California counties have sent out more than 21 million mail-in ballots to active registered voters around the state.
Because of that, we at CapRadio wanted to make sure it was easy to access everything you would need to vote with confidence and clarity this year. Below you'll find resources on how to vote — including how to vote by mail and make sure your ballot is counted — research the questions on your ballot, and keep track of key dates.
Is there something that should be on this page but isn't? Let us know by filling out the form here. We'll keep updating this page through Election Day to make sure you can navigate the election and still have room to think about all the other things, too.
- Why This Election Will Be Different
- Research Your Ballot
- Learn About The Propositions
- Key Election Dates
- How To Register
- How To Vote By Mail
- How To Vote In Person
- Voter Soundtracks
The results of this year’s presidential election may not be declared on election night. The pandemic has reshaped the ways Americans will be able to vote safely, which includes a shift to vote-by-mail. This also means that votes will take longer to count. As we reach closer to the election, CapRadio will try to be as transparent as possible about how we will report election results.
Enter your address below to see who and what will be on your ballot, get information on the candidates and even find your closest polling place or ballot drop off location.
And here's some of our reporting on local races:
- Learn more about Sacramento's Measure A, which would give the mayor more power in city government.
- Learn more about Sacramento's Measure C, the city's rent control proposal.
- We spoke with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Councilwoman-elect Katie Valenzuela about Measure A and Measure C.
- Learn more about the candidates running for Sacramento City Council District 8.
- Learn more about the candidates in the race for Stockton mayor.
California has a dozen propositions on the ballot this November. CapRadio reporters have been researching each one. You can find information on each one here.
There are a few key dates to remember as the election approaches. Here are some events to watch for, and a way to add a reminder to your calendar.
California Voter FAQ
Note: California's online voter registration deadline passed Oct. 19. Here's more information on how to register up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Who Can Register To Vote In California?
California residents over the age of 18 can visit the California State online voter registration page. There are options for registering to vote in Spanish, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and more. Voters can also register in person at their county elections office or pick up a paper registration from your local library, DMV office, or U.S. Post Office. Residents aged 16 and 17 can pre-register to vote; once they turn 18, they can cast a ballot.
What Do I Need To Register?
Residents will need to provide their full name, birthday, and last four digits of their social security number. Applicants with a California Identification card or driver's license will be asked to input their information.
What If I Don’t Have An Identification Card?
California residents who do not have a state identification card or driver’s license will have to print out or request to be mailed a paper form after completing registration. The form must be signed and sent back to their county’s election office. Your signature will then be added to the voter registration record.
What If You Aren't Living In California?
California residents living abroad, stationed overseas in the military, or temporarily residing outside of the state can register to vote online and request an absentee ballot.
What Are The Voter Registration Deadlines?
This year’s California voter registration deadline is Oct. 19. If registering online, the application must be completed by midnight. Even if the application was started prior to the deadline, any online application submitted after the deadline will not be accepted. Registrations through the mail must be postmarked by Oct. 19 to be accepted.
How Do I Get Approved To Vote?
Filling out an application online is not the final step. Your county’s election office will still have to verify your application and signature before you can vote. If your application is missing anything, your county’s election office will contact you for extra information. Once you’re approved to vote, the election office will contact you to let you know.
What If I Miss The Registration Deadline?
Californians can conditionally register to vote any time after the deadline and on Election Day, due to a law that allows same-day voter registration signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year. Residents can conditionally register at their county elections office, polling place, or vote center with the last four digits of their Social Security number and either their state-issued ID card or driver's license. Eligible residents with no state-issued identification card will need to provide their full Social Security number to register. Here's more information on how to register after the deadline.
How Will I Get A Vote-By-Mail Ballot?
Under a new state law, all active, registered voters will receive a mail-in ballot in early October (Active means you’ve participated in recent elections). Counties must send those out by Oct. 5 and they are expected to arrive a few days later.
Voters can also contact their county elections office to become a permanent vote-by-mail voter. That will ensure they receive a mail-in ballot for all future elections.
What Happens If My Vote-By-Mail Ballot Is Lost Or Stolen?
You can request a second vote-by-mail ballot if your original is lost, stolen or destroyed. Contact your county elections office to be sent another ballot. Counties are able to "cancel out" lost or stolen ballots using a statewide voter registration database called VoteCal, according to Alexander of the California Voter Foundation.
