A mid-May deadline looms for residents interested in voting in the June 5 Primary election.
Anyone not previously registered to vote, or who needs to change party affiliation, must register or re-register by Monday, May 21.
According to Inyo County Clerk-Recorder Kammi Foote, changing party affiliation – and thus re-registering – may be necessary this election cycle because of an exemption to Proposition 14, also known as the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act.
Essentially, the law, passed by voters in 2010 and taking effect this June, allows California voters access to a full, non-partisan ballot of candidates for congressional and state public offices. Voters will simply be asked to select the candidate of their choosing. The top two vote-getters of the Primary – regardless of party affiliation – will advance to the General Election in November.
In past Primary elections, voters were only allowed access to ballots featuring candidates from the party with which they were registered. For example, registered Democrats could only vote for Democratic candidates, and so on.
Local Inyo County contests are non-partisan, meaning winners are declared by their receipt of the majority vote: 50 percent plus one. Foote noted that if there are more than two candidates running in a race and none of them receive a majority vote, then the top two vote-getters move onto the General Election.
The Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act has essentially made it so that California representatives are elected on June 5 just as Inyo County representatives have been elected locally for decades, “with the exception that the top two-vote getters will move on to the General Election regardless if a candidate receives a majority vote,” Foote said.
The other exception will be the office of president, where party affiliation will still determine the candidates voters see on their ballots.
This is why, Foote said, residents will need to pay special attention to their registration status before going to the polls on June 5.
“Voters who are registered with a political party must still vote their party’s ballot for the office of U.S. President,” she said.
Furthermore, voters registered as having “No Party Preference” will only be allowed to vote on a Democratic or American Independent ticket in this election.
“Each political party has the option of allowing voters who register without stating a political party preference to vote in their primary election for the office of U.S. President,” Foote said.
In other words, Democrats (as well as registered American Independents) wanting to vote for a Republican candidate need to re-register as a member of the GOP.
Again, this only applies to the presidential election portion of the Primary.
Candidates Become Official
The June 5 races applying specifically to Inyo County are continuing to take shape.
As of Monday, according to Foote, all political hopefuls who have thus far expressed an interest in running for the three open seats on the Inyo County Board of Supervisors “have satisfied the signature requirements” to advance to the candidacy process.
This means the 10 prospective candidates – three incumbents among them – have collected and returned to the Inyo County Elections Office at least 20 voter signatures, either as part of the Signatures in Lieu of Filing Fees phase that closed Feb. 23 or in an effort to meet the nomination signature requirements by March 9.
Five of these political hopefuls – District 2 Supervisor Susan Cash and challenger Russ Aldridge, District 4 Supervisor Marty Fortney and challenger Christopher Dangwillo, and District 5 Supervisor Richard Cervantes – have also gone one step farther and filed official Declaration of Candidacy forms, rendering them “qualified” candidates and ready for placement on the June 5 ballot.
The following prospective candidates have until March 9 to likewise file their official declarations: District 2 challenger Jeff Griffiths; District 4 challengers Nina Weisman and Mark Tillemans; and District 5 challengers Jim Gentry and Matt Kingsley.
Any other prospective candidate out there, assuming he or she collects 20 valid nomination signatures and files a Declaration of Candidacy by March 9, also still has time to get on the ballot.
The three seats on the Inyo County Board of Supervisors aren’t the only positions up for grabs this election cycle.
Trustee Areas 2 and 4 on the Inyo County Board of Education are both up for election June 5. As of Monday, incumbents Lynn Cooper (Area 2) and Mary Kemp (Area 4) had both filed Declarations of Candidacy.
Several seats are open on the Republican and Democratic central committees of Inyo County – private organizations on whose behalf Foote’s office is required to administer elections.
Twenty-one seats covering five districts that mirror supervisorial boundaries are up for election in the GOP group; 22 in the Democratic committee.
As of Monday, David Blacker and Richard Cervantes had filed to run for the GOP Central Committee in District 5 (which has three open seats). Sam Wasson and Theona Wasson had filed to run for two of the six open seats in District 3.
No one has yet to file for any of the positions in the Democratic Committee.
These positions, because of more openings than interested candidates, rarely make it to the ballot in Inyo County.
For more information about registering, visit http://www.inyocounty.us/Recorder/Documents/TopTwoFAQ.pdf  or contact the Inyo County Elections Department by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org  or by telephone at (760) 878-0224.