Why Californians have to vote twice in this Senate race

By Azi Paybarah,
The Washington Post,
March 5, 2024


When voters in California head to the polls on Tuesday they will find two U.S. Senate races on their primary ballots.

The races are for the same Senate seat held for three decades by Dianne Feinstein (D), who died in September. After her death, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Laphonza Butler to fill the seat until a special election could be held.

A few days after Butler was appointed to the seat, she announced she would not run for a full Senate term. That helped set off races for a rare open Senate seat in the heavily Democratic-leaning state. Dozens of people jumped at the chance to run.

Under a California law enacted in 2022, if a senator vacates their seat more than 148 days before the next regularly scheduled statewide primary, the state is required to hold a special election on the same day as the regularly scheduled primary election.

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Holding two races for the same seat on the same primary ballot is enough to make even the most seasoned political veterans’ heads spin, let alone voters who may not realize before heading to the polls that there’s an additional Senate race.

“I get confused of what’s going on, and I’m the head of the California Voter Foundation,” said Kim Alexander, founder and president of the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve voting in the state. “If I’m having questions when I’m voting, it’s probably much harder for the typical voter out there.”

Why does California take so long to count votes?

The Senate races are “taking up a lot of ballot real estate,” Alexander said. She added that having to explain how to vote takes away time and resources that candidates and activists could dedicate to addressing any number of issues facing California right now.

“It’s a waste of people’s time and attention,” she said, since the special election is for a Senate term that lasts only a few months.

Because of the double billing on the ballot, Senate candidates had to lobby voters for their support and also educate them on how to vote. (Full Story)