Primer on California’s Presidential Primary Election

While elections news coverage seems like it will never end, here in California we will cast votes for the parties’ partisan primary election for President on June 7th. And lately, the national news coverage says our votes will matter, a lot, for this presidential primary.

Also on that June 7th ballot, we will vote for US Senate, US Representative for congress, state assembly and state senator. Under the current California primary rules, voted into law as Proposition 14 in 2011, these are called voter nominated offices.

Local offices and all measures on the ballot are called non-partisan, and include county supervisor. There are also two local measures in the Junction and Black Butte school districts, in addition to the one state measure, Prop 50.

The top of the ballot, President, of course, gets quite a lot of attention. And the rules can be a little confusing. For this one office only, how you are registered to vote matters. A lot.

If you are registered with a qualified party, you must vote that party’s ballot. You can only vote for that party’s presidential candidates.

If you are a registered Republican, you get a Republican ballot, if you are a registered Green party member, you get a Green party ballot, and so on.

The exception is for those voters who have not declared a party. You might call yourself decline to state, or no party preference, or non partisan. These voters have a choice.

The choice they have changes each election, depending upon which parties allow these voters to choose their ballot. That’s important to know: the state party organizations make the decision about this, as they are allowed to by California law.

This primary, no party preference voters can choose to vote American Independent, Libertarian, or a Democrat ballot.

If you are registered as no party preference and you want to vote Republican, you must re-register to vote as a Republican before the deadline, May 23rd. The same is true for the Green party and the Peace and Freedom party.

NPP flyer

Have questions? Please check your party registration status on our website, here.

About six weeks before the election, voters will be able to look up where their polling place is on the same website.

If you want to vote a party ballot that requires you to be registered with them (Republican, Green, Peace & Freedom), please re-register to vote here before May 23rd.

If you have moved, please re-register to vote here before May 23rd.

Another thing that is important to know for this election is about US Senate. The incumbent is not running, and perhaps as a result, we have 34 candidates. This is a lot. You will notice that it takes up one whole column on the back of your ballot.

Working with some experts in usability (the Center for Civic Design), testing was done on different versions of the layout of the ballot. It was decided that the best, most clear way to present this contest was in one single column.

As a result, the front of the ballot looks a little lonely. The only contest, by law, that comes before US Senate is President. So President is the only thing on the front, of almost all our ballots in Shasta County.

Except! Remember those no party preference voters? They have their own special ballots, just like each party does. But because President is a partisan (party-affiliated) contest, no party preference voters don’t have President on their ballot. So that one kind of ballot is blank on the front side.

We have placed instructions there, with a message that those voters can contact an election official if they want to vote for President.

Remember, none of the hard working volunteer poll workers you might see on election day made up any of this sometimes confusing, sometimes hard to understand set of rules. Please be kind to them, and thank them, if you remember, for their service to the voters of our community.


Cathy Darling AllenCathy Darling Allen is the Shasta County Clerk and Registrar of Voters.


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