About This Election
On Tuesday, March 7, 2000, millions of Californians will head to the polls to
cast ballots in hundreds of primary election contests. The purpose of a primary election
is to choose which candidates will advance to the General election. Polls open at
7 a.m., and close at 8 p.m. Voters who aren't sure they can make it to the polls
should sign up to get an absentee ballot so you can vote by mail.
What's on the Ballot?
In the 2000 Primary election, we have a Presidential election, twenty state propositions,
one U.S. Senate seat up, 52 contests for the House of Representatives, and 100 legislative
contests. Depending on where you live, and when your city or county conducts elections,
you may have local races or measures on your ballot as well.
Every registered voter should receive an Official Sample Ballot in the mail, which
is sent to you by your county election office. This booklet includes an application
for an absentee ballot, and tells you where your polling place is located. Voters
also receive a Voter Information Guide from the Secretary of State that features
information on the state propositions. (This year, a second Voter Information Guide
was mailed out because two propositions qualified late in the process. The main guide
has a blue cover; the supplemental guide has a red cover). These three official booklets
provide the basic information you need to prepare to vote. If you haven't received
these booklets in the mail, contact your local county
election office. More answers to common questions
about voting are available from CVF.
About the Open Primary
California has a new Open Primary law that has fundamentally changed the way we
conduct elections. Before the Open Primary law, voters used to receive ballots that
listed only the candidates of the voter's party. If you wanted to vote in a different
party's primary election, you had to be a member of that party. In 1996, California
voters changed the rules when we passed Prop.
198, the "open primary" initiative (though it is technically a blanket
primary), which allows any voters to vote for any candidate of any party. The 1998
Primary was the first California election conducted under the open primary law. Here's
how it works: if you are registered with the Libertarian Party, for example, you
can now vote for a Reform Party candidate for President, a Republican for U.S. Senate,
a Democrat for State Assembly, etc.
However, the national political parties objected to California's new open primary,
particularly because their party rules prohibit people who are not members of their
party from casting ballots in the Primary. The Democratic and Republican parties
said they would not count California's primary votes when deciding how to allocate
delegates at their national nominating conventions unless the rules changed. California
lawmakers, who had already passed a law to move California's primary up to early
March in order to give California more clout in the Presidential election, passed
a new law in 1999 that seeks to accomodate the political parties and respect the
open primary law.
As a result, on March 7, California election officials will count our ballots twice
-- one count of votes cast in the Presidential election by party members, and one
count of the votes cast by all California voters. Both vote counts will be announced,
but only the first vote will count toward allocating delegates for presidential candidates.
Either way, your vote counts. It just counts more if you and the candidate you support
are members of the same party. It gets even more confusing, because this voting and
counting method only applies for the Presidential election. In all the other
partisan contests on your ballot, such as your congressional and legislative races,
you can vote for any candidate of any party and it will help that candidate
get his or her party's nomination. -- KA