Candidate Statements in Official Guides Are Paid Ads

The official voter’s guide has paid advertising.

“The only way to run for public office is to have a lot of money,” said Jonathan Reiss, who was a candidate for U.S. Senate in the March primary election.

You may not have read about him, because although he finished 11th with 34, 400 votes out of 27 candidates, his face and statement were not in the “Primary Election” – “Official Voter Information Guide.”

Reiss was asked why? Was he late in registering, submitting a statement?

No. The Official Voter Guide candidate statements are paid advertising by the candidates.

Kim Todd, a California state elections analyst and voter information guide coordinator explained to CTN that for a candidate to place a statement in the Official Voter Information Guide, the cost is $25 per word, with a maximum total amount of $6,250 for a 250-word statement.

Todd said the fees help offset the cost of printing and mailing the guides. She was asked what happened if a candidate does not have the funds to pay for a statement in the Official State guide?

“Then the statement will not be accepted and will not be printed in the guide,” Todd said and added there was no requirement that a candidate submit a full 250-word statement, “they are allowed to submit UP TO 250 words, and there is no minimum.” Contact information, such as a website, is not included in the statement word count.

CTN was told that a candidate can submit a statement with only a few words and still have the opportunity to be in the guide with a photo.

Jonathan Reiss ran for U.S. Senator, was eleventh out of 27 candidates and was not in the official  voter guide.

Reiss was asked why he didn’t put in a “few words.” He said he was told that there were no other options than paying for the entire amount ($6,250), in full and up front. If a candidate did not want to write 250 words that was okay, but the sum would be the same.

He specifically asked if there was just a way to submit the campaign website link or contact information and was told “No” that the entire fee had to be paid.

Reiss decided not to advertise in the Official Guide, not only because it was a substantial cost, but because of a past experience with the Riverside Voter Guide, when running for a congressional seat.

That ad was paid for by the campaign, but Reiss said, “the service was severely defective and the Registrar’s office shockingly non-responsive to addressing the problem afterwards in any way whatsoever – even to the point of refusing to respond to emails or calls to discuss it.

“We got the sense that the process was illegitimate, and unjustifiably requiring a significant investment of campaign resources for what was pretending to be just a simple governmental informational guide to the public,” Reiss said.

He pointed out that when multiple counties are involved in a congressional district primary, the candidate has to pay to advertise in each county’s voter guide, otherwise they are excluded. “So much for the authenticity and reliability of the governmental voter guides in California,” Reiss said.

He pointed out that if a voter looks more closely at the official guide at the small print at the bottom it reads “The views and opinions expressed by the candidates are their own and do not represent the views and opinions of the Secretary of State’s office. The order of the statements was determined by randomized drawing. Statements on this page were supplied by the candidates and have not been checked for accuracy by any official agency. Each statement was voluntarily submitted and paid for by the candidate. Candidates who did not submit statements could otherwise be qualified to appear on the ballot.”

This editor had never realized that candidate statements were paid for by the candidate.

“A sample canvassing of people who received the guide showed not one person knowing that these were paid ads, and they were surprised when they were told that such was the situation,” Reiss said. “Unless a fee is paid, even a candidate’s simple website address will not be provided to the public.

“If a poll were done there is a good chance that very few, if any, would realize that the Candidate Statements in the official guides are really paid advertisements,” Reiss said.

“They also seem to have their own deadlines for the pay-for-play involvement which come even before the actual ballot registration deadline occurs,” Reiss said (

Other steps to run for Senate included: getting the required signatures (65), but because the signatures are verified and some thrown out, most candidates error on the side of closer to 100 signatures.

A filing fee of $3,480 was required by the state. Basically, between the filing fee and “advertising” in the official guide, a candidate needs a minimum of $10,000 to  run in a California contest.

What about Proposition 1 that ran in the official voter’s guide? It ran about 68 pages and Todd was asked if it was like candidate statements – unedited.

She said, “With citizen-initiated measures, it will be the two campaigns that submit arguments. In this case because the measure itself is a legislatively initiated measure (passed as a bill and placed on the ballot), the legislative leadership actually appointed people to be in charge of the arguments.

Todd said that those arguments are not specifically “fact checked” by any authority, but claims can be challenged in court. “This time, there were no challenges on either side.”

Besides the payment by candidates for their statements, Todd was asked who pays for the guide.

“All of us!” she said. “It’s a budget line item for the office of the Secretary of State. Due to the unexpectedly huge length of the measure, they had to increase the budget for printing the voter guide.”

For the March 2024 Primary, the estimated costs to produce almost 14 million State Voter Information Guides was around $7.3 million. In addition, there is a composition and set-up fee of approximately $253,000.

The guide is also printed in nine additional languages (Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese), and the guides are available in a large-print version in all the languages. Large Print VIGs in all languages: approximately $1,162,000.

The cost to taxpayers for the printing of the guide was $8,715,000.

The state mails the guide with a nonprofit rate. A mailing vendor picks up the guides from the printers and then prints the addresses on the pamphlets.

Todd was asked why Prop.1 was printed in its entirety.

“If a statewide proposition includes a bond measure, the text of the language of the proposed law must be included in the guide,” Todd said. “Proposition 1 includes a bond measure, that is why we needed to include the text in the guide. If there are propositions that do not include bond measures, the Secretary of State can print a separate booklet called the Text of Proposed Laws. This separate booklet will include only the propositions and is not sent to all voters, but available upon request.”

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2 Responses to Candidate Statements in Official Guides Are Paid Ads

  1. Hagop Tchakerian says:

    Thank You

  2. Nona Hale says:

    Who knew!? This is why we love you, Sue.

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