Here are some nominees:
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for lurching from candidate to candidate in some of these districts (until the end), giving voters little help in navigating ballots swimming with mostly unknown names.
The California Democratic Party, for failing to groom a bench of candidates for this moment — and for its largely unsuccessful efforts to clear the field.
California’s nonpartisan top–two election system. This election reform may end up producing the worst-case scenario Democratic and Republican leaders warned about when it was passed by voters in 2010. With so many candidates jumping into the open primary, Democrats are fighting over a set number of voters. From this point of view, there was little state or national Democrats could do.
Printing error leaves 119,000 names of voting roster in Los Angeles.
In a potentially unnerving sign for Democrats in one contested congressional district, the Los Angeles County clerk revealed Tuesday that a printing error had improperly left about 119,000 names off voting rosters in the area. As a result, some voters might have to cast provisional ballots and prolong the process of verifying and counting election results.
The county clerk’s office said 1,530 voting precincts were affected, though it did not specify which congressional districts those precincts are located in. The 39th Congressional District, one of the three seats where Democrats fear getting locked out of the general election, includes a piece of Los Angeles County. Strategists in both parties already expected a close result there with a slow process of tabulating votes.
The voting problems posed a particular challenge to Antonio Villaraigosa, who is counting on a high turnout in Los Angeles – and among Latino voters – in order to win one of the two top spots in the governor’s race. His campaign issued a statement urging supporters not to be discouraged and to be certain to obtain a provisional ballot if their names were not on the list.
“Voting is going smoothly in vast majority of locations but if, for any reason, your name does not appear on the voter rolls, you should request a provisional ballot and one must be granted to you,” said Pat Dennis, Mr. Villaraigosa’s campaign manager. “It is your right to vote so please insist a provisional ballot is issued to you. Every vote matters.”
It is unclear whether the county’s error might actually affect election results: voters who are properly registered but left off the roster by mistake are still entitled to vote, and can record their preferences with provisional ballots. Dean C. Logan, the county clerk and recorder of deeds, apologized in a statement for the “inconvenience and concern this has caused” but stressed that no one would be excluded from voting as a result.
“Voters should be assured their vote will be counted,” Mr. Logan said.
Still, in theory, a significant procedural mistake could deter some people from voting if it leads to longer lines at the polls or some voters simply choose not to cast provisional ballots upon finding their names are not in the roster. And some of the races touching Los Angeles County were already likely to be decided by small margins. — Alex Burns and Adam Nagourney
The quirks that make the California primary risky for Democrats also make it a leading indicator of the general election.
In the state’s nonpartisan top-two system, voters can cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party. Historically, that means these top-two primaries look a lot like the general election.
Since 1990, the major party vote share in top-two congressional primaries in Washington State and California has differed from the general election result by an average of three percentage points, an Upshot analysis shows.
That means the California results will be about as good as any data we are going to get before November. The average House poll over the final three weeks of an election is off by an average margin of 6.2 points, according to FiveThirtyEight. The primary results are a bit like getting a free round of 52 final House polls in early June.
The results are good enough that you can put stock in a surprise. In 2016, Representative Darrell Issa’s seat was rated “Safely Republican” by the Cook Political Report heading into the primary. But he ended up with just 50.8 percent of the vote, the closest House election of the cycle.
If this is a wave environment like in 2006 or 2010, which would probably make the Democrats slight to modest favorites to retake the House, it should not be too hard to tell. (Read more here.)
The tsunami of emboldened Democrats running has some voters overwhelmed by choice.
Like many voters in Orange County, Tim Cain, 52, has been inundated with political messaging in recent weeks. He was bombarded with mail. His phone did not stop ringing.
“I literally could not go through my work day without getting flooded with calls,” said Mr. Cain, a video game developer. “I basically said, my phone is no longer available.”
But some combination of that barrage and his desire to support a Democrat drew him to a polling station at a Buick car dealership in Tustin on Tuesday morning in the 45th Congressional District.
