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woman casting her ballot

Ways to Vote

If you are already registered to vote, you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail about a month before the election. You choose whether to vote in person at your voting location or return the ballot you received either by mail or by dropping it off.

  • By Mail. If you wish to use the mailed ballot instead of voting in person, fill it out and mail it back early so that it is postmarked no later than Election Day. You do not need a stamp to mail back your ballot in the return envelope provided.
  • Dropoff. You may drop off your ballot at any voting location in your county. Your county will also open secure ballot drop-off locations starting about a month before Election Day.
  • In Person. For voting in person on Election Day, the polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
YouTube video

Early voting

You may be able to vote in person before Election Day.

Check caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov for more info.

How Do I Find My Voting Location?

Voting Information

Track Your Ballot!

Sign up at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov or call 800-345-VOTE (8683) to find out where your ballot is in the process and when it has been accepted.

This service will alert you when your ballot is mailed to you, when it is received by your county elections office, and when it is officially counted. You can choose to get emails, text messages, or automated voice messages anytime there is an update to the status of your ballot.

Where's My Ballot Icon

In-Person Voting Tip

  • If you choose to vote in person, it may help to bring the ballot that was mailed to you.
  • If you don’t bring your mailed ballot, some counties will require you to vote using a provisional ballot that will be counted once elections officials check that you are eligible to vote.
  • If you live in a Voter’s Choice county, you can get a regular ballot at any Vote Center, even if you didn’t bring the ballot that was mailed to you.
  • In Voter’s Choice counties your neighborhood polling locations may no longer be open. Instead, you can vote at any Vote Center. Vote Centers will start opening two Saturdays before the election and stay open through Election Day.

Do I Have to Show Identification to Vote?

To register to vote, you will need to provide your California driver’s license or ID card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Most of the time, on Election Day you are not required to show identification at the Voting Location unless:

  • You are voting for the first time in a federal election and you registered by mail.
  • You did not provide either your driver’s license number, state ID number, or the last four digits of your social security number on the registration card when registering by mail.
  • Acceptable forms of ID include a California driver’s license, California identification card, passport, or a student ID card showing your name and photograph. Visit the Secretary of State for more information on acceptable identification.

What Are the Basic Steps for Voting In Person?

Go to the registration table. Say your name and address and sign the list of voters. A poll worker will give you a ballot.

For paper ballots
  • Mark (fill out) your ballot by following the instructions.
  • Tear off the stub at the top of the ballot. You may use this stub later to check that your ballot was counted.
  • You will place your ballot in an envelope or folder, or fold it if instructed by your county.
  • Cast your ballot by following the procedures required by your county.
  • Put your ballot into either a ballot box or a scanner if your voting location uses a scanner.
For touchscreen voting machines

Not all California counties use the same type of touchscreen voting machines.

  • The poll worker will give you either a unique passcode or a computer memory card to gain access to the type of touchscreen in your county.
  • Follow the instructions on the machine.
  • If you have questions, ask a poll worker.

How Do I Vote If I Have a Disability?

Accessible Information

The Secretary of State offers resources to people with disabilities.

The state Official Voter Information Guide that is mailed to each registered voter is available in a downloadable MP3 audio version, audio CDs, in American Sign Language, and in large print. You may call 800-345-VOTE (8683) to request these versions. Order an audio CD with this form.

The California Secretary of State also maintains a Voter Hotline for voters who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired at: (800) 833-8683 – TTY/TDD

Accessible Voting Places

Before each election, registered voters are notified as to whether or not their Voting Locations are accessible. This notification appears on the Voter Information Guide mailed by your county. Curbside voting is required to be available at all polling locations in California.

Signing In At the Voting Location

You can vote even if you can’t sign your name! Check Disability Rights California for the process.

Accessible Voting Machines

Each Voting Location must have one voting machine that allows voters, including those who are blind or visually impaired, to cast a ballot without assistance.

The voting machine permits voters to privately and independently verify their vote choices and, if there is an error, allows them to correct those choices before submitting their final ballot.

