Any registered voter may vote using a vote-by-mail ballot instead of going to the polls on Election Day. California law also allows any registered voter to become a permanent vote-by-mail voter. To request a vote-by-mail ballot for one election or to become a permanent vote-by-mail voter, follow the simple process described below.
Registered voters may apply for a vote-by-mail ballot for an upcoming election at any time. If you apply by mail, your application must be received no later than 7 days before an election, otherwise you will need to apply in person to get a vote-by-mail ballot for that election.
|Election Date||Last day to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot by mail|
|May 21, 2013
(Special Primary Election - SD 16 and AD 80)
|May 14, 2013|
|June 3, 2014
(Statewide Direct Primary Election)
|May 27, 2014|
You can use the application printed on your Sample Ballot that is mailed to you by your county elections official prior to every election. If you don't want to wait for your sample ballot, you can write to your county elections official for an application or you may use the California Vote-By-Mail Ballot Application.
Read the instructions, type your information directly into the application, then print, sign and date the application, and mail it to your county elections office. Please do not send it to the Secretary of State's office, because this will delay receipt of your vote-by-mail ballot.
The Secretary of State also provides vote-by-mail applications in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai and Vietnamese. These forms are available on the New Voter web page.
Any registered voter may vote using a vote-by-mail ballot instead of going to the polls on Election Day.
All valid vote-by-mail ballots are counted in every election in California, regardless of the outcome or closeness of any race. For additional information on how and when ballots are verified and tabulated, please visit our description of how the official canvass of the vote is completed.
Once your application is processed by your county elections official, your ballot will be sent to you. After you have voted, insert your ballot in the envelope provided, making sure you complete all required information on the envelope. You may return your voted vote-by-mail ballot by 1) mailing it to your county elections official; 2) returning it in person to a polling place or the elections office in your county on Election Day; or 3) authorizing a relative or person living in the same household as you to return the ballot on your behalf. Regardless of how the ballot is returned, it MUST be received by the county elections office by the time polls close at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots will not be counted.
When your vote-by-mail ballot is received by your county elections official, your signature on the return envelope will be compared to the signature on your voter registration card to ensure they match. To preserve the secrecy of your ballot, the ballot will then be separated from the envelope, and then it will be tallied.
Vote-By-Mail Ballot Receipt System
California Elections Code section 3017(c) requires county elections officials to establish procedures to track and confirm the receipt of voted vote-by-mail ballots and to make this information available by means of an online access system using the county's elections division web site or via a toll-free telephone number.
Any registered voter may become a permanent vote-by-mail voter. As a permanent vote-by-mail voter, you will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot for each election. To become a permanent vote-by-mail voter, you must complete an application, which is available from your county elections official, or you may use the California Vote-By-Mail Ballot Application.
Your permanent vote-by-mail status will only end if you do not vote in four consecutive statewide general elections.
In order to vote in a California federal election, you must have been a resident in California immediately prior to your departure from the United States.
You may register to vote and request a vote-by-mail ballot with a single form: The Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). This application form is accepted by all states and territories and is postage-paid in the U.S. mail, including the Military Postal System and State Department Pouch mail.
Hard copies of the FPCA can be obtained from a military installation Voting Assistance Officer or from a U.S. embassy or consulate worldwide. An online version of the FPCA is available with complete instructions and mailing information at the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.
For additional information, please visit our military and overseas voting information section.
A Guide for Conducting a Vote-By-Mail Application Drive was updated in January 2011 to help political parties, vote-by-mail registration drive coordinators, petition management companies, and professional and volunteer circulators understand their responsibilities and requirements when helping people apply to vote by mail in California.
The Guide contains the uniform statewide California Vote-By-Mail Ballot Application. Applications used by people, groups, or organizations must use the required format or they may be deemed to be invalid.
Please follow the Instructions for Completing a California Vote-By-Mail Ballot Application to ensure the application is completed correctly.
Please do not return applications to the Secretary of State's office. Applications must be returned to the elections official of the county where the applicant lives.
If you have any questions regarding these forms, please contact the Secretary of State's Voter Services Unit.
If you voted by mail, you can find out if your ballot was received by your county elections official. Some county elections officials can also tell you if your ballot was counted, something they are required to do for everyone who casts a provisional ballot in an election. To find out if your county elections office provides this service, please visit the Check Status of My Ballot page.
*Please note these numbers were provided by the individual county elections offices. Because not all counties provided information, no complete statewide data is available.