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Voting for California's Next Senator in 2024

Author: Erin Clausen
Date: 12/29/2023 10:27:38 AM

Given California's election regulations, the passing of Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2023 means that SLO County voters will find two separate U.S. Senate contests on their ballots in both March and November. The Elections Office breaks down what to expect.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein was not intending to run for another term in 2024, but when she passed away on September 29, 2023, the prospect of just who would replace her, and how, became more complicated.

Governor Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to serve in Feinstein's former senate seat until the 2024 election. But the precise details of how that election process works remain confusing to many California voters. Below is a breakdown of what to expect.

Key Facts

Feinstein's term was set to expire in January 2025. California's top-two primary system means that in March 2024, candidates will run in a contest to serve in that senate seat beginning in January 2025. The top two vote-getters in the March Primary, regardless of party, will move on to a run-off in the General Election in November 2024 -- and the winner of that will be sworn in as senator two months later.

But there is also the matter of Feinstein's unfininshed term.

Currently, Senator Butler is filling that role. But in 2024, there will also be an election to replace her with a permanent California senator, even if it is just for a couple of months.

In the March 5 Primary Election, voters will have the full-term contest on their ballot, and they will also have a separate contest for the remainder of the unexpired term ending in January 2025. The top two vote-getters in this separate, partial-term contest will also move on to the November General Election, and the winner of that will be sworn in to serve as California's newest U.S. Senator between November 2024 and January 2025.

Senator Butler is not among those vying to serve in those final two months of the current term. On December 28, 2023, the California Secretary of State certified the list of candidates for voter-nominated offices, which includes both the full-term and partial-term contests for California's U.S. Senator. There are 27 candidates listed as running for the full term that begins in January 2025; seven of those people are also running for the partial term.

So in the March election, SLO County voters can expect to see 27 names under the heading of U.S. Senator (Full Term) and seven names under the heading of U.S. Senator (Partial/Unexpired Term). In November, ballots will still include the same two contest headings, but with only two candidates under each.