About 20 miles south, at Laguna Beach City Hall, Aggie Dougherty had to thumb through the sample ballot packet she carried with her to remember which Democrat she had chosen after more than a dozen candidates inundated the 48th Congressional District with campaign material.
Ms. Dougherty, a 67-year-old bookkeeper, read the fliers that landed in her mailbox, talked to friends, and listened to the news and advertisements. Then, she selected Harley Rouda, the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in an unusual move aimed at preventing Democrats from losing a spot on the November ballot by splitting the vote in the primary. This morning, she just needed to double-check.
“Oh, right,” she said. “Harley.”
Jennifer Medina and Ivan Penn
In the Central Valley, ‘Immigration takes a lot of people out’
Three hours before the polls close here in the CA-21, Shally Gill, a tax auditor, pulled into his family’s peach farm in Kingsburg to check how the morning’s packing went before heading out to vote. He’s hoping David Valadao, a Republican, will win in November.
But there’s a catch: Mr. Gill lives in Clovis, outside the district, where his family’s farms are, so Mr. Valadao isn’t even on his ballot. It’s a common dynamic in this part of the Central Valley, where farm owners often do not live on the ranch but in more affluent areas nearby, and remain invested in the politics of the district where their businesses are. T.J. Cox, the Democrat challenging Mr. Valadao, also does not live in the district he is seeking to represent.
Mr. Gill, a Republican whose father moved to California from Punjab, India 40 years ago, is especially concerned about immigration reform. “You have families that aren’t working out in the fields anymore because they are afraid there may be possible raids,” he said, clarifying that he supports legal immigration.
Luis Martinez, his farm manager, said it has been hard to get people to work. “Immigration takes a lot of people out,” he said.
‘We’re doing a personality test’: Some candidates express frustration with the top-two system.
In the 48th District, Scott Baugh, a Republican candidate and former Orange County party chairman, talked with voters about attack ads targeting him, including mailers and television advertisements.
“Those came from Nancy Pelosi, you know,” he said, referring to the ads. (The ads were paid for by the House Majority PAC, a heavily financed Democratic group.) “She is so afraid of me making the next round that she is trying to shut me out.”
Hans Keirstead, a Democrat running in the 48th, said he had “real fear that a party could be locked out this year.”
Rocky Chavez, a Republican candidate in the 49th District race who has had to face down the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in addition to his own party rival, also criticized the system. In a race that features 16 candidates, the campaign committee had attacked Mr. Chavez for fear that right-leaning Democrats might support him, further diluting the party’s chances.
“We’re doing a personality test,” said Mr. Chavez, who wore a Rocky Balboa T-shirt on Tuesday.
At least one Republican in the race enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude.
“These guys are going to split the race so wide,” said Ted Howze, a Republican candidate competing against five Democrats and the Republican incumbent in the 10th District. “The Democrats have shot themselves in the foot.”
But for Mark Kramer, 64, a retired maintenance worker in the hotly contested 39th District, none of the choices had appealed enough to induce him to cast a ballot. “Not crazy about the political climate,” he said at the post office on Birch Street in Brea, Calif. “Or any of the candidates.”
Jennifer Medina, Jose A. Del Real, Thomas Fuller and Miriam Jordan
Voters in Rohrabacher’s district ask: An institution or someone who has been there too long?
Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher has represented coastal Orange County for so long, he is something of an institution in the 48th Congressional district, where many voters tend to refer to him by his first name. He has cultivated an image as a kind of iconoclast – a surfer and libertarian who supports legal marijuana. Even his less popular views haven’t hurt him and played well in this area along the coast for three decades.
But there were many signs Tuesday that the support is wearing thin. Voters in both parties complained of him not spending enough time in the district, not answering questions from constituents he disagrees with and being too cozy with Russia. (A few signs declaring “Nyet Rohrabacher” were scattered through the district.)
