California voters will confront a longer ballot with more choices as they head to the polls Tuesday for the first statewide primary featuring sweeping voter-approved election reforms. A new top-two primary system and redrawn legislative and congressional districts are intended to blunt the influence of the two main political parties and lead to more competitive races involving more moderate candidates. Tuesday’s voting will test those assumptions. For the first time, an independent panel of citizens drew the boundaries for revamped legislative and congressional districts, and only the top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the November ballot, regardless of their political party. That’s likely to create several hard-fought and expensive contests in the fall, including some that feature members of the same party and independents.
People registered to vote by mail already got a look at the new system when they opened their ballot and saw 24 candidates listed for U.S. Senate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, is up for re-election this year but faces no serious challenger, despite the long roster of competitors.
While there is plenty of intrigue for political insiders, experts predict low voter turnout, likely 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.