voters will see 11 propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot, all of them put there by citizens signing petitions. That's the highest number of initiatives on a single ballot in more than two decades.
Starting in September, we will offer a separate recommendation on each proposition. In the meantime, this summary is simply intended to help voters become aware of the issues they'll be hearing and reading more about.
We gleaned information from the ballot measure wording, from arguments that will appear in the state Voter Information Guide and from numerous websites.
One way to gauge interest in and importance of a proposition is the money being raised to promote it or fight it, so our chart shows the total for each side as of the middle of August. For that information we relied on MapLight Voters Edge, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. Its useful website is http:// votersedge.org/california.
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The big bucks measure so far is Proposition 37, which would require labeling on food containing genetically modified organisms. That covers a lot of crops, and this proposal could have a big impact on our agriculture economy.
Proposition 39 is not only a big money issue but also probably the most confusing initiative on the ballot. It doesn't affect individual taxpayers directly, but rather companies that do business in California and other states. Adding to the confusion is that part of the higher taxes that would be collected from these multistate corporations would go for energy programs, so it will be promoted on that basis.
Proposition 40 is also confusing. The state Republican Party initially didn't like the new state Senate districts drawn last summer by the Citizens Redistricting Commission and party leaders rushed out and collected enough signatures to try to nullify those districts and put the redrawing in the hands of the court. Then the GOP decided it could live with the Senate maps, but it was too late to get the referendum off the ballot. Although it seems counterintuitive, in order to leave the maps in place -- which both parties now want -- voters should mark "Yes" on 40.
State ballot measures require a simple majority (50 percent plus 1 vote) to pass.
We would appreciate your feedback on whether you found this primer useful. If you want your thoughts published, send us a letter to the editor (guidelines are on page B2). If you have thoughts but don't want them published, send an e-mail to any or all of the members of the Editorial Board (see page B2).