May 8, 2012 - Absentee ballots for primary reflect change - ELECTION: The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in fall.
Paper: Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)
Title: Absentee ballots for primary reflect change - ELECTION: The top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will face off in fall.
Date: May 8, 2012
Author: Rick Orlov, Staff Writer
Absentee ballots for the June 5 primary election were mailed Monday, marking the first time Californians will vote under dramatic new procedures designed to reduce partisanship in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
Under the top two candidates open primary system, the two candidates with the most votes - regardless of their party affiliation - will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.
"This is the first statewide election since California voters created the top-two primary system," Secretary of State Debra Bowen said.
Under the new system, all candidates from all political parties for federal and state legislative offices will be listed for voters to make their choice. The top two vote-getters will go on to the November runoff.
What this means, for instance, is there are 23 candidates running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein for the U.S. Senate seat she has held since 1992.
Feinstein's campaign manager Bill Carrick said he is confident she will go on to the November election, but said the new system will confuse voters.
"What this top-two system has done is create a dynamic where people who are not serious candidates and have no name ID and no prospect of winning say, 'What the hell,' and file to run," Carrick said. "We end up with a flood of candidates who are not serious.
"It creates confusion for the voters and, I think, rather than reduce the influence of the political parties, it will increase it."
Another aspect of the system is that two candidates from the same party could end up with a year-long campaign, such as the case in the 30th Congressional District where two Democratic incumbents, Howard Berman and Brad Sherman, are running against one another in a new district.
Steve Peace, co-chair of the Independent Voter Network which authored the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act and passed the change in California law two years ago, said he is pleased with what he is seeing, with 15 independent candidates emerging this year.
"This is the first time where voters have the freedom to vote for whoever they want," Peace said. "It has moved the system from one of control by insiders to the control by voters."
Peace added, "The only complaints you are hearing are from candidates. The public likes the choices they have."
As of Monday, absentee or vote-by-mail registrants can return their completed ballots. The vote-by-mail system has increased in popularity over the years. In November 2010, vote-by-mail accounted for 48.4 percent of the total vote for governor.
Explanations of the new top two system are included in the ballot materials sent out by the county Registrar-Recorder, officials said.
Los Angeles County has more than 900,000 voters who cast their ballot by mail.
Edition: Valley rop
Record Number: 1205080087
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