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League of Women Voters

California Absentee Ballot Process

Any registered voter may Vote By Mail. You use one of the following methods to vote by mail:

  • Applying in writing to your county election official
  • Completing the absentee ballot application that is included in your sample ballot, which your county elections official will mail to you prior to each election
  • Downloading and completing an vote-by-mail application on-line.

Elections officials process applications 29 days to 7 days before an election. You may request an absentee ballot more than 29 days before an election, but not fewer than 7 days in advance.

Absentee ballots must be received by the elections official no later than the close of polls (8:00 pm) on Election Day.You may return your absentee ballot by returning it in person or by mail to your county election official or in person to any polling place in your county or by end of polls closing on Election Day. If, because of illness or physical disability, you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may designate a spouse, child, parent, grandparent, sibling, or a person residing in the same household to return the ballot to the elections official or precinct board at any polling place within the jurisdiction.

Permanent Absentee Voting (PAV)

Any registered voter may apply for permanent absentee voter status. If you are a permanent absentee voter, you will automatically receive an absentee ballot for each election. To become a permanent absentee voter, you must complete an application, which is available from your county election official.

If you complete an application to become a permanent absentee voter, you will retain this status as long as you vote in all statewide primary and general elections. If you fail to cast a ballot in two consecutive statewide general elections, you will be removed from the permanent absent voter list and will need to reapply in order to restore status.

Late Absentee Ballot Requests

If, in the seven days before the election, you find you will not be able to vote in person on Election Day, you may still request an absentee ballot. You must make a written request, signed under penalty of perjury, and deliver it, either in person or by someone you designate, to your county election official.

According to California Elections laws, individuals, organizations and groups may distribute absentee ballot applications; however, they must use the uniform format as specified in the California Elections Code. A copy of the application form is available on your state's website.

Overseas citizens and U.S. military personnel can find information on how to register to vote and request an absentee ballot at the Overseas Vote Foundation.

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