Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee file

Voters including Debora Smith (cq), right, cast their ballots at the polling place at El Dorado County Senior Center in El Dorado Hills on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

Voting in California: Frequently asked questions

Published: Saturday, May. 10, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Sunday, May. 11, 2014 - 9:40 am

Who can register to vote?

To register to vote in California, you must be:

• A United States citizen,

• A resident of California,

• 18 years of age or older on Election Day,

• Not found by a court to be mentally incompetent, and

• Not in prison, on parole, serving a state prison sentence in county jail, serving a sentence for a felony pursuant to subdivision (h) of Penal Code section 1170, or on post release community supervision.

How do I register to vote?

To register to vote you must complete a brief voter registration application on paper or online. When you register online, the system will search the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database for your California driver license or identification card number, date of birth, and last four digits of your social security number. If your information is found and you authorize elections officials’ use of your DMV signature, an electronic image of your DMV signature will be added to your voter registration application after you click “submit” at the end of the online application. If there is no signature on file with DMV, all of your information will be transmitted to your county elections office; you will just need to click “print,” sign the paper application, and mail it. Your county elections official will contact you when your voter registration application is approved or when more information is needed to confirm your eligibility.

Where can I register to vote?

You may submit your voter registration application through the Secretary of State’s website. You can also print a blank application or pick up an application at your county elections office, any Department of Motor Vehicles office, and many post offices, public libraries, and government offices. To have a paper application mailed to you call your county elections office or the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE.

Do I need a California driver license or California identification card to apply online? What happens if the DMVdoes not have my signature on file when I try to submit an application online?

All Californians who are eligible to vote may fill out a voter registration application through the Secretary of State’s website. California military and overseas votersmay also use the Secretary of State’s website to fill out a voter registration application and request a special absentee ballot. If you do not have a California driver license or identification card number but you enter your other information, the website will create a pre-filled voter registration application for you to print, sign, and mail. All of your information will be sent directly to your county elections office so that when your signed application arrives in the mail, the county elections staff will simply add your signature to your voter registration record.

I am eligible to register but I am in the military, living abroad, or temporarily living outside of California. Can I register to vote online?

Yes. California military and overseas voters may also use the Secretary of State’s website to fill out a voter registration application and request a special absentee ballot. When filling out an application to register as a special absentee voter, you can choose to have your ballot mailed, faxed, or emailed to you.

How can I vote a vote-by-mail ballot?

Any registered voter may apply for a “vote-by-mail” ballot by:

• Completing the vote-by-mail ballot application that is included in your sample ballot, which your county elections official will mail to you prior to each election; or

• Downloading and completing a California Vote-By-Mail Application from the Secretary of State’s website; or

• Contacting your county elections official to see if your county allows you to apply by telephone.

When may I apply for a vote-by-mail ballot?

If you apply by mail, your application must be received no later than 7 days before Election Day. Anytime after 7 days, you will need to apply in person at your county elections office to get a vote-by-mail ballot for that election.

When is the last day to return my voted vote-by-mail ballot?

Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by the elections official no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

How do I turn in my vote-by-mail ballot on Election Day?

You may return it in person to any polling place in your county or to the county elections office on Election Day. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may designate a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or a person residing in the same household to return the ballot to the elections official or the precinct board at any polling place within the jurisdiction. The ballot must be received by the elections official or the precinct board before the close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

Where is my polling place?

Your polling place location will be printed on the sample ballot you receive from your county elections official prior to an election. You may also contact your local county elections office for polling place information.

What hours are polling place locations open?

All polling place locations are open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Am I automatically registered to vote when I submit the online application?

No. The online voter registration application is another easy avenue for submitting your information but the information you provide in your online application still must be verified by your county elections official. Your county elections official will contact you when your voter registration application is approved or when more information is needed to confirm your eligibility.

Are voter registration applications available in languages other than English?

The California Secretary of State’s online application is available in English and Spanish. You can also fill out the National Mail Voter Registration Application online in eight other languages: Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. After filling out the national application just print, sign, and mail it to your county elections office.

Can I vote online? Is online voter registration related to online voting?

No. For security reasons, California law prohibits casting a ballot over the Internet. This also means that county elections officials cannot accept marked ballots sent via email from military and overseas voters. If you are a voter as defined by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, you may return your voted ballot to your county elections office only by mail or fax.

Am I already registered to vote?

To find out if you are currently registered to vote, go to the Secretary of State’s Check Status of Your Voter Registration web page.

I did not vote in the last election. Do I need to re-register to vote?

In general, you do not need to re-register because you are registered to vote for as long as you remain at the same address. However, there are cases in which voter registration can be cancelled if a voter has not voted in several consecutive general elections.

What should I do if I have just moved? Am I required to re-register?

Your voter registration record should always reflect your current residence. However, if you have moved from your home into a temporary residence (not your permanent residence), you can continue to use your prior permanent residence where you were registered to vote as your address for the purpose of voting.

What is the deadline to register to vote?

The deadline to register to vote is 15 days prior to Election Day. You must submit the voter registration application by midnight on the registration deadline day. A timestamp will be attached to your online voter registration application. If you register to vote using a paper application, it must be postmarked or hand-delivered to your county elections office at least 15 days prior to the election.

If I started to fill out the online voter registration application before midnight on E-15 but didn’t finish until after midnight, am I too late?

Yes, you must submit the voter registration application by midnight on the registration deadline day. But your registration application will still be processed and, if it is approved, you will be able to vote in future elections.

I registered to vote a while ago but I never got a postcard confirmation from my county elections official. Am I registered?

Give your county elections official any documentation you have to help establish when and where you submitted your voter registration application, such as a receipt with a tracking number or timestamp, or whether you were previously registered to vote elsewhere.

Source: California Secretary of State’s Office



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