California residents will walk into the voting booth Tuesday and see something they haven’t seen before: an open primary.
The June 5 presidential primary election will be the first test of the open primary system approved by California voters in 2010. The top two vote-getters in congressional and state races, regardless of party affiliation, will earn a spot on November’s general election ballot. Additionally, voters will get to vote for any candidate in congressional and state legislative races. In the past, Republicans could only vote for Republicans and Democrats for Democrats.
Some have predicted the shift could give third party candidates more opportunity to get elected, or it could mean that more moderate candidates will get elected since they would have to appeal to a wider array of voters.
“For the voters, it’s seamless,” said Neal Kelley, Orange County registrar of voters. “They should be able to get their ballot and vote.”
At their polling places, voters will be asked their party affiliation and given their party’s ballot. But the congressional and state legislative races will include candidates of all party affiliations. In the presidential primary, voters with no party affiliation will be allowed to vote in the Democratic and American Independent presidential primaries, but the Republican, Libertarian, Green and Peace and Freedom parties have closed their presidential primaries to nonpartisan voters, said Kelly.
While the new process required the registrar's office to produce a series of party-specific ballots, it hasn’t proven confusing to voters, said Kelly.
His office has been fielding about 300 calls a day from voters and polling place volunteers with questions, substantially fewer than normal for presidential primaries. However, voter turnout seems to be low this year, added Kelly. Mail-in ballots sent in thus far would indicate a voter turnout of about 25 to 30 percent of registered voters this election cycle, said Kelly.