June 5, 2018

Primary Election Information

Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act and Voter-Nominated Offices

The Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which took effect January 1, 2011, requires that all candidates for a voter-nominated office be listed on the same ballot. Previously known as partisan offices, voter-nominated offices are state legislative offices, U.S. congressional offices, and state constitutional offices. Only the two candidates receiving the most votes—regardless of party preference—move on to the general election regardless of vote totals.

Write-in candidates for voter-nominated offices can only run in the primary election. However, a write-in candidate can only move on to the general election if the candidate is one of the top two vote-getters in the primary election.

Additionally, there is no independent nomination process for a general election. California's new open primary system does not apply to candidates running for U.S. President, county central committee, or local offices.

Voter-Nominated Offices

Under the California constitution, political parties are not entitled to formally nominate candidates for voter-nominated offices at the primary election. A candidate nominated for a voter-nominated office at the primary election is the nominee of the people and not the official nominee of any party at the following general election. A candidate for nomination or election to a voter-nominated office shall have his or her party preference, or lack of party preference, reflected on the primary and general election ballot, but the party preference designation is selected solely by the candidate and is shown for the information of the voters only. It does not constitute or imply an endorsement of the candidate by the party designated, or affiliation between the party and candidate, and no candidate nominated by the qualified voters for any voter-nominated office shall be deemed to be the officially nominated candidate of any political party. The parties may list the candidates for voter-nominated offices who have received the official endorsement of the party in the sample ballot.

All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter-nominated office, provided they meet the other qualifications required to vote for that office. The top two votegetters at the primary election advance to the general election for the voter-nominated office, even if both candidates have specified the same party preference designation. No party is entitled to have a candidate with its party preference designation participate in the general election unless such candidate is one of the two highest votegetters at the primary election.