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California Vote by Mail

ALERT: Due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), all registered voters will be mailed an absentee ballot automatically. All voters are encouraged to register to vote as soon as possible to allow for the absentee ballots to be mailed.  If you have any questions, please contact your Secretary of State.


Upcoming Election Dates & Registration Deadlines

Some elections in this list are local and do not apply for all California voters. Please click the “View all” button below to view all election dates in your state.

Next Election: General
Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Registration Deadlines

Monday, October 19, 2020
By Mail
Monday, October 19, 2020
In Person
Tuesday, November 3, 2020
There are no additional election dates scheduled at this time.

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California Voting Information

Absentee Ballot Process

All registered voters receive a mail ballot before each Election Day. The voted ballot must be received by the close of the polls on Election Day in order to be counted.

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.
  • Contact your county election official to see if your county allows you to apply by telephone.

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 any person 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 four 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.

Campaign Finance Information

For information on federal campaign contributions, please visit Open Secrets.

For information on state campaign contributions, please visit your local board of elections.

Candidate and Ballot Measure Information

Information on local, state and federal candidates and ballot measures may be available at Voter's Edge.


Early Voting

California voters can vote early either in person at their county elections office, or by using the vote-by-mail system. Any registered voter may vote early instead of going to the polls on Election Day.

All valid vote-by-mail ballots are counted in every election in California, regardless of the outcome or closeness of any race.

Once your application is processed by your county elections official, your ballot will be sent to you. After you have voted, insert your ballot in the envelope provided, making sure you complete all required information on the envelope. You may return your voted vote-by-mail ballot by 1) mailing it to your county elections official; 2) returning it in person to a polling place or the elections office in your county on Election Day; or 3) authorizing a relative or person living in the same household as you to return the ballot on your behalf. Regardless of how the ballot is returned, it MUST be received by the county elections office by the time polls close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots will not be counted.

Election Dates

Your next election date can be found here

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to vote in California, you must be:

  • A United States citizen
  • A resident of California
  • At least 18 years of age (or will be by the date of the next election)
  • Not in prison or on parole for conviction of a felony
  • Not have been judged by a court to be mentally incompetent to register and vote

You may pre-register to vote if you are at least 16 years old. Your registration will become active once you turn 18.

You will need to re-register to vote when:

  • You move
  • You change your name
  • You change your political party affiliation
ID Needed for Voter Registration

To register to vote in California you will have to provide your California drivers' license number or identification card number or the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not include this information you will be required to provide identification when you vote.

If you register to vote by mail and submit a driver's license number that the state or local elections official can match with an existing state identification record, then you will not be required to provide identification when you vote.

ID Needed for Voting?

A first-time voter who registers and did not provide identification with their application, may need to show identification at the polls. To be safe, bring your driver's license or another photo ID.

Overseas and Military Voters

You are a Military or Overseas voter if you are in uniformed services, living overseas OR a spouse or dependent of a uniformed services voter. To get registered and vote, you can utilize Overseas Vote Foundation.

If you have additional questions about elections and voting overseas you can use our state specific elections official directory or contact the Overseas Vote Foundation.

Poll Worker Information

Visit to find localized information for becoming a poll worker in your area.

In order to be a poll worker in California, you must:

  • Be registered to vote in California
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a resident of the precinct
  • Complete required training
  • Students who are 16 years or older may work if they are in good standing with a GPA of a 2.5 and above

You will be entitled to compensation To sign up, contact your local elections official.


Polling Place Hours

The polls will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Polling Place Locator

You can find your polling place by utilizing your state's resource.

If you have further questions on your polling place location, please contact your local elections official.

Provisional Voting

Provisional ballots are counted no later than the Thursday after the election until completed.

You may be asked to vote a provisional ballot at the polls due to one of the following reasons:

  • Your name is not on the official roster of voters and the election officer cannot verify your voting eligibility on Election Day. The elections official's office will then check the registration records. If further research determines that you are eligible to vote in the election, the provisional ballot will be counted.
  • You have moved within the county, but did not re-register to vote. The elections official will verify your prior registration before the provisional ballot will be counted. Your registration will then be updated with your current address.
  • Records indicate that you requested an absentee ballot and you fail to turn in the absentee ballot at the polls on Election Day. The election official's office will check the records, and if you did not vote an absentee ballot, your provisional ballot will be counted.
  • You are a first-time federal election voter in the county and were unable to provide the required proof of identification. The elections official's office will verify your eligibility to vote by comparing the signature on your registration with the signature on the provisional ballot envelope.

