Democrats Face Democrats in New California Election System
The first statewide test of new California electoral rules designed to bolster competition and ease partisan gridlock saw the emergence of numerous same-party matchups and disappointing results for Democrats looking to gain more ground in Congress.
But analysts said despite an extremely low voter turnout that may have helped blunt the outcome of Tuesday’s primary election, the impact of procedural changes and redrawn political maps will be more keenly felt over time.
Under California’s new open-primary system, all candidates for each office compete on a single ballot, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
That system, designed to favor more moderate, middle-of-the-road candidates over ideologically extreme contenders in both major parties, also allows for outcomes in which two Democrats or two Republicans could face each other in November.
After Tuesday’s primary election, nine of California’s 53 congressional districts will have same-party matchups in the November 6 general election, seven of them between Democrats, according to Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
Tuesday’s primary also set the stage for more than a dozen same-party contests at the state legislative level in November.
In some cases, even longtime incumbents of the same party from previously “safe” congressional seats ended up tossed into the ring against one another, a result of district boundaries reconfigured by a nonpartisan commission to better represent shifts in the California electorate over the past decade.
Analysts warned that too much cannot be read into Tuesday’s primary results, skewed by a low voter turnout of 24 percent. In addition, voters in primaries tend to be more partisan those who will cast ballots in the general election. And the seemingly wide gap between many of the top vote-getters from each primary and the runner-ups they will face in November are expected to narrow considerably.