SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Voters in Tuesday’s California primary election will be faced with a different choice as ballots will no longer be divided by party.
The change in California’s election law allowed anyone to vote on any candidate during the primary election. The top two candidates will move on to the November general election.
Previously, voters were only allowed to vote on candidates within their own party.
The change comes as a growing number of voters in the state are declining to affiliate themselves with a party.
“A lot of our voters are now considering themselves or registering as No Party Preference. They really don’t want to choose a party,” said Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine. “And in a primary election, that left that big group out.”
The system places a larger importance on the primary election for parties, because it’s possible to have both candidates on the ballot be from the same party.
“In the fall, we can end up with two democrats or two republicans on the ballot,” said Sacramento State Professor Kim Nalder. “So that’s a very big change.”
She says the top-two system will likely hurt minor party candidates’ chances of making it to November. She says it will also allow people to vote strategically if voters aren’t worried about their favorite candidate losing.
“It’s possible for voters to choose the least favorable candidate from the other party if they want to,” she said.
The law took effect in 2012, but you might not have noticed because you still have to pick a party in the presidential race.
One of the ideas behind the system was to get better voter turnout, but research shows it’s not working so far.
“This is only really the second time we’ve done this, and so it may take some time before the word really gets out,” LaVine said.
Nalder says campaigns are likely to spend more in the primary season to reach voters across the aisle early on, instead of waiting until after the primary.