Voting Assistance

You may choose up to two people to help in the Voting Location. However, the person who provides assistance may not be:

  • Your employer or someone who works for your employer; or
  • Your labor union leader or someone who works for your labor union.
Curbside Voting

Poll workers must provide curbside voting for voters with disabilities who need this assistance. Parking for curbside voting will be provided as close as possible to the voting area. A poll worker will bring the list to sign, the ballot, and other required materials to the voter’s car. The poll worker will take everything back into the Voting Location and put the ballot in the ballot box or scanner.

Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail

Remote accessible vote-by-mail (RAVBM) systems provide an accessible option for voters with disabilities to receive their ballots at home and mark them independently and privately before sending them back to elections officials. The process is now available to all Californians – not just those with disabilities.

Check out this video and information from Disability Rights California. Contact your County Elections Office for more information.

How Do I Vote If I Speak a Language Other Than English?

The Secretary of State’s office provides voting-related materials and assistance in nine languages other than English.

For answers to your questions about voting and elections, or to request mail delivery of a voter registration form, vote-by-mail application, or the Official Voter Information Guide in any of these languages, please call one of the toll-free Voter Hotlines shown below.

For more information on in-language voting resources visit the Secretary of State and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

To find out what languages are available in your county, contact your County Elections Office. The information is often listed on the county’s website and may also appear on the county voter guide you receive in the mail.

What Are My Voting Rights?

You have the following rights:

  1. The right to vote if you are a registered voter. You are eligible to vote if you are:
    • a U.S. citizen living in California
    • at least 18 years old
    • registered where you currently live
    • not currently in state or federal prison for the conviction of a felony
  2. The right to vote if you are a registered voter even if your name is not on the list. You will vote using a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted if elections officials determine that you are eligible to vote.
  3. The right to vote if you are still in line when the polls close.
  4. The right to cast a secret ballot without anyone bothering you or telling you how to vote.
  5. The right to get a new ballot if you have made a mistake, if you have not already cast your ballot. You can:
    • Ask an elections official at a polling place for a new ballot; or
    • Exchange your vote-by-mail ballot for a new one at an elections office, or at your polling place; or
    • Vote using a provisional ballot, if you do not have your original vote-by-mail ballot.
  6. The right to get help casting your ballot from anyone you choose, except from your employer or union representative.
  7. The right to drop off your completed vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place in the county where you are registered to vote.
  8. The right to get election materials in a language other than English if enough people in your voting precinct speak that language.
  9. The right to ask questions to elections officials about election procedures and watch the election process. If the person you ask cannot answer your questions, they must send youto the right person for an answer. If you are disruptive, they can stop answering you.
  10. The right to report any illegal or fraudulent election activity to an elections official or the Secretary of State’s office.

If you believe you have been denied any of these rights, call the Secretary of State’s confidential toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683). See Secretary of State for more information.

Check Know Your Voting Rights: Resources for 2024 Elections from Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, translated in many languages.

California Voter Bill of Rights

Download your California Voter Bill of Rights from the Secretary of State in any of the following languages:

Watch the Video
YouTube video
California Voter Bill of Rights (English)
YouTube video
California Voter Bill of Rights (Spanish)
YouTube video
California Voter Bill of Rights (American Sign Language)

Rights of People with Criminal Histories

What are my voting rights if I have a misdemeanor?

A misdemeanor conviction does not affect your right to vote at all. You can vote in all elections.

What are my voting rights if I have a felony?
If you have a felony conviction, you can vote IF you:
  • Are on probation, even if you are in county jail as a condition of your probation, or
  • You are serving a felony county jail sentence under realignment, or
  • Have completed your probation, or
  • Are awaiting a judge’s decision on a probation violation, or
  • Are on mandatory supervision, or
  • Are on post-release community supervision, or
  • Are on parole, or
  • Have completed your parole.
The only time you are not allowed to vote is IF you:
  • Have a felony conviction and you are still in state or federal prison, or
  • Are awaiting transfer to a state or federal prison.

Once you have completed your sentence, you can register to vote.

Can I vote when I am on parole?

