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One Ballot, Two Elections

| News | February 13, 2020

When Lena Smyth received her primary-election ballot, she took a look at it and immediately felt concern.

“I don’t think it’s going to make perfect sense,” she said.

Smyth, a College of the Canyons political science professor, referred to the 25th congressional district race, in which voters will have to make two choices: who they would like to finish Katie Hill’s term and who they want to be their representative starting in January.

The ballot states which race is which. First comes the regular primary race, listed as “United States Representative, 25th District.” It starts with three names on one page and then continues on the next page with 10 more names. The top two vote getters will advance to the November general election.

That is followed by “United States Representative, 25th District (Unexpired term ending January 3, 2021).” This is the special election to complete Hill’s term, made necessary after she resigned. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, he or she will serve until Jan. 3; if not, the top two vote getters will meet in a May runoff.

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Ten people, including current Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), fellow Democrat Cenk Uygur and Republicans Steve Knight and Mike Garcia, are in both races, so their names are listed twice. But the names are in different orders and sometimes on different pages. Plus, one candidate’s name is listed differently: as Getro Franck Elize in the primary and Getro F. Elize in the special election.

Some names, such as George Papadopoulos and F. David Rudnick, are only listed once because they decided to vie for only that race, Papadopoulos for the full term and Rudnick only until January. And although he dropped out, Christopher Smith is still listed on the ballot for the regular primary.

“The candidates have been trying to communicate,” Smyth said, and it’s true that Garcia’s campaign placed an ad in the Gazette urging people to vote twice.

“But when I look at the ballot itself, it is less clear,” Smyth said. “Not all voters will understand. Some will understand.” She added that the more closely a person has followed the races, the more likely he or she would understand.

Because this is what Smyth called “unprecedented, a very unique situation,” it’s not known if the election will go smoothly or will be something similar to Florida in 2000, when voters couldn’t tell if they were voting for Al Gore, George W. Bush or someone else.

Nor is Smyth sure if voters will vote for the same person in both races. “Many of us won’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Another wrinkle is that people can start voting at voting centers as early as Feb. 22, though most area centers will open starting Feb. 29.

“You wonder how they’re going to navigate the ballot,” Smyth said.

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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