How Do I Fill Out My Ballot?
Fill out your mail-in ballot and place it in the secure envelope. Make sure you sign the outside of your ballot envelope. Election officials match your signature with the one on file to verify your identity.
Watch for common mistakes before you turn in your ballot. A recent study said the most common reasons mail-in ballots get rejected include: returning them too late, forgetting to sign the ballot envelope and signatures that don’t match the one on file.
What Happens If My Ballot Is Rejected?
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in 2018 that requires election officials to notify voters at least eight days before the certification of the election when they reject a signature and give them a chance to provide a valid one. During the March primary, 27,525 mail-in ballots either didn’t have a signature, or the signature didn’t match the one on record for the voter, the Associated Press reported.
Altogether, more than 100,000 mail-in ballots were rejected by election officials in March, the vast majority because they missed the deadline for the ballot to arrive.
How Do I Return My Ballot?
- Drop it in any U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
- Use any designated ballot drop box. Those are typically located at libraries and community centers.
- You can also return your mail-in ballot in-person at your county elections office or any vote center or polling place. More information about specific locations is available on the California Secretary of State’s website or by contacting your county elections office.
When Do I Need To Return My Ballot?
Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. A new law this year requires counties to count ballots 17 days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked on or before Nov. 3. If you are using a mailbox, make sure you check the pickup time listed on the box. If the mail has already been picked up, your ballot won’t be delivered on Nov. 3 and therefore it won’t be postmarked or counted. Memes claiming you have to turn in your mail-in ballot by Oct. 20 are not true in California.
Can I Track The Status Of My Vote-By-Mail Ballot?
Yes. The Secretary of State’s Office offers the ‘Where’s My Ballot?’ tracking service. Voters can track and receive notifications on each step of the process from when the ballot has been delivered to you to when the completed ballot has been received by your county.
To sign up, visit: WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov
How Do I Find My Polling Place?
Your polling location will be listed on the sample ballot mailed by your county elections office. You can also contact your county elections office to ask for the location. Here is a map of voting locations in Sacramento, Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties.
Do I Need To Bring My Vote-By-Mail Ballot?
Election officials strongly recommended that you do. They say bringing in your mail-in ballot will speed up the process for voters and elections workers. If your county uses traditional polling places and not vote centers, your in-person vote will be provisional unless you bring your ballot. Even if your county does use vote centers, officials still encourage you to surrender your mail-in ballot if voting in-person.
Do I Need To Show ID?
Most Californians do not have to show an ID when they vote. But they do have to sign their name in the roster at their polling place or vote center and do so under penalty of perjury, according to the California Voter Foundation. First-time voters who registered through the mail must provide a form of identification. That can be a driver’s license or state-issued ID, a school identification card with the person’s photo, a utility bill, the voter guide they received in the mail, or any other form of government correspondence that shows their name and address.
What If I Don't Have A Polling Place?
If you live in certain counties (such as Sacramento) your traditional polling place may be replaced by a Vote Center. These are part of a new election model adopted by select counties statewide. The model limits the number of traditional polling places in favor of the vote centers, which are open longer and allow anyone registered in their county to vote in person or drop off a mail-in ballot.
Five counties adopted the vote center model in 2018: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo. The 10 additional counties participating this year are Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara and Tuolumne.
Some vote center locations open 10 days before Election Day, while the rest open four days prior, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
What Can I Do At A Vote Center?
At any vote center in a participating county, a voter may:
- Vote in-person
- Drop off their ballot
- Get a replacement ballot
- Vote using an accessible voting machine
- Get help and voting material in multiple languages
- Register to vote or update their voter registration
How Late Can I Vote In Person?
You must be in line at the polling place or voting center by 8 p.m. in order to register and cast your ballot. The registration process can take some time, so arrive early if possible.
Researching candidates and filling in your ballot can be a stressful experience. That’s why CapRadio’s music hosts are here with two playlists full of jazz, soul and classical favorites to help you vote with clarity.
For those looking for motivation, Jazz Music Director Gary G. Vercelli has put together a playlist of jazz and soul music to help invigorate and inspire you as you cast your vote, no matter your political affiliations. Listen here.
And for those looking for calm and concentration, Classical Music Host Victor Forman has compiled a playlist of classical pieces that will bring you mental clarity as you fill in your ballot. Listen here.
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