California voters face new primary system

June 5, 2012 10:00:53 AM PDT
California is trying something new in this primary. Rather than having one ballot for Republicans and one for Democrats, voters can pick whoever they want in this primary and the top two vote getters will go on to what amounts to a runoff in the November general election.

Outside a grocery store in Fremont Monday, most voters knew very little about the new top two system. Many of the rest don't like it.

On the primary ballot California voters will get all the choices -- every candidate running for a particular office will be on the ballot. The two candidates that get the most votes will be in November.

The people who are being affected by the top two aren't the voters, there the candidates.

"What it's done is to force candidates to reach out to voters who normally would not be contacted -- independent voters, declined to state voters," Democratic candidate Eric Swalwell said.

Swalwell is running for Congress against fellow Democrat and incumbent Pete Stark.

"It's meant more work and more shoes that I've had to buy for doors that we've knocked on," Swalwell said.

Swalwell's got a big hurdle to overcome -- Stark has been in congress for 40 years and people know him.

"And under the traditional system we would've felt confident that we would've won the Democratic primary and faced off against either a Republican or Independent in the general," Stark campaign advisor Alex Tourk said.

Tourk says under the top two system, Stark will likely face another Democrat in November.

"So in this particular election, for this district I think it helps our opponent," he said.

ABC7 News political analyst Bruce Cain says it will take a couple of election cycles to know how voters will respond to the top two system.

In Stark's congressional district, Republicans make up 24 percent of the voters, not enough to elect a Republican, but if they vote for a Democrat it would certainly be enough to make a difference in a close race.