June 5, 2012 - Today's The Day To Cast Ballot, Shift State - Votes Are Being Made Under California's New 'Top Two' System
Paper: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Title: Today's The Day To Cast Ballot, Shift State - Votes Are Being Made Under California's New 'Top Two' System
Date: June 5, 2012
Author: Josh Richman
Abstract: Votes are being made under California's new 'top two' system
Today is Election Day, and there's a lot at stake.
Thanks to last year's redrawing of district lines by a citizens panel, California has as many as a dozen hot House races in play today -- a big chunk of the competitive races nationwide and thus a big piece of the Democrats' strategy to win 25 more seats and retake the House.
Redistricting also may give state Senate Democrats a shot at securing the two-thirds majority they need to pass tax bills without any Republican votes, though it's a longer shot in the Assembly.
And voters will decide which of 23 challengers will take on U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in November. Will it be the GOP-endorsed nonprofit executive from Danville? Or will it be one of the many dark horses: an attorney-dentist active in the "birther" movement questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship; a surfing rabbi; or an octogenarian ex-Marine who scaled California's highest mountain as a metaphor for his campaign?
The votes you cast will be different -- and perhaps more important -- than those you've cast in past primaries.
Under the state's new "top two" primary system, your ballot includes all candidates of all parties for state legislative, House and U.S. Senate offices. You can vote for any of them, regardless of how you're registered. The top-two vote-getters advance to November, regardless of party. In some more liberal districts, that might mean two Democrats advancing, while in more conservative districts, it could be two Republicans.
Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which analyzes races, said he does not expect the new system to dramatically alter the makeup of California's congressional delegation and Legislature. "But maybe it will change the type of Democrats and type of Republicans who get elected," when candidates of the same party are forced to compete with each other, he said.
So today is a key chance to be heard, as your choices will be much more limited in the fall.
Add in two statewide ballot measures -- one to alter the state's legislative term-limit structure and another to levy a $1-a-pack cigarette tax to fund cancer research -- and you've got a lot of weighty choices to make, even if the major political parties' presidential nominees are already anointed.
But political experts expect many California voters to opt out; they're predicting a low turnout -- perhaps less than 40 percent.
"I'm not worried about running out of ballots, if there's something good to be said about that," Contra Costa County Clerk Steve Weir said Monday. Election officials were also coping with an unusual phenomenon for a June election in California -- rain -- though many voters have already cast their ballots by mail.
"I think for a lot of people, they just don't believe this is a compelling reason to vote (because) this is the preliminaries, this is spring training," said Larry Gerston, a San Jose State political-science professor.
But, he added, they don't understand that under the new system they'll have more choices now than in November. "The question is whether they think at this point in time, five months away from the final decision, whether those choices matter," Gerston said.
In Santa Clara County, state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is facing off against former Cupertino Mayor Kris Wang and Cupertino Councilman Barry Chang for a board of supervisors seat. County voters also will select two new Superior Court judges and will decide how to run the county's jails. San Jose voters are choosing five council members while also deciding on a public employee pension-reform plan. Milpitas, Mountain View Whisman and Cupertino school district voters will decide on bond issues, as will voters in the West Valley-Mission Community College District.
San Mateo County has a seven-way race for its 4th Supervisorial District, and county voters also must decide on license taxes for car-rental and parking businesses as well as an additional hotel-room tax for the county's unincorporated areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Josh Richman covers politics. Follow him at Twitter.com/josh_richman. Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.
Memo: ENSURE YOUR BALLOT GETS COUNTED
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you still have your vote-by-mail ballot, bring it to your precinct's polling place or to your county registrar 's office. Any ballots received before 8 p.m. will be counted and any received after 8 p.m. will not be, no matter when they're postmarked.
If your name isn't on your polling place's list, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted after county elections officials have confirmed your voter registration and that you haven't cast a ballot elsewhere.
For details, check the secretary of state's website at www.sos.ca.gov or call the toll-free voter hotline at 800-345-8683. Operators will be available to tell you where your polling place is, answer other election-related questions or take confidential reports on election fraud or voter intimidation.
Edition: Valley Final
Record Number: 1717051
Copyright (c) 2012 San Jose Mercury News