On June 5, California holds its primary election. While the Republican presidential primary race will command most of the attention, primary elections will also be on the ballot for Senator, Congressional representatives, state Assembly and state Senate.

But this year, the results will affect the November elections differently. California will no longer vote strictly by party in the November election — Democrat, Green, Republican or other.

On June 8, 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, which created the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. Voters nominate the candidates rather than the political parties.

All candidates running in a primary election, regardless of party preference, will appear on a single ballot. Voters can vote for any candidate. The top two overall vote getters — not the top vote getter from each qualified political party — will move on to the general election ballot in November.

The top two, even if one receives more than 50 percent of the vote, will be on the November general election ballot.

Use the new Idyllwild State Assembly District 71 election as an example. Incumbent Assemblyman Brian Jones is a Republican. John McLaughlin has also qualified for the June ballot and says he is a Republican. John Hurley is the only identified Democrat on the ballot.

As the only Democrat, Hurley does not automatically qualify for the November ballot. The top two vote getters, which could be Jones and McLaughlin, would become the November candidates.

The Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act does not apply to candidates running for U.S. President, county central committee, or local office. Additionally, candidates are no longer allowed to run as “independents” or “write-ins” at the general election.

Prior to the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, all candidates running in a primary election, with the same political party affiliation, were placed on a partisan ballot to be voted on by voters of the same political party. The top vote getter from each qualified political party would move on to the general election.

Under the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, candidates for voter-nominated office must indicate their party preference or lack of party preference on the primary and general election ballots. Political parties can no longer formally nominate candidates for voter-nominated offices, so a candidate who finishes in the top two at the primary election and advances to the general election is not the official nominee of any party for the office.

Since the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act does not apply to presidential primary votes, parties may choose either a closed presidential primary or a modified-closed presidential primary in California.

In a closed primary, only voters indicating a preference for a party may vote for that party’s presidential nominee. If a party chooses the modified-closed presidential primary, then it would allow voters who did not state a party preference to vote for that party’s presidential nominee.

On June 5, only the American Independent and Democratic parties have chosen the modified-closed primary form. The other parties, including the Republican, will limit participation only to voters stating a preference for that party.

Register in time for the primary
Californians can fill out the online voter registration form at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/register-to-vote then just print, sign and mail it. Registration forms can also be picked up at any U.S. post office, public library or county elections office.

The last day to register to vote in the June 5 primary election is May 21. A person must reregister to vote after moving, changing names or changing political party preference. Voters can check if they are already registered to vote through a Secretary of State portal at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status.