Yes. California voters passed Proposition 17 (2020), which restored the right to vote to people on parole.

Can I vote on mandatory supervision?

Yes! You can vote at all times when you are on mandatory supervision.

Can I vote while I am on post-release community supervision?

Yes! You can vote at all times when you are on post-release community supervision.

Can I vote when I am on probation?

Yes! You can vote at all times when you are on probation, whether your conviction is a felony or a misdemeanor

Can I vote while I am in county jail?

Maybe. You can vote IF you are in county jail:

  • Awaiting trial for any crime, or
  • For a misdemeanor conviction, or
  • Serving a felony county jail sentence under realignment
  • On a probation or parole violation, or
  • On felony probation.
The only time you lose the right to vote while in county jail is when you are currently serving a state or federal prison sentence and:
  • In jail awaiting transfer to a state or federal prison, or
  • Serving your state prison sentence in county jail because of a contract between CDCR and the county, or
  • Temporarily being housed in county jail while awaiting trial in another crime or attending a hearing in an active civil case.
How do I get back my right to vote?

In California, you do not need to do anything to “restore” your right to vote. It is automatically restored once you have completed your sentence. However, you must register or re-register to vote in an upcoming election.

For more information visit Let Me Vote.
Download brochures in English and Spanish.

You can also download and print Let Me Vote palm cards in English and Spanish.

What Happens If the Signature on My Ballot Envelope Doesn’t Match the One on File?

  • If you didn’t sign your ballot envelope or used the wrong signature, you will have a chance to correct it. Your county elections office will let you know there was an issue after the election. If you used the wrong signature, you will need to submit a signature verification statement.
  • If you didn’t sign your ballot envelope, you will need to sign the envelope at your county elections office or submit a statement.

Learn more about how to fix a missing or mismatched signature on your vote-by-mail return envelope from the Secretary of State.

What if I cannot sign my name?

If you have a disability and cannot sign your name, you can still vote. Just make a mark and have a witness write their name. The witness must be at least 18 years old.

Learn more about signing your name with a disability at Disability Rights California.

If your name is not on the list of registered voters at your voting location you have the right to cast a provisional ballot.

What is a Provisional Ballot?

A provisional ballot is a regular ballot that is put inside of a provisional envelope.

Who must vote a provisional ballot?

Voters who:

  • Do not appear on the list of voters at the Voting Location.
  • Moved into a new precinct and did not update their registration.
  • Registered by mail, but did not provide a CA driver’s license number, CA ID number or the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number when they registered.
  • Return vote-by-mail ballots to the polls without an envelope.
  • Vote by mail, but decide that they would prefer to vote in person and do not bring their vote-by-mail ballot to turn in at the Voting Location.
  • Register too late for their names to be printed on the list of voters.

For a more extensive list of people who must vote with a provisional ballot, check the Secretary of State.

Are all provisional ballots counted?

If voters are eligible to vote and vote provisionally, their ballots will be counted.

What if I go to the wrong Voting Location and have to vote a provisional ballot, will my ballot still be counted?
  • You must always vote in the county where you are registered to vote.
  • In “Voter’s Choice” counties you can vote at any location.
  • In non-Voter’s Choice counties, if you’re in the right county but the wrong Voting Location, then all of the candidates and measures that are on the ballot you were supposed to vote on, if you had gone to the correct location, will be counted. But any contests and measures that are not also on the ballot at your correct Voting Location will not be counted.
How are provisional ballots handled?
  • Fill out your name and current address on the provisional envelope and sign it.
  • After the polls close, the ballot is returned to the election office, where the information on the envelope is verified against the voter registration records.
  • If the information that the voter has written on the envelope matches, then the ballot is removed from the envelope and counted.
Can I check the status of my provisional ballot?

You may contact your County Elections Office to learn whether your provisional ballot was counted and if it was not counted, the reason why.

How Do I Correct a Voting Mistake?

I damaged, lost, or marked my ballot incorrectly. What do I do to fix this?

