Dear Miss Manners,

I see that my local newspaper is endorsing two candidates for U.S. Senate. Should I vote for both of them, even though my ballot says to vote for only one?

Please write something that explains why I’m in this bind.

Perplexed in Sacramento

Dear Perplexed,

Don’t worry. If you’re a California voter and you’re not hopelessly confused, you’re not paying attention.

I also want to congratulate you on being one of the few people who still reads newspaper editorials. You must be very, very old. It’s miracle that your eyes still work. What’s our secret?

The editorial in question is from the Sacramento Bee, where the editorials are written by very smart people, who, like you, are mostly much older than me. Old enough to remember when California had party primaries. And so please forgive them if they’re still in the habit of endorsing two candidates before June elections – one Democrat and one Republican.

That’s what they did here – endorsing both Kamala Harris, the attorney general and Democrat, and Duf Sundheim, a former Republican state party chair. Their editorial was right on—both are strong candidates and good people. Though I’d add that the race has three other strong candidates, all of who would be worthy of your vote. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is a clever politician who knows how to represent California, and fight. Ron Unz is a brilliant, out-of-the-box thinker. And Tom Del Beccaro, another former GOP state chairman, wrote a terrific book about government and is a very thoughtful and decent sort. I honestly wish I could vote for all five of them.

Of course, my telling you this doesn’t really solve your problem. The trouble isn’t just that we don’t have primaries anymore. It’s that Californians don’t realize we don’t have problems anymore. And you can’t just blame the Sacramento Bee for that. All the other papers are calling the June 7’s election a state primary, even though it’s really a general election, which is what you call an election when there are candidates from all the different parties on the same ballot. This June, to add to your confusion, there is a real presidential primary, which doesn’t follow the top two system.

In addition to the media getting this wrong, the state itself is calling the June 7 election a primary. That’s a mistake they’re repeating on millions of ballots and voter guides and online. And they’ve been informed that they’re making a mistake for years now—but they keep on making it.

So what would get people to realize there are no primaries? I think the best path might be for Californians to spoil their ballots, and vote for two people. If a bunch of ballots are spoiled, maybe we’d stop calling this a primary—or get rid of top two and go back to having primaries.

So do what your local paper suggests. Vote twice—it’s bad for your ballot but good for the state.


Joe Mathews