Top-Two Open Primary Explanation

About the Top-Two Open Primary System

On June 8, 2010, California voters approved Proposition 14, which created the “Top-Two Open Primary Act”. Prior to the “Top-Two Open Primary Act”, candidates running for partisan office appeared only on their own party ballot. The top vote-getter from each qualified political party and any candidates who qualified using the independent nomination process would then move on to the General Election.

Now, under the “Top-Two Open Primary Act”, all candidates running, regardless of their party preference, will appear on a single combined ballot, and voters can vote for any candidate from any political party. The “Top-Two Open Primary Act” would not affect the election of President (except parties that allow cross-over voters) and County Central Committees, which are still party specific contests.

How this Affects Elections

The “Top-Two Open Primary Act” requires that only the two candidates for voter-nominated offices who receive the highest and second-highest number of votes cast at the primary shall appear on the ballot as candidates at the ensuing General Election. (EC8141.5)

The “Top-Two Primary Act” changes the way elections are conducted for all statewide offices including:
  • Attorney General Board of Equalization
  • Controller
  • Governor
  • Insurance Commissioner
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Secretary of State
  • State Assembly
  • State Senator
  • State Treasurer
  • U.S. Representatives
  • U.S. Senator
The “Top-Two Primary Act” would not affect the election of President (except parties that allow cross-over voters) and Central Committees, which are party-nominated. Non-partisan offices such as Judges, schools, special districts, municipalities and the Superintendent of Public Instruction would remain open to all eligible voters.

What this Means for the Voter

It changes the way candidates are elected in a primary election.

How It Affects Write-In Candidates

You may write in a qualified write-in candidate’s name on the ballot in a Primary Election contest. In the General Election, you may only write-in a qualified candidates name in a Party-Nominated contest. Write-in votes are not allowed in a voter-nominated general election.