Preparing to Vote
Preparation is the key to being an informed voter. There is information available before each election to help you.
It is important that you read about the candidates and measures on the ballot before you go to vote. California ballots often have many candidates and many measures. It can take a long time to read everything if you wait until you are at the polling place. If you do not understand something, it is difficult to get more information at the polling place.
We recommend you mark your choices on your sample ballot before going to your polling place. The below tools will help you to do this.
ON THIS PAGE:
- Your Sample Ballot
- California Voter Information Guide
- League Voter Information Projects
- California Legislative Analyst
- Public Forums
Your Sample Ballot
You will find your sample ballot on SmartVoter.org if your county is participating in our program. Type your street address and zipcode in the ballot finder box.
Your County Elections Official mails you a sample ballot 2-5 weeks before each election. It contains:
- a list of all the candidates and measures that will appear on the official ballot,
- instructions on how to use the voting device at the polls,
- statements from the local candidates,
- information about local measures,
- the date and time of the election,
- the location of your polling place and,
- a form to request a vote-by-mail ballot.
The sample ballot is identical to the ballot you will be given at the polling place. Do not use the sample ballot mailed to another person. The names of the candidates are in a different order on different ballots. This is a state law. It is supposed to make elections fairer so that no candidate is first (or last) on every ballot. Also do not discuss a candidate with your friends by the candidate's number on your sample ballot. The candidate's number will be different on different ballots.
The sample ballot will be sent to the address you submitted on your voter registration form. If you moved after you registered, the pamphlet will not be forwarded to you. If you registered 29 to 15 days prior to the election you will be mailed a sample ballot if there is time to process your registration. If not, then you will be mailed a post card giving the location of your polling place. If you do not receive a sample ballot by two weeks before the election you may call your County Elections Official and request one. Some county web sites allow voters to access their sample ballots by entering their address.
Extra copies of the sample ballots will be available all polling locations.
California Voter Information Guide
If there is a combined state and local election your household will also get the California Voter Information Guide from the Secretary of State. The California Voter Information Guide should be shared with all the registered voters in your household. It will contain:
- the full text of every measure on the ballot with arguments for and against the measures,
- an impartial analysis of the costs and provisions of each measure and
- statements from statewide candidates.
The California Voter Informaion Guide is published online (see Elections and Voter Information for current and past guides). You may request a cassette tape of the California Voter Information Guide by ordering online or by phoning: 1-800-345-VOTE.
If you are interested in the propositions as they qualify for the ballot in an upcoming election, go to "Initiative Update".
League Voter Information Projects
SmartVoter.org - online here
- Information on candidates and ballot measures in local,state and national elections.
- Type in your street address and zip code to see your personal ballot and polling place.
- An archive of past elections with results.
Easy Voter Guide- online here
- User-friendly information for new and busyvoters online.
- PDF format information for each election in multiple languages.
- Printed guides available for order for each election in multiple langagues - for FREE!
- Order FREE audio and print publications on the basicsof voting.
Pros & Cons of the Propositions on the Ballot - online here
We provide nonpartisan, concise explanations of state measures on the ballot each election, including the provisions, fiscal effects, main arguments for and against, and the supporters and opponents. Visit our election page for the latest information.
California Legislative Analyst
The California Legislative Analyst's Office provides fiscal and policy advice to the Legislature. The office carries out its oversight function by reviewing and analyzing the operations and finances of state government to ensure that the executive branch is implementing legislative policy in a cost efficient and effective manner.
The League of Women Voters and other organizations often sponsor forums for candidates and Pros & Cons meetings about ballot measures prior to an election. Look for meeting notices on your county's SmartVoter.org page, call your local League of Women Voters office, or check your newspaper for information about times and places.
Many media sources provide excellent coverage of the elections on the ballot. Some newspapers publish special election editions (contact your local newspaper for more information). To help you find local online media Web sites: