Voter registration 101

Deadline: Now and ongoing –

If you thought September 24th’s National Voter Registration Day didn’t apply to you, think again! When’s the last time you checked your voter registration? And are you certain all of your eligible family and friends are registered? Now is the time to make sure! 

California election dates you need to know:

Yes, I want to register to vote:

  • Eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find paper applications at lots of places, including:
  • Want to register online?
    • You’ll need:
      • your California driver license or ID card number
      • the last four digits of your social security number, and
      • your date of birth.
    • Your info will be provided to the CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. 
    • Don’t have one of those IDs, or have other questions? Check the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.
  • Is your registration accurate? Check! Many voter registrations have errors – check yours.
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, make sure to re-register now. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
  • Know any 16- or 17-year olds? They may be eligible to pre-register if they’ll be 18 by election time. Check their eligibility and help them pre-register (either online or using the paper form) so they can vote once they turn 18.

CA Secretary of State

Learn more:

Pass on to your family & friends in other states:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and the url is easy to remember (it requires you to provide an email address).
  • When We All Vote is “is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American.” By linking to Rock The Vote, they provide specific info about local elections and more.
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, etc.
  • The League of Women Voters’ Education Fund 411.org provides personalized voter information, voting guides, and more.
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote.

“Get Out the Vote” poster by Annette Lange 

 

My Ballot ‘Tis of Thee

If you’re on social media, you may be worried right now about being turned away at the polls, or your vote-by-mail ballot being rejected, or ending up at a place that won’t let you vote. We’re hoping California doesn’t have those horror stories … but we’ve got some tips to help you avoid even getting into those situations. And the best news is, many of these are things you can do NOW, before the November 6 Election Day!

Provisional Ballot: a last resort

Lots of people are giving advice on social media about how to demand a provisional ballot: “Give me a provisional ballot with a receipt as required by law when requested.” It’s true that in California and most other states poll workers must give you a provisional ballot and receipt if you believe you’re entitled to vote, but for a variety of reasons the workers believe you are not. It’s also true that this is a last resort, that many of the reasons a poll worker may try to turn you away can be addressed, and that some issues can even be taken care of NOW, before Election Day, to prevent most problems.

  • Are you registered to vote? Is all your info correct? Check NOW!
  • Check your polling place NOW! Make sure you go to the right place to vote – if you’re at the wrong polling place, your name won’t be on the voter list. If you do end up at the wrong place, before you ask for a provisional ballot, ask where your correct polling place is. Go vote there if you can make it before the polls close so you can vote on all your local measures. If you can’t figure it out or can’t get there, then ask for a provisional ballot and receipt.
  • Did you get a vote by mail ballot in the mail, but you didn’t mail it in? You can drop it off at your polling place on Election Day. You decided you want to vote at the polls instead? You should be able to do that if you bring your vote by mail ballot and envelope: they’ll probably ask you to surrender the vote by mail ballot and give you a new one. Don’t have your ballot with you? That’s when you ask for a provisional ballot.
  • Worried you’ll be told you don’t have the right ID to vote? You usually won’t be asked to show ID, although you might be if it’s your first time voting in a federal election in California. And it’s a good idea to bring ID with you anyway. Here’s more info; here’s the complete list for first-time voters; or you can call the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter hotline at 800-345-VOTE (8683).

Here is the CA Secretary of State’s excellent official resource on provisional voting; and here’s a excellent article on what to do if you’re turned away at the polls.

Finally, if your last-resort requests for a provisional ballot and receipt are denied, report this or other incidents to the Election Protection hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.

Conditional Voting

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations, up through Election Day.  Conditional voting is different from provisional voting, since provisional voting is for people who believe they are registered but are having problems.

Vote-by-mail ballots not secretly rejected

Worried because you’ve heard that in some states, untrained people are rejecting vote by mail ballots because the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the one on file? No fear – that won’t happen in California. By law, you must be notified and given the chance to correct or acknowledge your ballot signature if there is any discrepancy. (And in Alameda County at least, they don’t use untrained people, they have trained folks whose specific job this is – we were told that if there’s something distinctive about your signature that’s common between the two samples, they won’t reject the ballot.)

Skip the lines, vote early

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site. Why vote early? You beat the crowds, you don’t have to deal with harried poll workers or people who showed up at the wrong place or didn’t fix their registration and there’s no time to fix the problem … and if you need info, you can probably get through to your county elections office!

Follow up: check your ballot status

In California, you can check the status of your ballots. You can find out whether your provisional ballot was counted, and the reason why, if it was not. And if you voted by mail you can find out whether the ballot arrived at your county’s election office, whether the ballot was counted, and, if not, the reason why.

Read our recent article with more great info about voting in the mid-term election here.

Vote early, Vote often (every election, that is!)

Action deadline: Time’s nearly up! California election dates you need to know:

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site.

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations up through Election Day.

Voter registration 101: 

  • Are you eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find a paper application at lots of places, including:
    • county elections offices
    • the DMV
    • government offices
    • post offices
    • public libraries
  • Do you want to register online? If so, you’ll need:
    • your California driver license or I.D. card number,
    • the last four digits of your social security number, and
    • your date of birth.

    Your info will be provided to CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. Don’t have one of those I.D.s, or have other questions? See more at the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.

  • Is your registration accurate? Check! Many voter registrations have errors – check yours. If you registered recently at the DMV, many of those were botched, so CHECK!
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, please re-register. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
Learn more:
  • California voter hotlines: the Secretary of State’s office provides voting-related materials and assistance in ten languages. Call one of the toll-free hotlines for answers to your questions about voting and elections, or to request mail delivery of a voter registration form, vote-by-mail application, or the Official Voter Information Guide.
  • Read our earlier article, with information about your county’s election processes, pre-registering 16- and 17-year olds, voting for previously incarcerated people, and much more
  • See Vote.org’s California Election Center. Sign up for election reminders.
  • See the Voter’s Edge guide (a partnership of the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund’s Smart Voter and MapLight. It includes in-depth info about what’s on your ballot, and much more.

Send this info to your family and friends in states other than California:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (it requires you to provide an email address).
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote

Want to do more?