Usually mid-term General elections get deplorably low voter turnout. Primary elections, particularly in the mid-term years, get even lower voter participation. Why does this matter and specifically, why is this such a big deal for California? There are two key reasons: the new “Top Two” format for state wide races and the “50%+1 majority wins” for non-partisan local races, both explained below.
In many voters’ minds, the concept of a “Primary Election” is one in which faithful partisans come out to vote for their preferred candidate to represent them in the November General Election that follows. Many see it as only for partisan candidate selection purposes so some don’t bother, assuming they’ll just vote for whomever is on the slate in November. And in fact, historically that’s the way it used to be for many statewide races. But since 2010 when voters passed Proposition 14, that is no longer the case.
#1 reason to vote in the June 5th primary: Partisan State-Wide Races
Prop 14 created a “Top Two” primary format and applies to ALL state wide races except for the Presidential election and election of delegates to Central Committees. It allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference. When there are multiple candidates from the same party vying for a statewide position, it is conceivable that two from the same party could end up on the November runoff ballot. Even if a candidate gets 50% or more of the vote, the top two still advance to the November election.
Further complicating the scenario is the number of candidates running from the same party. This could serve to split the vote among good qualified Democratic candidates, but if Republican voter turnout is high and concentrated on one or two candidates, while Democrats split their vote between multiple candidates on the Democratic side, it is conceivable that two Republican candidates could end up on the November ballot with Democrats sitting on the sidelines. The only solution to avoid such a scenario is to have a) high voter turnout and b) votes concentrated hopefully on one candidate, most likely the state endorsed one. Also, the non-endorsed candidates or those having trouble fund-raising may want to consider dropping out before the primary to ensure voter efforts aren’t diluted.
The top two format this year applies to the following state wide races: U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Member, Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Board of Equalization, State Assembly and State Senator. These are now known as “Voter Nominated Offices”.
Reason #2 may be even more important: Non-Partisan Local Offices
In addition to “Party Nominated Offices” (President and Central Committee Delegates) and the above “Voter Nominated Offices”, there is a very important third category, “Non-Partisan Local Offices. While the top two vote getters categories above are guaranteed a spot on the November ballot, in this third local non-partisan category, IF A CANDIDATE RECEIVES 50% +1 VOTE IN THE PRIMARY IT’S OVER – THEY ARE THE WINNER AND THAT RACE DOES NOT APPEAR ON THE NOVEMBER BALLOT. These positions are those that can have the most impact on you and your family’s lives and include the County Boards of Supervisors, Boards of Education, Superior Court Judges and more. Therefore if you do not vote in the Primary you may miss out entirely on your opportunity to vote for a good Democrat at your local level.
This year in the June, 2018 primary the positions we can vote on that fall into the above and can win outright with a 50%+1 count are Superior Court Judges, County Assessor/Recorder/Clerk, County Treasurer/Tax Collector, District Attorney, Sheriff, County Board of Supervisors (4 & 5), and County Board of Education (3 & 5).
With low voter turnout, these positions may indeed get the required majority vote from only a small amount of your fellow citizens, rather than a broader segment of the population. So, if you care about our Democracy, be sure you are registered to vote and you vote in the June 5th primary as well as the November, 2018 election. If you are not, or know others whom you can spur to register to vote, the registration deadline to vote in the June Primary is May 21. You can register online here (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/), or mail in your registration but it must be postmarked on or before May 21.