Vote By Mail

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.

Apply to Vote By Mail

Registered voters may apply for a vote-by-mail ballot for an upcoming election at any time.

Apply by Mail

If you apply by mail, your application must be received no later than 7 days before Election Day.

Election DateLast day to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot by mail
November 8, 2016
(General Election)
November 1, 2016

You can use the application printed on your county Voter Information Guide that is mailed to you by your county elections official prior to every election. If you don't want to wait for your county Voter Information Guide, you can write to your county elections official for an application or you may use the California Vote-By-Mail Ballot Application (PDF).

No Party Preference (NPP) voters can use the Vote-by-Mail application (PDF) to request the presidential ballot of participating parties. For more information visit our No Party Preference Information page.

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.

Apply in Person

Anytime after 7 days, you will need to apply in person at your county elections office to request a vote-by-mail ballot for that election.

Apply by Telephone

Contact your county elections official to see if your county allows you to apply by telephone.


Voting By Mail

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. Vote-by-mail ballots that are personally delivered must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.  Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 3 days after Election Day.  If you are not sure your vote-by-mail ballot will arrive in time if mailed, bring it to any polling place in your county between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

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.

Voting for the First Time

When you registered to vote, you were asked to fill in your driver license number, California identification number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you did not include this information, be sure to send a photocopy of some personal identification in the envelope with your vote-by-mail ballot.

A copy of a recent utility bill, the county Voter Information Guide you received from your county elections office, or another document sent to you by a government agency are examples of acceptable forms of identification. Other examples include your passport, driver license, official California identification card, or student identification card.

For more information on identification to use when you vote for the first time check the complete list (PDF) or call the Secretary of State's toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

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.

Check Status of Your Ballot


Permanent Vote-By-Mail Voting

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 on of the following Vote-By-Mail applications:

Your permanent vote-by-mail status will only end if you do not vote in four consecutive statewide general elections.


Military & Overseas Vote-By-Mail Voting

As a military or overseas voter, in order to receive your election materials and vote when you are absent from your county while serving and/or living overseas, you need to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot by completing the online voter registration application or by completing the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). The FPCA is available from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

For additional information, please visit our Military and Overseas Voting Information section.


Distributing Vote-By-Mail Applications

The Secretary of State's Guide for Conducting a Vote-By-Mail Application Drive is designed 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 (PDF). 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 (PDF) 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.


Historical Vote-By-Mail Ballot Statistics 

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 the individual county elections offices provided these numbers. Because not all counties provided information, no complete statewide data is available.