First-Time Voter Guide

First-Time Voter Guide 

Are you voting for the first time this election year? The 2020 Elections may be one of the most-defining elections in US history – but it doesn’t stop at the federal presidential election. Up and down the ballot are races that are defining state, county, and local politics. Here are some sites to help you navigate the election. 

Register to vote in California: 

Nonpartisan resources for researching the propositions, measures, and candidates on your ballot: 

  • CalMatters California Election 2020 Voter Guide:This nonpartisan guide is easy for readers to navigate, with an array of interactive tools, games and video explainers that break down state ballot propositions, explain California’s role in the presidential election, and identify key races by district. There’s also a section answering readers’ frequently asked questions regarding voting and registration.
  • Voter’s Edge: This website will give you information on candidates and measures, and will tell you who supports them financially. Additionally, it allows you to save your choices for the ballot, in case you forget when you are filling out your ballot! 
  • Ballotpedia California: This website gives detailed histories of measures and candidates at the federal, state, and local level.  
  • An easy-to-understand, distilled guide to the propositions in California that comes out every October. It offers both summaries and more detailed guides as well as multiple points of view on eacproposition. 
  • League of Women Voters of Palo Alto – Pros and Cons Discussion: The LWV of Palo Alto will host several discussions on Zoom of the Pros and Cons of state propositions and local measures. 

Meet the candidates: 

  • LWV of Palo Alto -- Candidate Forums: The LWV of Palo Alto will host candidate forums on Zoom for state and congressional district races as well as for the Palo Alto School Board and City Council races. 
  • Palo Alto City Council elections: This is the official page for City Council candidates. Are you interested in learning more about the people running for City Council? Email them! 


  • Endorsements by the California Democratic Party 
  • Endorsements by the California Republican Party 
  • Newspapers such as the Mercury News, the Palo Alto Daily Post, the Palo Alto Weekly etc., will often lend endorsements or offer recommendations for candidates, propositions, and measures with summaries of why they chose to endorse or recommend. 
  • Many unions (such as the California Teachers Association or the California Nurses Association) will often endorse or recommend candidates and measures based on how their jobs are affected. 

Election Night results trackers: 

  • The New York Times has an election night results tracker that updates to high profile races throughout the day of the election. Check their website the day of the election to stress yourself out watching the numbers change as counties report results! 
  • For a local election tracker, check KQED’s election tracker. Another place to stress yourself out as counties report results! 

Mailing your ballot and voting for the first time: 

Remember to check your registration if you haven’t received a Vote by Mail ballot 29 days before the November 3 election. If you are planning to mail in your ballot be sure to get it in early, as it must arrive by November 3 and USPS is reporting delays in service. Santa Clara County ballots can also be dropped off at any ballot box or voting center (TBD) in Santa Clara County prior to or on the day of the election (October 5-November 3, 8 PM). 

And finally, it’s good to remember this as you make your choice for local, state, and federal candidates: it’s not about finding the perfect candidate with whom you agree perfectly on every single issue; instead, look for the candidate you feel aligns with most of your overall values and who you believe that you can push to make the changes you hope to see in our society. 

-Camden Kimura, Librarian at Rinconada Library | Follow @camdenk on Bibliocommons 

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