Primary Elections in California
In June 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, which created a “top two” or “open” primary election system. The passage of this proposition changed how 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.
The change to an open primary election system does not affect how the primary elections for U.S. President or the elections for political party county central committees are conducted. However, some timing has changed: county central committee elections now coincide with presidential primary elections.
What does this mean for voters in the June 2018 primary election?
All candidates running for voter-nominated offices appear on the same ballot, regardless of the candidates’ party preferences. Any voter may vote for any candidate for these offices, regardless of the voter’s party preference. All voters in a jurisdiction will receive the same ballot; there will not be party-specific ballots.
The voter-nominated offices on the June ballot are:
• Lieutenant Governor
• Secretary of State
• Attorney General
• Insurance Commissioner
• Board of Equalization Member
• United States Senate
• United States Representative
• State Senator (in some districts, but not San Francisco)
• State Assembly Member
The two candidates who receive the most votes in each of these contests advance to the general election in November. These two candidates can be from the same political party. Even if one candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in the primary election, the top two candidates will both advance to the general election.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction contest also appears on the June ballot. This is a nonpartisan office. Voters can vote for any candidate for nonpartisan offices.
County central committee contests do not appear on the ballot for the June 2018 election. Voters will elect members of the county central committees at the next presidential primary in March 2020.
What does “party preference” mean?
“Party preference” refers to the political party with which the candidate or the voter is registered.
Under the open primary election system, if a candidate for a voter-nominated office has a preference for a qualified political party, the party is printed by the candidate’s name on the ballot. If a candidate does not have a preference for a qualified political party, “Party Preference: None” is printed by the candidate’s name.
The candidate’s party preference does not imply that the candidate is endorsed by that party. Political parties may endorse candidates; any party endorsements received by the Department of Elections by the submission deadline are listed here.
The party preference, if any, of a candidate for a nonpartisan office does not appear on the ballot.
How can I find out with which party I am registered?
• Go to sfelections.org/reglookup, or
• Call (415) 554-4375.
What ballot will I receive?
Because there are no party-specific ballots for this primary election, you and all voters in your voting precinct will receive the same ballot. Your sample ballot may be found here.
How can I change my party preference?
To change your party preference, complete and submit a voter registration card. You have several options:
• Register online at sfelections.org/tools/reglookup.
• Request that a registration card be mailed to you by contacting the Department of Elections through sfelections.org or calling (415) 554-4375, or
• Fill out a registration card in person at the Department of Elections in City Hall, Room 48.
Where can I find more information about the primary election?
For more information about the primary election, go to sfelections.org or the “Elections” page on the California Secretary of State’s website, sos.ca.gov.