California voters will engage in a new election process next year that does away with traditional political party nominations and replaces them with primaries that could result in two candidates from the same party squaring off in the general election. In the so-called top-two primary election in June, state and congressional candidates of all parties will appear on the same ballot, allowing all voters to choose nominees without partisan constraints.
The new election system, approved by voters last November, will go into effect after the once-a-decade redrawing of political districts was done for the first time by an independent citizens commission, rather than the politicians themselves.
Proponents say the top-two primary, along with the new districts, will spur competition, help guard against spoiler candidates and potentially lead to more moderate lawmakers being elected. They further hope a new dynamic will emerge to lessen partisan rancor. But critics contend the new primary will limit choice, drive up the cost of campaigning and spell the end of third-party candidates.
Some analysts point to several past elections that would have ended with different results had the top-two system been in place. But others doubt that overall it will change hard partisan split and gridlock that are seen in both the Legislature and Congress.
Timing of the top-two system and the new maps come amid dramatic changes in how the electorate views candidates, partisan politics and the world, said former state Sen. Steve Peace, who sponsored an initiative after which Proposition 14 was patterned.