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Your vote: Frequently asked questions

2:28 PM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
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The following answers were provided by the California Secretary of State's Office

When is the last day to return my voted vote-by-mail ballot?

Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by the elections official no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

How do I turn in my vote-by-mail ballot on Election Day?

You may return it in person to any polling place in your county or to the county elections office 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, grandchild, sibling, or a person residing in the same household to return the ballot to the elections official or the precinct board at any polling place within the jurisdiction. The ballot must be received by the elections official or the precinct board before the close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day in order to be counted.

Where is my polling place?

Your polling place location will be printed on the sample ballot you receive from your county elections official prior to an election. You may also contact your local county elections office for polling place information.

What hours are polling place locations open?

All polling place locations are open on Election Day from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

How do I find out what my legislative and congressional districts are?

You may contact your county elections official or go to "Who Are My Representatives?" here on the Secretary of State's website.

Why was my precinct/polling place changed?

Counties try to use the same polling place for each election, so your polling place normally does not change between the primary and the general elections. If the county is conducting smaller local elections where the turnout is likely to be lower, the county may consolidate precincts into fewer polling places.

You can always determine where your polling place is by looking at the back of your sample ballot, which you will receive from your county elections official. The back cover contains the name and address of your polling place. You can also call your county elections official, to find out where your polling place is located.

You also have the option of applying, to your county elections official, for permanent vote-by-mail voter status. For each election in which you are eligible to vote, your county elections official will automatically send you the appropriate ballot. All you will need to do is vote, provide the required information, and return the voted ballot to your county elections office by close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. For more information on how to apply for permanent vote-by-mail voter status, please see our Permanent Vote-By-Mail Voting webpage.

Can I vote online? Is online voter registration related to online voting?

No. For security reasons, California law prohibits casting a ballot over the Internet. This also means that county elections officials cannot accept marked ballots sent via email from military and overseas voters. If you are a voter as defined by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, you may return your voted ballot to your county elections office only by mail or fax.

Why am I in a mail ballot (vote-by-mail) precinct?

Elections Code section 3005 provides that people who live in precincts with fewer than 250 voters may be sent vote-by-mail ballots.

Upon receiving a vote-by-mail ballot, all you need to do is vote for the contests on the ballot, provide the required information, and mail the voted ballot back to your county elections office. It must be received in your county elections office by the close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

If you cannot mail your voted vote-by-mail ballot to your county elections office, you can cast your voted ballot at any polling place in your county by the close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. To determine the location of a nearby polling place, you can contact your county elections official.

Is there a toll-free telephone number I can call regarding voter information?

Yes. The Secretary of State has established a toll-free hotline for requests for voter registration forms and other election materials and to report suspicions of voting or registration irregularities. The number is (800) 345-VOTE.

I registered to vote a while ago but I never got a postcard confirmation from my county elections official. Am I registered?

Give your county elections official any documentation you have to help establish when and where you submitted your voter registration application, such as a receipt with a tracking number or timestamp, or whether you were previously registered to vote elsewhere.

I submitted a voter registration application through another agency, but my county elections office says I'm not registered. What can I do?

Give your county elections official any documentation you have to help establish when and where you submitted your voter registration application, such as a receipt with a tracking number or timestamp, or whether you were previously registered to vote elsewhere.

If I have problems registering to vote or have additional questions who should I contact?

Call the Secretary of State's toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683) or contact your county elections office, which is where your voter registration record is maintained.

Am I already registered to vote?

To find out if you are currently registered to vote, go to the Secretary of State's Check Status of Your Voter Registration web portal.

Can I vote online? Is online voter registration related to online voting? 

No. For security reasons, California law prohibits casting a ballot over the Internet. This also means that county elections officials cannot accept marked ballots sent via email from military and overseas voters. If you are a voter as defined by the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, you may return your voted ballot to your county elections office only by mail or fax. 

I did not vote in the last election. Do I need to re-register to vote? 

In general, you do not need to re-register because you are registered to vote for as long as you remain at the same address. However, there are cases in which voter registration can be cancelled if a voter has not voted in several consecutive general elections. 

What should I do if I have just moved? Am I required to re-register? 

Your voter registration record should always reflect your current residence. However, if you have moved from your home into a temporary residence (not your permanent residence), you can continue to use your prior permanent residence where you were registered to vote as your address for the purpose of voting. 

I missed the deadline to register to vote. Is there any way I can still vote in this election? 

In most cases, you cannot vote if you missed the registration deadline. But ask your county elections official about your specific circumstances. 

Call the Secretary of State's toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683) or contact your county elections office, which is where your voter registration record is maintained. 

Can the Secretary of State provide race, age and gender statistics for the voting population? 

No. The Secretary of State compiles voter statistics by political party and jurisdictions. The state government does not collect voter race, voter age or voter gender data. You may wish to contact the Public Policy Institute of California or the United States Census Bureau for voter demographics.

How can I vote by vote-by-mail ballot? 

Any registered voter may vote by a "vote-by-mail" ballot by:
Applying in writing to your county elections official; or
Completing the vote-by-mail ballot application that is included in your sample ballot, which your county elections official will mail to you prior to each election; or
Downloading and completing a vote-by-mail ballot application from our website.

When may I apply for a vote-by-mail ballot? 

You must apply for a vote-by-mail ballot at least 7 days before an election. 

Are election returns for state offices on your website? 

The election results from past statewide elections can be found at Election Results.

How can I cancel my California voter registration?

To cancel your voter registration, you must contact your county elections office, which is where your voter registration record is maintained.

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