  • You can get a new ballot as long as you have not already cast (voted) your ballot.
  • If you vote in-person ask a poll worker for a new ballot.
  • If you have your vote-by-mail ballot, you can turn it in and request a new ballot either at your County Elections Office or voting location.
  • If you do not have your original vote-by-mail ballot you may have to vote using a provisional ballot.

The process to correct a voting mistake is a little different if you live in a Voter’s Choice county. As long as you haven’t already voted, you can get a regular ballot at a Vote Center without turning in your vote-by-mail ballot.

Why Am I In a Mail-Only Precinct?

Under California law, if you live in a precinct with 250 or fewer registered voters, then you may receive vote-by-mail ballots and not have the option to vote in person at the polls on Election Day.

Are Emergency Ballots Available?

If you want to vote in person but cannot get to the polls, you may be able to vote with an emergency ballot.

If it is six or fewer days before Election Day, you may be able to get an emergency vote-by-mail ballot. Emergency ballots are available if you:

  • Are hospitalized, in a nursing home, sanatorium, or in your residence and you are too sick to get to the Voting Location.
  • Have a physical handicap that causes you to be unable to get to your Voting Location.
  • Have a physical handicap that makes you unable to vote at your Voting Location due to architectural barriers denying you physical access to the Voting Location, voting booth, or voting apparatus or machinery.
  • Are unable to go to your Voting Location because of conditions resulting in your absence from the precinct on Election Day.
How do I make the emergency request?

For more information, check the Secretary of State’s Voters with Medical Emergencies Fact Sheet.

How Do I Vote in a Ranked Choice Election?

Ranked choice voting allows voters to election a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice candidate for a single office. This makes it possible to elect local officials by majority vote without the need for a second run-off election.

How ranked-choice voting works:

  • To start, every first-choice selection is counted. Any candidate who receives a majority (more than 50%) of the first-choice selections is declared the winner.
  • If no candidate receives more than 50% of the first-choice selections, the candidate who received the fewest number of first-choice selections is eliminated.
  • Voters who selected the eliminated candidate as their first choice will have their vote transferred to their second choice.
  • The votes are then recounted. If any remaining candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, they are declared the winner.
  • If no remaining candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, the process of eliminating candidates and transferring votes to the next ranked candidate is repeated until one candidate has a winning majority.

For more information on ranked-choice voting, check out FairVote’s video:

YouTube video

How Do I Write In a Candidate?

  • Each race has a blank spot with a line drawn on it for a write-in candidate.
  • Mark the spot beside the line as if you were voting for a candidate whose name is printed on the ballot.
  • Write the name of the candidate you wish to vote for on the line.
  • Each county publishes a list of qualified write-in candidates. The list will be available at your polling place and the County Elections Office.
  • If you write in the name of a qualified write-in candidate, your vote will be counted.
  • A vote for someone who is not on the qualified candidate list will not be counted.

What is a Special Election?

A special election happens when an elected official has left the office before the end of the term. This usually happens when the official dies or has resigned from the office.

What is a Recall Election?

A recall election decides whether or not an elected official will be removed from the elected job, and who will replace that official.

For more information, visit Recall Elections.

What is An Initiative?

An initiative is a law proposed by a group of citizens by means of a petition containing the signatures of the required number of voters. Initiatives can propose a new law (statutory initiative) or amend the state constitution.

For more information visit the League of Women Voters’ Fast Facts on State Ballot Measures.

What is a Referendum?

A referendum is a vote on whether a law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor should be enacted.

For more information visit he League of Women Voters’ Fast Facts on State Ballot Measures.

What Is a Political Party?

A political party is a group of people who try to determine public policy and influence government by getting its candidates elected to office.

What is a “qualified political party?”
  • A qualified political party is entitled to participate in any primary election or presidential general election.
  • A political group may qualify as a party in one of two ways: voter registration or petition.
    • With the voter registration method, the Secretary of State must be able to verify that the political party obtained voter registrations equal in number to .33 percent of the total registration, by the qualification deadline.
    • With the petition method, the petition submitted to the secretary of state must have signatures of registered voters equal to 10 percent of the votes cast at the last gubernatorial election.
What are the qualified political parties in California?
  • American Independent Party
  • Democratic Party
  • Green Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • Peace and Freedom Party
  • Republican Party

For more information, visit the Secretary of State or read the League of Women Voters’ How to Choose a Political Party.

