The California ballot, along with the ongoing flood of poltical ads, can make your head spin. Opinions and questions about statewide and local measures run the gamut, as Susan Valot found out in L.A. and Orange counties. Reporter: Susan Valot
The library on the campus of Cal State Fullerton buzzes with activity. Students work on computers. People study in groups. Tucked in a corner, about 60 people -- some from the Orange County campus and some from nearby -- fill rows of seats to hear Republican and Democrat political science professors debate California's ballot measures.
The ballot is like a puzzle for some voters. It's full of 11 statewide propositions and multiple local measures and confusing legal language. Countless TV and radio commercials for and against the propositions vie for votes.
On this campus in the heart of Orange County, a traditionally red county, voters in the crowded room ask questions of the professors.
"Can you explain a little more about Prop. 32 and what that might do?" one woman asks.
The professors heartily take on the debate. Vince Buck used to be one of those professors. He's in the audience as a voter on this day, trying to study up on the ballot. Buck taught political science here and retired in 2009.
"The university is in bad shape now. It's been in bad shape for years," Buck says. "The resources have been cut back over and over again. The budgets have been inadequate for years. And the university is not the university it was when I started teaching here years ago."
Like many in the crowd, education is a key issue for Buck. He says for him, Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax proposal to prevent "trigger cuts" to education, is the most important.
"This measure is not adequate, but if it doesn't pass, it's going to be terrible," Buck says, as he thinks about his three decades of teaching on campus.
Bahar Hamedani is on the other end of the education spectrum. She's a student at Cal State Fullerton. So she says any measure having to do with education -- Prop. 30 and Prop. 38 -- is important for her future.
"I plan on going through a lot more school, and I'd prefer to stay in California," Hamedani says. "I'd like to go through an education system that I've been paying into for all these years and my parents have been paying into. And it's unfortunate to see how such cuts are being made."
At times, retired CEO Larry Liles sits and shakes his head in disagreement during the professor debate. The Fullerton resident says he doesn't want to see anything that hurts education, but he doesn't like the idea of more taxes, either.
"I don't think taxing, saying, 'Well, we're going to tax everybody over $250,000' [is going to fix the problem.]," Liles says. "What are small business incomes? And there's where we're trying to expect the growth from: small businesses. American business is what drives this country and no one seems to understand it."
Liles says he thinks the influence of unions in state politics is part of the problem, helping to build bureaucracies that cost a lot of money.
About 30 miles to the west, in Los Angeles County, a much smaller crowd gathers for a non-partisan, "pro-con" presentation by the Torrance Area League of Women Voters.
It's the night of the second presidential debate on TV -- something the women's group found out about after they'd already reserved a room at the local library for their presentation.
Residents slowly trickle in. Eventually a dozen people sit in chairs to examine the California ballot measures.
Local women outline the propositions using a PowerPoint presentation and give the arguments for and against measures, such as Prop. 36, which would change the Three Strikes law, and Prop. 34, which would repeal the death penalty.
Several people in the audience take notes. Cami Hamilton is one of them. She types into her iPad about all sorts of measures, including Prop. 37, which would require labels on certain genetically modified foods. Hamilton writes a blog about food, so she says that one's important to her.
Hamilton also wonders about Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from contributing directly to political campaigns.
"I think unions give people voice," Hamilton says. "In the way that corporations have bigger, stronger voices through their bank accounts, I think unions give average people -- working people -- a greater voice."
Hamilton sits next to her friend, Greg Weir, who's a unionized longshoreman at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. He's skeptical of Prop. 32 for other reasons.
"It's suspicious that a measure to limit campaign contributions from, say unions or whatever, would exempt the people who are paying all the money to pass it," Weir says.
Hamilton laughs and interrupts Weir.
"Read between the lines," she says.
They both chuckle as Hamilton continues, "And people don't necessarily know how to do that, let alone find the resources to do that."
Hamilton and Weir say that's why they came to the pro-con session.
"One of the most important things as a voter is to learn, educate yourself," Hamilton says. "There's a lot of sound bite propaganda that goes on and we are not taught in schools to interpret the agenda of the people creating the messages."
Hamilton says that means looking at who's putting money behind the measures.
She plans to use social media, including Facebook, to share what she learns with all her friends in time for decision day, November 6.