A look at California's top-two system and the CA-24 race

May 9, 2016

Central Coast residents begin voting by mail this week for California’s primary election, under the relatively new top-two system. 

California’s top-two primary system was passed by voters in 2010, changing the way elections are organized for all statewide officials and those running for the U.S. House and the Senate.

"The idea was to create more competition by allowing the top two candidates from either party to move ahead to the November elections so that November essentially becomes a runoff between the top two candidates regardless of what party they’re in,” said Political Science expert Michael Latner.

He said that theoretically, the more moderate candidates should move forward because more people are voting, not just those registered to a particular party.

“There really isn’t much evidence that more moderate candidates are doing better under this system, in fact what seems to be the case is that it helps incumbents," said Latner.

However, there is no incumbent candidate in the 24th Congressional District race this year. Instead, there are nine candidates looking to be part of the top-two. Latner said the open primary can help enhance competition, with many of the 24th District candidates working to appeal to voters beyond their party base.

KCBX reached out to the candidates to find out how they feel about the system, and the five who responded all indicated they are generally OK with, or even in favor of it.