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?

Go Time on Two Good Bills

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – ASAP! 

Great news! Thanks to your help in making calls, two good California bills that Indivisible East Bay supported, AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), passed out of committee and are scheduled to be voted on by the full state senate. Read our prior articles for more info and background, see list below.    

  • AB 2188: Deadline: August 30 – Ads on social media are not always what they seem and many of them have been doing some serious damage to our democratic process. Free speech should be public. Make everyone show their names and faces if they’re paying to change our minds.  The vote for this bill will not be held until August 30.
  • UPDATE Aug. 26, 2018: IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT OCCURRED WITH THIS BILL, BUT FOR NOW WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING ANY ACTION. AB 3115: Deadline: ASAP – IEB supported AB 3115’s passage in the Assembly because it gives people with criminal convictions who still have the right to vote a chance to become participating citizens again. 

Please call your California State Senator ASAP: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

UPDATE 8/26/18: DO NOT USE THIS PORTION OF THE SCRIPT: Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

  • District 7, (Contra Costa) Senator Steve Glazer, (916) 651-4007
  • District 9 (Alameda & Contra Costa), Senator Nancy Skinner, (916) 651-4009
  • District 10 (Alameda & Santa Clara), Senator Bob Wieckowski, (916) 651-4010
  • District 11 (San Francisco): Senator Scott Wiener, (415) 557-1300
  • District 15 (San Jose area): Senator Jim Beall, (916) 651-4015
  • Tell your friends in other districts to call their senators. Search here or see list at this link.

We’ve been busy – and so have you, making calls and following these important bills. Read our articles:

 

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

Teach Our Voters Well

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Action deadline – Sunday August 5

AB 2188 (Social Media Disclose Act) and AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program) are scheduled for hearings on Monday August 6 before the State Senate Appropriations Committee, their last stop before being heard by the full Senate.

Please call the Appropriations Committee chair and vice chair by end of day Sunday, August 5: 

You can mention both bills during your call. What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote YES on two important voter bills. First, about AB 2188 –  we shouldn’t be subject to political ads on social media like Facebook without knowing who paid for them. Free speech should be public and accountable.

Second, about AB 3115 – we should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. 

I strongly urge Senator ____ to vote yes on AB 2188 and AB 3115. Thank you.

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Graphic © California Clean Money Campaign

AB 3115, Voter Education in Jails: Update

Action needed by Monday, June 25!

Voter education is just as important as voter registration. We previously discussed and urged support for AB 3115 (Jails: Voter Education Program), and now this important bill is headed for a vote in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, June 26. Please call Senator Nancy Skinner, committee Chair (and your state senator if you live in Senate District 9), by Monday, June 25: (510) 286-1333 or (916) 651-4009.

What to say:

My name is ______. My zip code is _____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Senator Skinner to vote YES on AB 3115. We should do everything we can to reduce barriers to voter registration. Increasing voter education and voting access to thousands of people in California jails will improve civic participation and public safety, and it’s the right thing to do. AB 3115 is an important bill and I ask Senator Skinner to vote YES.

Other committee members, for constituents in other parts of the state:

June 5 Primary – Vote Now, Vote Then, Just Vote!

California’s June 5 Primary Election is fast approaching, with plenty of important races and initiatives on the ballot. Use your precious right to vote!

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 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 right up through Election Day on Tuesday June 5.

Did you know that some elections can – and will – be decided at the primary? In races such as for District Attorney, if a candidate receives a majority of the votes, they win and there will not be a runoff in November. Just another reason it’s important to vote in this (and every!) election.

 Learn 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 (note that 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

Register and Vote as if your life depends on it

Are you eligible to vote? Don’t squander that precious right — make sure you’re registered, and make sure your registration is accurate! The deadline to register for California’s June 5, 2018 primary is May 21, 2018.

Go through these questions right now to make sure your voice is heard and counted:

  • 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? Have you checked? Many voter registrations have errors – check yours.
  • 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
  • Do you know any 16- or 17-year olds? They may be eligible to pre-register if they’ll be 18 by the time of the election. Check their eligibility and help them pre-register (either online or using the paper form) so they can vote once they turn 18.
  • Do you have a criminal record, or have you been incarcerated? You may still be able to vote! In California, you can vote if you’re not currently in state or federal prison, or on parole for the conviction of a felony.  Once you’re done with parole your right to vote is restored, but you must re-register.
  • Finally: ask everyone you know the above questions, and help them out if they need it.

Important dates and other info:

  • Register to vote by Monday, May 21, 2018
  • Statewide Direct Primary Election Day is June 5, 2018

Early Voting and other ways to vote:

  • Alameda County: the website tells you about early voting, voting by mail, dropping off your ballot, and more
  • Contra Costa County: early voting sites will be open Tuesday, May 29 through Friday, June 1 from 11 am to 7 pm, and Saturday, June 2 from 8 am to 5 pm

Learn more, and help register and pre-register voters!

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 (note that 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

Two Bills to Improve Voter Participation in CA

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

Our democracy is fundamental to who we are as a nation, and our right to vote is the foundation of our democracy. Two bills pending in the California legislature offer different paths to reach a common goal: facilitating and increasing voter participation in communities with low voter turnout — workers, students, and the incarcerated.

Election Day Holiday – AB 2165

AB 2165 – Election Day Holiday, was introduced by two Bay Area assembly members, Rob Bonta (Oakland) and Evan Low (San Jose). In April the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee voted to submit a letter supporting AB 2165 to the California Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. The bill passed that committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee.

California state law lets workers take two hours off without losing pay to cast a ballot, so why make Election Day a holiday? The bill expands the current law, making it easier for students and school and state employees to vote, for schools to serve as easily accessible polling places, and for students to serve as poll workers.