Provisional ballots are counted during the official canvass when:

  • Prior to the completion of the official canvass (the vote tally), the elections official's office establishes, from voter registration records, your right to vote the ballot.
  • Or by order of the Superior Court in the county of your residence, you seek a court order to require that your ballot be counted, at any time prior to the completion of the official canvass. Any judicial action or appeal shall have priority over all other civil matters.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires each state or local elections official to establish a "Free Access System," such as a toll-free telephone number for voters to call or an internet website that you can access free of charge, to ascertain whether or not your provisional vote was counted, and, if it was not counted, the reason why it was not counted. For information about how to access each county's Provisional Voting Free Access System, please visit your state's resource.

Provisions for Voters with Disabilities

It is recommended that you contact your county elections official regarding whether or not curbside voting is available at your polling place. If curbside voting is available at your polling place, you may approach as near as possible to the voting area and elections officials may bring you a roster to sign, a ballot to vote, and any other voting materials you may need, whether you are actually at a curb, in a car, or otherwise located outside the polls.

Both state and federal laws require that all voters, including voters with disabilities, be able to cast their ballots privately and independently. New voting systems have been specifically designed for this purpose. Each polling place should have at least one voting system that permits voters, including those who are blind or visually impaired, to cast a ballot without assistance. In addition, the voting system must permit you to privately and independently verify your vote choices and, if there is an error, permit you to correct those choices before the ballot is cast. To find out what system your county uses, and how to use it, please visit your local board of elections.

Although new accessible voting equipment is required to enable voters with disabilities to cast a ballot privately and independently, if you want help, or if for any reason you are unable to personally mark your ballot, you may choose up to two people to help you cast your vote. However, the persons or person you choose may not be your employer or your employer's agent, or your labor union leader or agent.

If, for any reason, your name does not appear on the list of voters at a polling place, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot. This is a ballot just like a regular ballot, but it will be placed in a special envelope and will be counted after the elections official confirms that you are eligible to vote. The official at the polling place will give you information about how to find out if your ballot was counted, and, if it was not counted, the reason why.

For more information, you can utilize the American Association of People With Disabilities (AAPD) resource.

Registration Deadline

In California, the deadline to register to vote for an election is 15 days before each local and statewide Election Day. For more information on California's registration deadline, please visit your state's website.

Not registered? Use our registration tool to fill out your application!


Time Off To Vote

California law states that private and public employers must give employees time off to vote, unless the employee has two hours of nonworking time available to vote or employee fails to vote. Employers may require employees to give advance notice that they will need additional time off for voting. Employers may require the time off be taking at the beginning or the end of the employees shift.

Verify Voter Registration

To verify your voter registration status, you can use your state's resource.

Voting Machines

The voting machine systems used in California are optical scan and DRE.

Optical Scan: With this system, you will receive a card or sheet of paper, which you take over to a private table or booth. The card has the names of the various candidates and ballot measures printed on it. With a pen or pencil you fill in a little box or circle or the space between two arrows. When you are finished filling out all the cards, you may bring the cards over to a ballot box, where poll workers will show you how to put the cards in the box. Or in some places, you may feed the completed cards or papers into a computer device that checks your card or paper right there at the polling place to make sure you have voted the way you want to and counts the votes.

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE): This is the newest kind of system in use in the U.S. All the information about who and what you are voting for is on an electronic screen like a TV or computer screen.

There are many variations of DREs because lots of companies are inventing new ones, and many cities, counties and states are trying them out. Usually, after you have signed in, the poll workers will give you a card that you slide into a device to start your voting session.

Some of these devices will show all of the candidates and ballot choices on one big screen. Often, with these big screen devices you push a button next to the name of the candidate you want to vote for (or yes or no on a ballot measure). On other DREs, the screen is set up to show pages. On each screen or page, there will probably be one thing to vote on. For example, on one screen or page, you might vote for president. Then you might move to the next page to vote for senator. Often these small-screen devices have a touch screen, where you touch the screen next to the name of the person you want to vote for. Other devices have a key pad. And some have a keyboard, so you can write in the name of someone you want to vote for.

You let the system know you are finished voting by pushing a button, touching the screen or entering something on a keypad.

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