Monterey county elections Monterey County Elections

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03/03/2020 Presidential Primary Election

Get Ready for the 2020 Presidential Primary Election


The Presidential Primary Election will be on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Voters in Monterey County will vote to:

  • choose the presidential candidate to represent their party in the general election,
  • select the top two candidates for voter-nominated offices, and
  • elect local office holders.

This election is one of the most complex elections because it involves different types of primaries, each with its own rules that affect candidates and voters.

Important Dates in 2020

  • The primary election has a new date, March 3rd
  • Early voting begins February 3rd at the Elections office
  • Vote by mail ballots are mailed beginning February 3rd
  • County voter information guide mailing period begins early February
  • Military and overseas voter mailing begins no later than January 18th
  • Last day to register to vote is February 18th
  • Conditional Voter Registration period runs February 19th to March 3rd
  • New Citizens Registration period is February 19th to March 3rd
  • Last day to request a ballot by mail is February 25th
  • Last day recommended to return a ballot in the U.S. mail is February 25th

Important Ballot Information

All voters can vote in the primary election. However, because it is a presidential primary election, the ballot will differ based on your political party preference. In addition, because of the Top-Two Primary Act, several state contests may list far more candidates for most offices when compared to the general election.

You can vote for:

  • U.S. President (all candidates for one specific party who will be nominated to represent the party in the general election),
  • U.S. Senator and Congressperson (all candidates for office regardless of party),
  • California State Senator and State Assembly Member (all candidates for office regardless of party),
  • Local offices in your city and county (non-partisan), and
  • Local party offices, like your party’s central committee and county council (party specific).

Your party preference will determine which ballot you will receive.

For example, Joan Q. Jones is registered with the Peace and Freedom Party. Her ballot will only list Peace and Freedom presidential candidates, and if applicable, the party’s central committee contest. All other contests will list identical candidates as all other voters, regardless of party preference. If Joan Q. Jones wishes to vote for a presidential candidate for a different party, she will have to register with that party.

In the same election, John J. Smith is registered no party preference (he did not select a political party). He will receive a ballot with no presidential contest and no central committee contest. All other contests will list identical candidates as all other voters. John J. Smith may choose to cross over to one single party’s ballot if and only if that party allows no party preference voters to cross over. He will receive a notice of the crossover option when we get closer to the election.

Types of Primaries

Presidential Primary: Nominated by the party. Each party will select their presidential nominee for the general election. How to vote for U.S. President.

California Top Two Primary: Nominated by voters. All candidates will be listed in each contest regardless of party preference. The two nominees with the highest votes will advance to the general election.

County or Local Offices Nonpartisan Primary: All qualified candidates will be listed without a party preference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I vote for candidates who are not in my party?

It depends. The 2020 Primary Election is essentially three different primaries. The Presidential Primary requires voters to be registered with the political party to vote on the presidential contest. Some parties may allow those voters with no political party to cross over to their ballot. Under California’s Top 2 Primary, offices such as U.S. Senate, U.S. Representative and state legislative offices will list all candidates for office regardless of party preference. The two candidates with the most votes will advance to the general election. The county and local primary for nonpartisan offices will list candidates without noting the candidate’s party preference.

Does Top 2 apply to all races?

No. Top 2 does not apply to races for President, party central committees, or local offices. Top 2 is only for state constitutional offices, state legislative offices, U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate offices.

Do the Top 2 candidates have to be from different parties?

No. The Top 2 candidates might be from the same party, different parties, or have no party preference.

How will I know which party each candidate belongs to?

If, in a Top 2 Primary contest, a candidate discloses a party preference, the party will be printed by their name on the ballot. If they do not reveal their party or do not have a political party preference, it will say "Party Preference: None."

Sometimes party names are abbreviated like this:

AI = American Independent Party

DEM = Democratic Party

GRN = Green Party

LIB = Libertarian Party

PF = Peace & Freedom Party

REP = Republican Party

Candidates for local nonpartisan offices will not have the candidate’s party preference listed.

