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

Print Versions in ten languages

Eligibility Requirements

You can register to vote and vote if you are:

  • A United States citizen residing in California,
  • 18 years old or older on Election Day,
  • Not currently in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony (for more information on the rights of people who have been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State's Voting Rights: Persons with a Criminal History), and
  • Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court (for more information, please see Voting Rights: Persons Subject to Conservatorship).

Eligible to register and vote:

  • 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.
  • In county jail serving a state prison sentence.
  • In county jail awaiting trial.
  • On probation.
  • On mandatory supervision.
  • On post-release community supervision.
  • Done with parole.  Your right to vote is restored when you complete your parole, but you must re-register either online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov or using a paper voter registration card.

Not eligible to register and vote:

  • Currently imprisoned:
    • In state prison.
    • In federal prison.
  • Currently on parole with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

NOTE: A conviction does not include a juvenile adjudication
made pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 203.

Criminal Justice Realignment Act

In 2011, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed the Criminal Justice Realignment Act (Realignment). 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. Realignment has caused some confusion about voting rights among people who have criminal convictions. The chart above provide an explanation of who is eligible and who is not eligible to register to vote in California.

California Penal Code section 2910 allows the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) to make agreements with local governments to house felons in a county jail or other correctional facility. For more information, please visit CDCR’s website http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/realignment/index.html. 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 card from the Secretary of State or your county elections office.  If you are in jail, you are entitled to receive a voter registration card if you are eligible to vote.

You may also apply to register to vote on the Secretary of State’s website RegisterToVote.ca.gov. 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.  In elections conducted by your county elections official, you can “conditionally” register and vote at your county elections office after the 15-day voter registration deadline. For more information please go to the Secretary of State’s webpage on conditional registration and voting (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/conditional-voter-reg/) or contact your county elections official. 

Voter registration cards and voting materials are available in English, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.   Voter registration cards are available at most public libraries and government offices. See the attached list 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 RegisterToVote.ca.gov.

Released 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 card.

Resources

Print version in ten languages

English (PDF) 
español/ Spanish (PDF)
中文 / Chinese (PDF)
हिन्दी / Hindi (PDF)
日本語 / Japanese (PDF)
ខ្មែរ / Khmer (PDF)
한국어 / Korean (PDF)
Tagalog (PDF)
ภาษาไทย / Thai (PDF)
Việt ngữ / Vietnamese (PDF)

 

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

California County Elections Officials

 

California Secretary of State
Elections Division

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

Voter Hotlines