“Dana has been in office way too long and done absolutely nothing for the district,” said Derek Demun, a college student who voted for Republican challenger Scott Baugh. “He didn’t support tax cuts, which was the most obvious thing to do. This is not an inexpensive place to live and every dollar in back in my parents’ pocket makes a difference.”
Derek’s mother, Gidget, said she had voted for Mr. Rohrabacher in every other election, but could not bring herself to do so Tuesday.
“He’s out of touch, and he needs to go,” she said. But, she quickly added, if Mr. Baugh did not make the November ballot, she would support Mr. Rohrabacher in the fall. “No question.”
Democrats say they no longer need to come quietly behind the Orange Curtain.
Eric Bauman, chairman of the California Democratic Party, joined a small crowd gathered in support of Democratic Congressional candidate Dave Min at PeopleSpace in Irvine Tuesday afternoon.
The California’s Democratic Party endorsed Mr. Min for for the 45th District Congressional seat held by Mimi Walters, a Republican. Democrats are optimistic about their chances because of Hillary Clinton’s victory in Orange County in the 2016 presidential election.
“How do we take districts in Orange County, which have traditionally been Republican?” Mr. Bauman asked the crowd.
“About 20 years ago, they said, ‘When you come behind the Orange Curtain, come quietly,’” he said. “Not anymore. Today we can come out here and be proud and blue.”
‘The old boys’ school just doesn’t work anymore,’ said one voter.
This year has broken records for the number of women running for office. Like many of them, Katie Hill is a first-time candidate. She is one of three female Democratic candidates running in the 25th Congressional District.
But with an endorsement from Emily’s List, and a relatively substantial war chest, Ms. Hill, 30, a nonprofit executive, has emerged as a top contender in this traditionally Republican district where she grew up. (Take a look at how female candidates in notable races could fare on Tuesday.)
Vice News is filming a documentary about her campaign — a camera crew was present on Tuesday — making it feel a bit like the subject of a reality television show.
In a brief interview, she said she felt “really good about today.” Up next on her agenda was writing her primary night speech. Was she writing two drafts, one for either possible outcome?
“I’m probably going to write one version,” she said “with a twist.”
At first, Anneliese Gelberg, 21, wanted to vote for Jess Phoenix, one of the other female Democratic candidates in the race. She was more inclined to vote for women, she said, and she liked Ms. Phoenix’s policies.
But she voted for Bryan Caforio, another Democrat, instead.
“I knew that she didn’t have a lot of backing or support,” Ms. Gelberg said, and she wanted a Democrat she thought had a better chance of beating the Republican incumbent, Steve Knight.
Others took a different tack.
“If it was a tie between a man and a woman, I would vote for a woman,” said Suzanne Breaw, 53, a self-described “liberal Republican” from Valencia.
“We need to try new things,” said Diane Gregson, 62, of Lancaster. “The old boys’ school just doesn’t work anymore.” Ms. Gregson said she planned to vote for Ms. Hill.
A candidate would give the president a book on climate change.
Mike Levin, a Democratic candidate in the 49th Congressional District, chose to run, he said, in part because he heard so few politicians talking about the environment in 2016.
Last year, Mr. Levin, an environmental lawyer, drew attention over his appearance at a town hall event for the incumbent, Mr. Issa, in Oceanside, Calif., in which he described giving Mr. Issa a book on climate change.
“Why do you blindly support Donald Trump’s agenda to gut the E.P.A., to gut basic science?” he asked Mr. Issa at the time, as activists cheered him on. The dynamics of the race changed after Mr. Issa announced he would not seek re-election; now Mr. Levin, facing other Democrats, hopes to consolidate support to make it onto the general election ballot.
When asked what he would say to Mr. Trump if they were in a room together, Mr. Levin said he would give the president the same climate change book. “Mr. President, this issue is too important. Listen to Ivanka,” he imagined saying, invoking Mr. Trump’s oldest daughter, who urged her father to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord.