Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act and Voter-Nominated Offices
The Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which took effect January 1, 2011, requires that all candidates for a voter-nominated office be listed on the same ballot. Previously known as partisan offices, voter-nominated offices are U.S. Senator, U.S. congressional offices, and state constitutional offices. Only the two candidates receiving the most votes-regardless of party preference-move on to the general election regardless of vote totals.
Write-in candidates for voter-nominated offices can only run in the primary election. However, a write-in candidate can only move on to the general election if the candidate is one of the top two vote-getters in the primary election.
Additionally, there is no independent nomination process for a general election. California's new open primary system does not apply to candidates running for U.S. President, county central committee, or local offices.
Under the California Constitution, political parties may formally nominate candidates for party-nominated/partisan offices at the primary election. A candidate so nominated will then represent that party as its official candidate for the office in question at the ensuing general election and the ballot will reflect an official designation to that effect. The top vote-getter for each party at the primary election is entitled to participate in the general election. Parties also elect officers of official party committees at a partisan primary.
No voter may vote in the primary election of any political party other than the party they have disclosed a preference for upon registering to vote. However, a political party may authorize a person who has declined to disclose a party preference to vote in that party's primary election.
Under the California constitution, political parties are not entitled to formally nominate candidates for voter-nominated offices at the primary election. A candidate nominated for a voter-nominated office at the primary election is the nominee of the people and not the official nominee of any party at the following general election. A candidate for nomination or election to a voter-nominated office shall have their party preference, or lack of party preference, reflected on the primary and general election ballot, but the party preference designation is selected solely by the candidate and is shown for the information of the voters only. It does not constitute or imply an endorsement of the candidate by the party designated, or affiliation between the party and candidate, and no candidate nominated by the qualified voters for any voter-nominated office shall be deemed to be the officially nominated candidate of any political party. The parties may list the candidates for voter-nominated offices who have received the official endorsement of the party in the sample ballot.
All voters may vote for any candidate for a voter-nominated office, provided they meet the other qualifications required to vote for that office. The top two vote-getters at the primary election advance to the general election for the voter-nominated office, even if both candidates have specified the same party preference designation. No party is entitled to have a candidate with its party preference designation participate in the general election unless such candidate is one of the two highest vote-getters at the primary election.
Under the California Constitution, political parties are not entitled to nominate candidates for nonpartisan offices at the primary election, and a candidate nominated for a nonpartisan office at the primary election is not the official nominee of any party for the office in question at the ensuing general election. A candidate for nomination or election to a nonpartisan office may not designate their party preference, or lack of party preference, on the primary and general election ballot. The top two vote-getters at the primary election advance to the general election for the nonpartisan office.