Courage California Voter Guide Methodology
To many people, the dream of having a government that serves its people with compassion and understanding seems out of reach. In reality, when we have the courage to show up with our values at the ballot box, governments follow our lead.
Courage California wants all Californians to have a government that listens and responds to the people it serves, not corporations or any party establishment. The Courage Voter Guide recommends proposition votes and candidates that prioritize people, not profit.
Many voter guides describe candidates and ballot measures but don’t take a clear position on who you should support. Others are single-issue based, leaving voters having to track down multiple guides in order to vote. In today’s political climate, a neutral or single-issue perspective doesn’t help voters make informed decisions. Our democracy is under attack, and misinformation is one of the most powerful forces working to undermine our electoral system.
The Courage Voter Guide recommends specific candidates and ballot measure positions to support. We work with local and statewide groups to investigate what’s going on behind campaigns, who’s funding them, and how elected officials have governed. This is how we identify the candidates and ballot measure positions that are most likely to work on behalf of all Californians.
Voters shouldn’t have to do hours of homework to understand the races on their ballot, root out the misinformation, and still worry that they may not have correctly voted their values. The Courage Voter Guide helps Californians understand how they can best use their voice at the ballot box.
With Courage, we can reclaim our government and turn the tide towards progress.
Not yet! We guarantee that you’ll have coverage of statewide propositions, your Congressional representative, your state senator, and your assembly member. There are 58 counties in California, all of which have many layers of state and local government, from senate and assembly districts to county boards of supervisors to mayors and city council members to school boards to judges and more. We work with local partners to identify local races where there are strong candidates and positions to recommend to change government for the better. So, in many places, you’ll see recommendations of local candidates and measures to support.
We gather information from a variety of sources to develop our recommendations. In no particular order, we consult:
- Courage Score report card of California State Senators and Assembly Members*
- Endorsements by progressive groups throughout the state
- Reporting by state and local media
- Recommendations from other CA voter guides
- Websites that track candidate fundraising
- Campaign websites and social media channels
- Advocacy and lobbying partners with working knowledge of a candidate
- Local experts with working knowledge of a district or office
*First released in 2016, the annual Courage Score Report Card assesses the political courage of each California state legislator to identify which representatives stand up and fight — and which ones don’t — against the corporations and lobbyists seeking to exploit their constituents. This is our best tool to evaluate the track records of California State Senators and Assembly Members for recommendation. Where it’s available, we use it to evaluate candidates.
The Courage Voter Guide recommends candidates with the courage to turn the tide towards progress. Our goals are to root out corruption and to institute principles of peace, justice, and co-governance.
We start by engaging organizations across the state who work together to promote a strong, responsible local government. We listen to them to learn which candidates are serving their districts responsibly. We use the following questions to guide our research and writing process that leads to a published recommendation.
Will They Root Out Corruption?
Does this candidate have a track record of responsible, ethical actions and words that align with the responsibilities of the position?
Will this candidate stand up for the needs of their district and face down corporate and conservative lobbyists and interest groups?
Does this candidate’s campaigning or fundraising compromise their ability to represent their district? 2020 priorities focus on excluding campaign financing from corporate interests, fossil fuel industries, and police unions.
Will They Commit to Principles of Peace, Justice, and Co-Governance?
Does this candidate prioritize the inclusion and empowerment of communities that have been left out of policymaking in their district or across California? This begins with actively listening to the communities that have been most affected: Black, Indigenous, and people of color; immigrants and refugees; low income workers and families; LGBTQ+ people; young people; older adults; people with insecure housing; people with disabilities and their families; and people with mental or physical health challenges and their families.
Does this candidate demonstrate a systems-level understanding of how issues intersect and how to influence them through the policymaking process in elected office?
Does this candidate actively partner with and have the support of local grassroots groups and organizations that back a consensus-driven agenda centered on environmental, health, housing, social, and reproductive justice?
Does this candidate consistently support legislation that reduces barriers, improves access, and increases opportunities for all Californians?
Will They Demand Justice for the Environment?
Does this candidate actively defend the environment and champion sustainable water, air, and land management solutions proposed by the most affected communities in their district and across California?
Is this candidate’s policy making backed by credible science that is inclusive of issue expertise, current best practices, and local knowledge?
Will They Turn the Tide Toward Progress?
Does this candidate’s background increase the representation and voice of communities that have been left out of policymaking within their district or across California?
Regardless of the outcome of their race, will this candidate remain committed to the overall mission of building progressive power in the world?
Questions Specifically for Challengers
If only moderately progressive, does this challenger currently hold or demonstrate a compelling and competitive win strategy for an office within a district that leans conservative or moderate?
Questions Specifically for Incumbents
Does this incumbent candidate have a public record of co-governance with community groups and constituents in the district?
If only moderately progressive, does this incumbent candidate hold a position of seniority or position of power from which they move their district or governmental body in a progressive direction?
If only moderate, does this incumbent candidate currently hold an office within a district that leans conservative?
As part of our research process, we look for pledges from candidates to refuse three sources of money: corporate PACs, fossil fuel companies, and police unions. Candidates who make such pledges receive badges on their Voter Guide Recommendation (e.g. “No Corporate PAC money”).
We source campaign pledge and campaign finance information from several websites and public filings of campaign finance records. Those candidates who sign the #NoCopMoneyCA Pledge we count as having rejected police money. Those candidates who sign the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge we count as having rejected fossil fuel money. We then confirm that a candidate has stayed true to those pledges by reviewing the campaign’s publicly available financing records. There is no single pledge for corporate PAC money, so we look at a candidate’s statements on their campaign website along with the campaign's publicly available financing records and give credit for the pledge if we find no record of corporate PAC contributions.
If you are a candidate listed in the Courage Voter Guide and you 1) believe the information we have is incorrect or 2) take one or more of the pledges listed above and want to update your entry, please reach out to us by email and we will follow up within 24 hours, or sooner if it is during regular business hours (Pacific Time).
Please get in touch if your organization would like to weigh in on local races in your area.