Voter GuideVoting FAQ

Voting FAQ

What to know about voting in California for the Nov. 8 general election

How do I register to vote?

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Am I registered to vote?

You can check on the Secretary of State’s website: You’ll need to enter your name, date of birth and either your California driver license or identification card number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you don’t have those available, contact your county elections office or the Secretary of State via email or phone at (800) 345-8683.

If you’ve changed your name since the last time you voted, or if you moved and didn’t notify the Department of Motor Vehicles or U.S. Postal Service, you may have to register again. If you haven’t voted in several consecutive general elections, your registration may have been canceled.

Can I vote in the general election if I didn’t vote in the primary?


How do I register to vote?

You can do so online here. You’ll need the same information as above.

If DMV has your signature on file, you’ll be able to complete the process online. If not, you’ll need to print, sign and mail your completed application to your county elections office. You can also pick up a paper application at elections offices, any DMV office and at many post offices, public libraries and government offices. You’ll be contacted when your application is approved, or if you need to provide more information.

What happens if I miss the voter registration deadline?

The last day to register online for the general election is Oct. 24. If you are registering or re-registering less than 15 days before Nov. 8, you must complete same-day voter registration and request your ballot in person at your county elections office or polling location.

How do I change my political party if I’m already registered?

You’ll need to re-register to vote.

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What if I need help with voting?

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What if I need voter information in a different language?

The Secretary of State’s office has voter instructions in the following languages: Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese. Your county elections website may have additional languages. 

What if I have a disability?

When will I receive my voter guide?

The statewide voter information guide will be available online on Sept. 9. The Secretary of State’s office will mail it to voters between Sept. 29 and Oct. 18. County election offices will mail their local guides during the same time. Voter guides will be available in audio and large-print.

How do I vote?

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Does everyone get a ballot in the mail?

Yes. In September 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes vote-by-mail ballots permanent for every registered voter. 

When will I receive my mail-in-ballot?

Counties will begin mailing ballots by Oct. 10. 

How do I return my mail-in ballot?

  • Mail it to your county elections official
  • Drop it off at a ballot drop box or location or at a polling location anywhere in the state
  • You can also ask someone you trust to return your ballot for you, but the Secretary of State’s office cautions that the person can only do so if they don’t get paid by the ballot

Can I vote in person? How do I find my polling place or vote center?

Yes. You can find out where to vote in California in any of the following ways: 

  • Check 
  • Text “VOTE” to GOVOTE (468-8683)
  • Call the Secretary of State’s voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE 
  • Check the back of your county Voter Information Guide, or contact your county elections office
  • Look up mail ballot drop-off locations and early in-person voting sites

If you live in one of 27 counties, you’ll have increased options for voting, such as having as many as 10 days of-in-person voting.

Can I leave work to vote?

Yes. California is one of 30 states that requires time off for voting. You can take as much time as you need, but employers are only required to pay for a maximum of two hours.

Employers may require advance notice. The time off must be at the beginning or the end of your shift. Employers are required to post a notice about this 10 days before a statewide election.

What am I voting on?

Eight statewide offices: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, insurance commissioner and superintendent of public instruction, plus Board of Equalization. Also, U.S. House member, state senator (depending on your district) and state Assemblymember. The U.S. Senate race will appear twice on your ballot – once for the term that ends Jan. 3, 2023, and once for the full term that expires Jan. 3, 2029. And local offices, depending where you live.

You’ll also be voting on seven ballot measures.

Which parties are on the ballot?

Six parties qualified for the primary: Democratic, Republican, American Independent, Green, Libertarian and Peace and Freedom. Some candidates are also running with no party preference.

Why can’t I write in a candidate for state offices?

The state constitution doesn’t allow write-in candidates for voter-nominated state offices in the general election, except for the Superintendent of Public Instruction because it is a nonpartisan office. That’s because of the top-two primary system implemented in 2012, which says that the only way to qualify for the general election ballot is to be one of the top two vote-getters in the primary,

How can I track my ballot?

You can sign up here to check if your vote was counted and to be notified when it is.

What if I have special circumstances?

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I’m in the military, living abroad or out of state temporarily. How do I vote?

If you know where you’ll be, you can re-register and request a special absentee ballot, and you can choose if you want your ballot mailed, faxed or emailed to you. 

Will I get my ballot if my mail is being forwarded?

No, that’s not allowed. So if you plan to be out of state, make sure your county has your new address on file. If you suspect the ballot went to your California address, contact your county registrar’s office as soon as possible.

Can I vote if I don’t have a permanent address?

Yes. Under California law, whether you are unhoused, or in between residences for any reason, you can still use your last residence address. You can also use a business address, if that’s where you live.

If you don’t have a specific street location to fill out on your voter registration card, you can provide the city, zip code and closest intersecting cross-streets. This may be a public camp or park.

You must also provide a current mailing address where you can receive your voting materials, such as a P.O. box. The United States Postal Service offers general delivery mail services to customers with no fixed address and no identification.

Can I vote for a candidate not in my political party?

Yes. In a general election in California, you can vote for any candidate regardless of how you’re registered. You are only bound to vote for candidates within your party in a presidential primary (so not until 2024). 

What if I make a mistake on my ballot?

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What should I do if I marked my ballot wrong, or otherwise messed it up?

The safest bet is to get a new ballot. Contact your county elections office, or take your ballot to your local polling place or voting center, when they open, and request a replacement. Remember to bring the old ballot – otherwise you won’t be able to vote in person.

What if the signature on my ballot doesn’t match the one on file?

County election officials check the signatures on the return envelope against signatures on your voter registration card to make sure no one tries to improperly cast your ballot. It still remains confidential – the ballot is separated from the envelope before it is counted.

Voters with ballots with missing signatures or ones that don’t compare accurately are notified and given an opportunity to correct the problem before the election is certified.

What happens if I don’t receive my ballot?

Contact your county elections office.

Help! I dropped off my ballot to a drop box in the wrong county.

Don’t worry – the county will pass it on to the correct elections office.

I forgot to detach the stub from my ballot. Can I open the sealed envelope and reseal it myself?

You can, but the Secretary of State’s office recommends contacting your local county elections office. They’ll ultimately be processing your ballot and they can offer the best guidance on whether you should reopen it or just leave the stub attached.

I received someone else’s ballot. What should I do with it?

First, don’t open the ballot. The Secretary of State’s office says to return it to your county Registrar of Voters. You can write “Return to Sender/Not at this Address” and put it in the mail.

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