In November 2010, under a partisan nominating system, California voters were able to choose between the following candidates for Congress: 53 Republicans, 51 Democrats, 39 minor party nominees, 3 independent candidates, and 14 declared write-in candidates, for a total of 160 candidates.
In November 2012, under Proposition 14, the top-two open primary system, California voters will be able to choose among the following candidates for Congress: 56 Democrats, 46 Republicans, 4 independents, zero minor party candidates, zero write-in candidates, for a total of 106 candidates.
This presumes that the person who places second in the U.S. House race in the 37th district in Los Angeles will be the one Republican who filed as a declared write-in candidate. It is possible the write-in candidate who places second in that race will be the lone Libertarian, or the lone Peace & Freedom Party member. No will know until the write-ins have been tallied. If the lone Republican write-in does not place second, then the statewide summary will be 56 Democrats, 45 Republicans, 4 independents, and one minor party member, again totaling 106 candidates.
If Proposition 14 had been on the ballot in June 2010 with the description, “Reduces voter choice in the general election”, it would not have passed. Instead it was on the ballot as “Increases participation in primary elections.” Ironically, the turnout in the California June 5 primary was so poor, it may have been the lowest turnout in the history of California presidential primaries, although this cannot be known for sure until all the votes are counted.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s story about the election returns is that the top-two system “shook up the system.” Actually, in every single congressional race in which one incumbent was running, that incumbent came in first. In the races with two incumbents running against each other due to redistricting, one of the incumbents always came in first and the other incumbent always came in second. As has been shown in Louisiana and Washington, top-two systems make it far easier for incumbents to be re-elected than normal systems do.