Elections in California
In 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, which created a “top two” or “open” primary election system. The passage of this proposition changed how the primary and general elections for state constitutional and legislative offices and U.S. congressional offices are conducted in California. These offices are now known as “voter-nominated” offices:
• United States Senator
• United States Representative
• State Senator
• Member of the State Assembly
In the general election for a voter-nominated office:
• Only the two candidates who received the most votes in the primary election move on to the general election. Both candidates in the general election may have the same party preference.
• Write-in candidates are not permitted, but, if a qualified write-in candidate was one of the two candidates who received the most votes in the primary election, his or her name appears on the general election ballot.
• There is no independent nomination process.
The open primary election system does not affect how the elections for U.S. President, county central committees, or local offices are conducted.
Party information on the general election ballot
The party information that appears with a candidate’s name means different things, depending on the type of office.
For party-nominated offices, the party name listed with the candidate means that the candidate is the official nominee of the party; the candidate is that party’s choice for the office. The contest for President and Vice President is the only party-nominated office on this general election ballot.
For voter-nominated offices, the candidate’s party preference is printed with his or her name on the ballot. “Party preference” means the political party with which the candidate is registered. The candidate’s party preference does not mean that the candidate is endorsed by that party. If a candidate does not have a preference for a qualified political party, “Party Preference: None” is printed by the candidate’s name.
Political parties may endorse candidates for voter-nominated offices; any party endorsements received by the Department of Elections by the submission deadline are listed on page 36 of this pamphlet.
Judicial, school, and municipal offices are nonpartisan. No party information is printed with the names of candidates for these offices.
For more information about California’s election system, refer to the Official Voter Information Guide produced by the California Secretary of State, or visit sos.ca.gov.