How Do I Evaluate Ballot Measures?

California voters are often asked to vote on new laws called “ballot measures.” The ballot measures that propose new laws can be for the whole state
(“propositions”) or just for a local community.

Here are some ways to evaluate ballot measures.
  • Examine what the measure seeks to accomplish. Do you agree with these goals?
  • Who are the real sponsors and opponents of the measure?
  • Is the measure written well? Will it create conflicts in law that may require court resolution?
  • Does the measure create its own revenue source? Does it earmark, restrict or obligate government revenues?
  • Does the measure require a government program that will reduce overall flexibility in the budget?
  • Does the measure deal with one issue that can be easily decided by a YES or NO vote? Or is it a complex issue that should be thoroughly examined by the legislature?
  • If the measure amends the Constitution, consider whether it really belongs in the Constitution.
  • Be on the watch for distortion tactics and commercials that rely on image but tell nothing of substance about the measure. Be aware of half truths.

For more information, visit the League of Women Voters’ Fast Facts on State Ballot Measures.

How Do I Understand State Taxes and the Budget?

Visit the League of Women Voters’ Fast Facts: State Taxes and Budget.

What Political Districts Do I Live In?

For information on State legislative districts and U.S. Congressional Offices, visit the Secretary of State.

For information on your city, county, and other local offices contact your County Elections Office.

What Are Bonds?

Bonds are a form of long-term borrowing that the state uses to raise money for large projects. The state sells bonds to investors and agrees to repay the investors, with interest, over a certain number of years, somewhat like a mortgage.

Why are bonds used?

Projects such as roads, school building, prisons, parks, office buildings, and housing for veterans involve large dollar costs, and are used over many years. The use of bonds helps to fund the initial large dollar costs, which are hard to fund out of day-to-day operating revenues. Also the repayment of these bonds over time means that future taxpayers who benefit from the facilities will help to pay for them.

What types of bonds does the state sell?
  • General Obligation Bonds
    These are the most common type of bonds, and are largely repaid from the state’s unrestricted general tax revenues. These bonds have to be approved by the voters, and their repayment is guaranteed by the state.
  • Revenue Bonds
    These are repaid from a designated source, such as bridge tolls. Revenue bonds do not require voter approval and repayment is not guaranteed by the state.
  • Lease-Revenue Bonds
    There are repaid from lease payments by state agencies using the leased facilities. Lease-Revenue bonds do not require voter approval and repayment is not guaranteed by the state.
What are the direct costs of bond financing?

The state must repay the principal of the bonds over time to the investors until the bonds are fully paid off, plus annual interest costs. The interest cost of repaying bonds depends on the current interest rate and the time period over which the bonds are to be repaid.

Can I Work on Election Day?

What does it take to work as an Election Day Worker (aka a poll worker)? You must be:
  • A registered California voter or legal resident of the United States; or
  • A high school student who:
    • Is a United States citizen
    • Is at least 16 years old on Election Day
    • Is attending a public or private high school
    • Has at least a 2.5 grade point average
    • Has permission from parents and school
    • Attends a training session
What does an Election Day worker do?
  • Sets up and closes a polling place
  • Helps voters understand their rights
  • Protects ballots and voting equipment
Why be an Election Day worker?
  • Get involved and assist voters
  • Contribute to your community
  • Earn extra money (varies by county)
How do you apply?

Complete this application or contact your County Elections Office for an application.

How Do I Register Voters?

Visit the California Secretary of State’s Guide to Voter Registration Drives.

What Types of Elections Are Held?

There are three basic types — primary, general, and local — plus “special elections.” Learn more about Voting in a Primary Election and the Types of Elections.


For more answers to frequently asked questions about voting and elections, check out the Secretary of State Website or contact your County Elections Office

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Election Information You Need

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