Voting Rights for Californians with Criminal Convictions or Detained in Jail or Prison

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Eligibility Requirements

You can register to vote if you are:

  • A citizen of the United States of America;
  • A resident of California;
  • At least 18 years of age or older on or before election day;
  • Not in prison, on parole, serving a state prison sentence in county jail, serving a sentence for a felony pursuant to subdivision (h) of Penal Code section 1170, or on post release community supervision; and
  • Not found mentally incompetent by a court of law.

Criminal Justice Realignment Act

In 2011, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed the Criminal Justice Realignment Act (CJRA). Under Penal Code section 1170(h), low-level felons are sentenced to county jail and/or supervision by the county probation department instead of state prison. CJRA has caused some confusion about voting rights among people who have criminal convictions. Below states who is eligible and who is not eligible to register to vote in California.

Not Eligible

  • In state prison.
  • In county jail serving a state prison sentence.
  • In county jail serving a felony sentence under Penal Code section 1170(h).
  • On parole, mandatory supervision, or post release community supervision.

Eligible

  • In county jail serving a misdemeanor sentence. A misdemeanor never affects your right to vote.
  • In county jail because jail time is a condition of probation.
  • On probation.
  • Done with parole, mandatory supervision, or post release community supervision. Your right to vote is automatically restored when parole or supervision is done.

If you have questions about your voting rights, please contact your parole or county probation office.

How to Register to Vote

You may request a voter registration form from the Secretary of State or your county elections office. You may also apply to register to vote on the Secretary of State's website. Your voter registration application must be received or postmarked at least fifteen (15) days before election day to be eligible to vote in that election. Voter registration forms and voting materials are available in English, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese. If you are in jail, you are entitled to receive a voter registration form if you are eligible to vote. See below for state and local elections office contact information.

Vote by Mail

If you are already registered to vote at your current home address, you may request a vote-by-mail ballot application by contacting your county elections office. Once you receive your vote-by-mail ballot application, you must complete and return it to your county elections office at least seven (7) days before election day.

If you are not registered to vote at your current home address, you may register or re-register to vote and request a vote-by-mail ballot on the Secretary of State's website.

Release from Custody

If you requested a vote-by-mail ballot but are released from custody before you receive your ballot, you can still vote. Just go to the polling place for your home address or any polling place in the county where you are registered and vote a provisional ballot.

If you change your name, home address, mailing address, or party preference you must complete a new voter registration form.

Registration forms are available at most public libraries, government offices, and online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov.

Resources

For more information contact your county elections office or the California Secretary of State:

California Secretary of State
Elections Division

1500 11th Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
elections@sos.ca.gov
www.sos.ca.gov

California County Elections Officials

Voter Hotlines