This is far from being a solution in search of a problem: in 2014 California voters turned out in historically low numbers — only 42% of those registered participated in the general election and a dismal 25% participated in the primary. Nationally, turnout for the 2014 election was below 37%. According to the Pew Research Center, work and school conflicts were the most common reason that eligible voters did not vote in 2014: 35% of respondents said scheduling conflicts with work or school kept them from getting to the polls. Overall voter turnout in the US rarely breaks 60%; we rank 120th out of 169 countries for average turnout. Countries that outperform the US have different methods to elect officials, but many have one thing in common: they have Election Day off.

All Californians should have unfettered access to the polls and should be able to cast their vote in a neighborhood precinct on Election Day. We must do everything possible to make it easier for people in all communities to vote, including removing barriers that prevent those who want to vote from doing so. Assembly member Low hopes that making Election Day a legal holiday will help low-income communities participate in elections.

An Election Day holiday would expand access to voter participation and draw attention to often-overlooked midterm elections. It would commit the state to civic engagement and education by making clear that not only is voting a right and a responsibility, it’s one we take seriously enough to set aside our work obligations so we can all carry it out. It should not be “at the discretion of an employer” whether someone has time to vote, nor should anyone be concerned about their standing at their job, or of lost income because they vote.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. AB 2165 is now awaiting fiscal analysis in the Appropriations Committee, which must act on the bill by May 24 in order for it to pass. California Senate and Assembly committees represent all Californians, and the Appropriations committee needs to hear from us in order for the bill to pass.

We can help make Election Day a holiday and a celebration of our voting rights in California. Though AB 2165 has successfully passed every Assembly committee hearing thus far, it is now being held in committee under submission.

We need to really turn up the heat so please call your Assemblymember right away! What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a constituent, and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask Assemblymember ______ to throw [his/her] support behind AB 2165, which is being held under submission. Neighborhood polling places are crucial to maintaining access for the elderly, single parents, for those without transportation or time to vote. An Election Day holiday will help all around by increasing polling locations, numbers of poll workers, overall excitement and participation in voting. Election Day should be a public celebration! AB 2165 will make explicit that the State of California upholds the foundation of our democracy. I urge your support and ask for your help in moving this bill forward.

Also, please spread the word to anyone you know in districts AD 18 (Bonta, Oakland), AD 20 (Quirk, Hayward), who are on the Appropriations Committee where AB 2165 is being held, and anyone in the San Diego area which is Appropriations Committee Chair Fletcher’s district.

 

Jails: Voter Education Program – AB 3115

AB 3115 – Jails: Voter Education Program addresses a need many don’t even know exists. While working people and students grapple with finding time to get to the polls, at least they’re usually aware they are eligible to vote. Many Californians with criminal convictions don’t know that they have that right, or don’t know how to exercise it. In fact, only felons serving their sentences and those on parole are barred from voting, but detainees, including those charged with misdemeanors and those awaiting trial, often think they can’t vote. Some jail officials also believe, incorrectly, that detainees can’t vote. And logistics often make it difficult or impossible for prisoners to register and/or vote. Many formerly incarcerated people are also unclear about their rights.

No eligible voter should be kept from exercising their right to vote for lack of understanding or access. California enacted AB 2466 in 2016 to clarify who can and cannot vote, but confusion persists, particularly when it comes to prisoners. AB 3115 would require county jails to allow at least one outside organization to provide voter education to prisoners to help them understand and exercise their rights. If passed, the bill would help remove the obstacles volunteers encounter coordinating with authorities and gaining access to prisoners.

Studies show that access to voting is strongly linked to lower recidivism. Access to voting has also been shown to re-ignite a sense of participation and citizenship that many people with criminal convictions feel they’ve lost. When people feel more connected to their community, they’re more likely to become contributing, productive citizens when they re-enter their communities. This means that improving prisoner education and access to voting will improve public safety. Because we in Indivisible East Bay know that by educating disenfranchised communities we can increase voting access to tens of thousands inside California jails who have historically been denied their right to register or cast a ballot, the IEB Governance Committee submitted a letter in support of this bill to the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 9.

Updated May 26, 2018: 

Voter education is just as important as voter registration! AB 3115 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 3115, which requires county jails to allow an outside group to provide voter education and help those eligible with registration. Voting is our fundamental right as Americans. If a person is eligible to vote, whether confined to jail or not, this right must be honored, not suppressed. I urge ______ to help by supporting AB 3115.

 

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

 

Voting in High School: More Than For Homecoming Queen

By Ward Kanowsky

Did you know there are approximately one million juniors and seniors in California’s high schools who may be eligible to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections? Indivisible East Bay’s CA-15 (Congressman Eric Swalwell) team has been working with other organizations, most notably the League of Women Voters, on an initiative to increase voter registration among high school students in California.

We are letting high school students’ families know about the Joint Letter written by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson that encourages high schools to have voter education weeks, to help eligible students learn more about registering to vote as part of civic engagement. We will encourage families to work with – and, when necessary, to put pressure on – schools to provide voter registration materials and information to their students; it may only take one concerned parent to get a school involved.

Representative Swalwell and his staff are supportive of this initiative. We have a meeting planned with Swalwell’s staff to discuss strategy as well as their own voter registration initiative, #ishouldprobablyvote. In addition, our team is working with Indivisible National’s West Coast organizer about how best to engage other Indivisible chapters to talk to high school students’ families about the Joint Letter, with a focus on red districts.

Have questions? Want to help? Email the CA-15 team or contact @ward on Slack.

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnnKanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photo of CA-13 team leads Ward and LeAnn Kanowsky with Rep Eric Swalwell