Once ballots for the June primary election arrive in the mail, California voters might do a double-take when they find two races with Senator Alex Padilla.
Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Padilla in January 2021 to fill Vice President Kamala Harris’ vacant senate seat after she was sworn in to her new White House position.
Californians elected Harris to the senate in 2016, a six-year term that runs through January 2023. But a law signed by Newsom last year prevents Padilla from finishing Harris’ term as an appointed senator.
Instead, he must compete with a slew of other candidates for both the partial term and for a new six-year stint.
Voting experts say there’s nothing wrong with the ballot. It’s just a strange set of circumstances that California voters will be called upon to sort out — both in the June primary and again this fall in the November general election.
“It definitely could be the kind of thing that leads to misinformation and disinformation because it’s unusual and confusing,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which advocates for voter rights. “I think everybody involved in voter education is going to have to make an extra effort to make sure that voters understand that this is happening and that this isn’t a mistake.”
Voters can select the same or different candidates in each contest. The ultimate winner of the partial term contest will serve as senator through Jan. 3, 2023. The victor in the full-term race will serve from Jan. 3, 2023 through January 2029.
Election experts say Padilla’s double-billing stems from the threat of potential legal challenges to California’s practice using appointments to fill vacant U.S. Senate seats.
Lawmakers cited two federal court rulings in cases involving the appointment of senators in Illinois and Arizona, the Los Angeles Times reported last fall. Each suggested California’s practice could be found illegal under the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Times added.
“Courts have said if you’re going to have an election, you can’t just have [an appointed official] occupy the seat forever,” Wesley Hussey, a political science professor at Sacramento State University, told CapRadio. “There has to be a chance for voters to approve or not approve them.” (Full Story)