Californians have a lot to process in a primary election, especially during a redistricting year. To get Butte County residents ready to make decisions on all the local, state and federal offices on the June 7 ballot, we’ve broken down the primary process and 2022’s various changes and quirks.
Every federal and state candidate on the California ballot is running for a “voter-nominated” office. This means that, for the primary, the top two vote-getters in each race—from Board of Equalization to governor to members of Congress—will go on to face each other in the general election this fall, regardless of party affiliation. (The one exception is for state superintendent of public instruction: If one candidate for that office gets more than 50 percent of the vote during the primary, they are declared the winner.)
There are a ton of open offices on California’s primary ballot. Every U.S. representative is up, and in Butte County’s district, five-term Republican Doug LaMalfa is once again running for re-election. Two of the four candidates challenging him for the District 1 seat have raised less than $20,000 between them, leaving the campaign of Democrat Max Steiner—a Chico-based Army combat veteran who served in Iraq—as the only formidable challenge to LaMalfa.
One of California’s two U.S. Senate seats is on the ballot … twice! According to the 17th Amendment, when a Senate vacancy comes up before the end of its term—such as when former Senator Kamala Harris became Vice President—the governor can “make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election.” Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla to Harris’ seat in 2021, but with a general election coming this November, voters get to weigh in on who serves out the balance of the term—all two months of it, through January—and also who will hold the office for the following six years.
For both Senate slots, Padilla, a Democrat, seems the clear favorite. As CalMatters points out, his challengers include “Republican Mark Meuser, who ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of State in 2018; Christopher Theodore, the Democratic founder of a Southern California quarterly magazine that has been accused of plagiarism; and Republican Cordie Williams, a Carlsbard chiropractor who attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally on Jan. 6, 2021.”
On the state level, the races—governor, lieutenant governor, assembly, attorney general, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction—are pretty quiet, at least for now. Things should heat up as the general election season comes into focus.
For California’s top spot, Newsom’s nomination is probably automatic. As for who his challenger will be from a collection of lesser-known candidates? Possibly having as good a chance as anyone is Republican Brian Dahle, the state senator from District 1, the rural Nor-Cal district that will soon include Butte County thanks to recent redistricting.
There is only one Legislature race for Butte County, Assembly District 3. Barring a surprise showing from a write-in, both candidates on the ballot—four-term incumbent James Gallagher, the Assembly’s Republican minority leader, and Magalia-based community organizer and musician David Leon Zink—will continue on to the general election.
What the district?!?
The 2020 census triggered redistricting across the country, and as happens every decade after that often contentious process, there are many changes in how we the people are represented. Locally, the most impactful of these changes are found in county and state representation.
The two Butte County Supervisor districts on the ballot have been dramatically redrawn. District 2 had much of its central Chico portions—from the Avenues through downtown and deep into the Chapman/Mulberry neighborhood—ceded to District 3, which has shrunk in area to become a population-dense, mostly urban district of Chico.
Many Chicoans currently represented by District 2 Supervisor Debra Lucero will be voting in District 3, choosing between incumbent Tami Ritter and challenger Mary Murphy-Waldorf. For her reelection bid, Lucero is facing two challengers, Carl Jeffries and Chico police officer Peter Durfee. (For more on the supervisor candidates, see “Reppin’ the county.”)
The broadest change due to redistricting is the realignment of the state Senate districts. Instead of being in District 4, currently represented by longstanding California lawmaker Jim Nielsen (who is retiring after this year), Butte County moves into an expanded District 1, home of gubernatorial candidate Dahle, whose term as senator runs through 2024.
How do I vote?
Butte County elections are vote-by-mail, but voters still have a few other options for casting a ballot.
The office of Butte County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Candace Grubbs mailed ballots starting Monday (May 9). If you do not receive one, call the Elections Office at (530) 552-3400 for a replacement. To check the status of your ballot (when it was mailed, received and counted), visit california.ballottrax.net/voter.
As a refresher, here are the different ways local voters can turn in their ballots:
Mail it back
● No postage necessary.
● Ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, June 7.
Deposit in a secure drop box
● Drop boxes are open May 6-June 7.
● Ballot must be turned in before 8 p.m. on June 7.
● Refer to the Voter Information Guide (available online at buttevotes.net) for a list of drop box locations and hours.
Hand deliver to a voting assistance center (VAC)
● VACs are open May 28-June 7 (extra centers open starting June 4).
● Ballot must be turned in before 8 p.m. on June 7.
● Refer to the Voter Information Guide for a list of VAC locations and hours of operation.
Wait, am I registered to vote?
● Check registration status at voterstatus.sos.ca.gov.
● Deadline to register by mail or online (at registertovote.ca.gov) is May 23.
● Miss the deadline? There’s still a way: Conditional Voter Registration is available. Fill out a provisional ballot at the Butte County Elections Office (155 Nelson Ave., Oroville) or a VAC through June 7.
Voting resources online:
Butte Votes—Butte County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters site
California Secretary of State
CalMatters 2022 Voters Guide
League of Women Voters,Butte County