State’s ‘top-two’ primary election system to get its first big test

California’s new “top-two” primary election will be put to its first widespread test Tuesday, when state voters will be free to select candidates for Congress and the statehouse regardless of political party.

The new primary sends the two candidates who receive the most votes to November’s general election, opening the door for independent candidates and same-party slugfests.

In past years, incumbents enjoyed a firm advantage. But Tuesday’s election will have one of the largest batches of competitive races in decades for the Legislature and Congress. The scramble comes after California’s voting districts were redrawn, opening up new seats and pitting incumbents against one another.

Traditional party primary ballots will remain in the presidential race and for the election of county party leaders. So when voters go to the polls, they still will be asked for their party affiliation.

Voters who are registered as “no party preference” will be given a nonpartisan ballot but can also request a Democratic Party ballot or one for the American Independent Party.

Californians will also decide on two statewide initiatives Tuesday. One would impose a $1 tax on packs of cigarettes to fund cancer research. The other would tinker with term limits for lawmakers, cutting the number of years they may serve from 14 to 12 but allowing them to complete the entire time in either the Assembly or Senate, which they cannot do now.

Voters in Los Angeles County will choose a district attorney, three members of the Board of Supervisors and several judges. Some locales have local propositions and city council races to decide.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Polling place locations and other voter information can be found on county election websites: for L.A. County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino, and Ventura County,