Will I still get my party’s ballot for the primaries?

Yes. You will get your party’s ballot for the 2020 Primary if you are registered with one of these qualified political parties:

  • American Independent Party
  • Democratic Party
  • Green Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • Peace & Freedom Party
  • Republican Party

The partisan offices of President and, if applicable, central committee will reflect your registered political party.

I did not register with a political party, what are my options to vote for President?

If you are registered with no party preference, or you registered with a minor party, you may request a ballot for the American Independent, Democratic, or Libertarian presidential candidate. These political parties allow voters without a party to vote for their presidential candidates. This is called crossover voting.

If you are a poll place voter, you will be presented with the list of the political parties that allow crossover voting and will be able to request a ballot from your poll worker. 

If you are a vote by mail voter, you may request a crossover ballot by phone or written request.

If you do not choose to cross over on to a ballot, or if the party you would like does not offer crossover voting, you may register with the political party of your choosing and then vote the partisan ballot.

If no action is taken, no partisan contests will appear on your ballot.

I registered as American Independent, does that mean independent of a political party?

No. American Independent is a political party. To register without a political party, select “No. I do not want to disclose a political party."

Can I vote for a Presidential candidate from another party?

Not if you are registered with a different qualified political party.

Why does my sample ballot have a separate page for each party listing presidential candidates?

Each voter guide includes a comprehensive sample ballot showing the different presidential contests and candidates. The goal is to give voters information needed to assist them should they re-register with a different political party during the voting period.

How do I know which parties allow crossover voting?

Each party gets to decide if they will allow crossover voting or not. Their deadline to decide is October 20, 2019.

We will mail you a list of parties that will allow crossover voting for this election. We will also publish a list of those parties at our website: montereycountyelections.us. This list will also be available at each voting location.

What do the terms partisan and nonpartisan mean?

Partisan means related to a political party.

Nonpartisan means not related to a political party.

Can I still write in a candidate on my ballot?

Yes. You can write in the name of any qualified write-in candidate for any statewide office in the primary election. If your write-in candidate is one of the Top 2, s/he will move on to the general election.

What happens when I “write-in” a name for office?

If you write a qualified write-in candidate (a candidate who filed paperwork with the election official to run as a write-in candidate), your vote will count for that candidate.

If you write the name of someone who has not filed official write-in candidate paperwork, including fictitious characters, no vote will be counted for this contest.

How do I know who the qualified write-in candidates are?

A list of official write-in candidates will be available on our website, at the Elections office and at polling places. The official list will be available no sooner than February 21st.

What happens if I write-in a presidential candidate from a different party on my ballot?

Unless that candidate is a qualified write-in candidate for your party’s ballot, no vote will be recorded for that candidate.

What is the outcome of the election for each contest (elected vs. advancing to the general election)?

It depends on the office. For state constitutional offices, state legislative offices, U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate offices, the top 2 vote-getters move on to the general election even if:

They are from the same party,

There are only 2 candidates, or

If one candidate got more than 50% of the votes.

For local offices, such as Board of Supervisors, any candidate who achieves more than 50% of the votes in the primary election is automatically elected.

How do I check my registration status (including party preference)?

To check your registration status visit https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/.

To make changes, re-register at https://registertovote.ca.gov/.

I am 17 years old during the primary and will be 18 by the general election, can I vote in the primary?

To vote in California's primary, you must be 18 years old by Election Day. There are other ways you can participate, including volunteering at the polls. Visit the Get Involved section of our website.

What county and local offices will be on the ballot?

Superior Court Judges: Candidates for each seat are voted on a countywide basis.

County Board of Supervisor: You will see candidates for supervisor on your ballot if your supervisorial district is up for election. If one candidate receives more than 50% of the votes cast in the primary election, then he or she will be elected. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, then the two candidates with the most votes will run in the general election.

Poll Workers scheduled to work in this election.

Mid-day ballot pickup information.