Below you will find the reality and facts about the elections process.
The Secretary of State’s Office is committed to ensuring that elections are free, fair, safe, secure, accurate, and accessible. Misinformation, intentional or otherwise, continues to confuse voters and sow distrust in the electoral process. This Rumor Control page is designed to provide clear and accurate information in response to some of the most widespread rumors about elections.
To find out more about each fact or the rumors that are being spread, click on the Reality below. Each section will contain the reality, rumor, facts, and sources to help voters stay informed about the elections process.
Rumor: Votes are being cast on behalf of dead Californians and those votes are being counted in the primary.
Facts: State and federal law prohibits individuals from casting votes on behalf of deceased voters. Security measures are in place to prevent voter impersonation such as signature verification and information checks. California election officials routinely remove deceased individuals from the voter registration list based on information received from the California Department of Public Health and the Social Security Administration.
- 18 U.S. Code § 1708
- Voter Registration List Maintenance, NCSL
- What if an Absentee Voter Dies Before Election Day, NCSL
- Nine Election Fraud Claims, Non-Credible, Factcheck.org
- Rumor Control, CISA
Rumor: Drop boxes used by election officials to collect returned vote by mail ballots can be easily tampered with, stolen, or destroyed.
Facts: State and federal law prohibits tampering with the election process. As such, drop boxes are under heavy safeguards to protect ballots returned by voters. The typical drop box is made of heavy high-grade metal, which is bolted to the ground and is equipped with additional security features such as tamper-evident seals, minimal ballot insertion size, locks, and water/fireproof materials. Election officials will often place the drop box in a public location with 24-hour video surveillance.
- ELEC Title 2, § 20137
- ELEC Title 2, § 20135
- Ballot Drop Box Laws, NCSL
- Ballot Drop Box, CISA
- Rumor Control, CISA
Rumor: Vote by mail is being forced on voters and the mail in ballots are susceptible to fraud.
Facts: Mail in ballots provide more security to elections, not less. Wrongful claims stating that the 2020 primary general election was rigged through “mules” are false. Election officials use protocols to verify the eligibility and identity of the voter prior to sending the vote by mail ballot. In addition, when the ballot is returned election officials verify the voter’s identity. If the election official determines that the voter's signature does not match, the identification envelope will not be opened, and the ballot will not be counted until the identification of the voter is confirmed. If a voter loses, fails to receive, or makes a mistake on their ballot, they can request another vote by mail ballot from their county election official or go to a polling place to receive a replacement.
We take voter fraud allegations seriously and will investigate each claim. Information about specific voter fraud should be detailed in a complaint to our office, which can be completed online via our Election Voter Complaint form.
- Rumor Control, CISA
- Mail-in Voting Integrity Safeguards Infographic, CISA
- USPS Election Mail Information Center, UPSP
- ELEC § 3019
- Vote by Mail, California Secretary of State
- Common California Elections Code Violations, CA Secretary of State
- The faulty premise of the ‘2,000 mules’ trailer about voting by mail in the 2020 election, PolitiFact
Rumor: Provisional ballots are only counted if there is a close race.
Facts: California law requires that any voter who claims to be registered, but whose qualifications cannot be confirmed through the list of registered voters for the records on file with the county’s election official is entitled to cast a provisional ballot. As such, a voter’s provisional ballot will be counted after election officials have confirmed they are registered to vote in that county and that they have not already voted. County elections officials carefully check every provisional ballot to ensure the voter is registered and did not cast a second ballot elsewhere. ALL eligible provisional ballots are counted. Voters that cast a provisional ballot can check the status with their county elections office.
Rumor: Poll workers are handing out sharpies to specific voters to cause their ballots to be rejected.
Facts: Some voting system tabulating systems have more optimum or preferred instruments for marking ballots, which may be blue or black ink or sharpies. In the event the voting tabulation system is unable to determine the voter’s selections, the tabulator is designed to sort the ballots into a separate pile to be reviewed manually to determine the voter’s intent.
- Rumor Control Election Day, CISA
- Ballot Duplication series, Council of State Government
- Sharpie Ballots Count in Arizona, FactCheck.org
- Sharpiegate, voter fraud claim in Arizona is False, PolitiFact
- Fact Check-Using Sharpie markers did not invalidate California recall ballots, Reuters
Rumor: If I leave something blank on my ballot, my ballot will not be counted.
Facts: A blank contest on a ballot is known as an undervote. An undervote occurs when a voter intentionally or unintentionally does not vote in a specific contest. Properly marked votes on the ballot will then be counted. Democracy happens one contest at a time and every vote matters.
In addition, you can sign-up at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to receive automatic email, SMS (text), or voice call notifications about your ballot‘s status.
Rumor: The voting system software is not reviewed or tested before the election and can be easily manipulated by a bad actor.
Facts: Security is layered into every aspect of California’s voting technology. Our office, in partnership with county election offices, take election security very seriously. The following are reminders regarding security processes and procedures:
California conducts source code review and evaluation, hardware and software security penetration testing, open ended vulnerability testing, operational testing to validate system performance and functioning under normal and abnormal conditions and more to identify any vulnerabilities and have our voting systems resolve or mitigate them
California voting systems and tabulators -ARE NOT connected to the internet, nor do they have modems or hardware in them that could be remotely "activated."
Vendors and county officials follow strict physical security and chain of custody requirements for all voting technology software, firmware and hardware which meet or exceed federal guidance including that of the Justice Department, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Election Assistance Commission.
Every county must validate -before every election -that the voting system is identical to the Secretary of State supplied trusted build by reinstalling the trusted build or utilizing the Secretary of State trusted build cryptographic HASH (essentially a digital fingerprint of the software and firmware) to ensure it matches the approved version and has not been modified.
For the comprehensive list about California’s voting system security standards, please visit CCROV #22105.
- Office of Voting System Technology Assessment, SOS
- Rumor Control Pre-Election, CISA
- Voting System Standards, Testing, and Certification, NCSL
- Post-Election Audits, NCSL
- 52 U.S. Code § 21081
- ELEC Article 3 Inspection of Certified and Conditionally Approved Voting Systems
Rumor: Observers are allowed to interfere with voting or touch voting materials.
Facts: Observers and election officials are prohibited by state law from interfering with the election process such as collecting private voter information, violating ballot secrecy, campaigning, and other interference. If you feel that you have been a victim of voter intimidation or have witnessed suspicious behavior, please report the complaint to the California Secretary of State at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/publications-and-resources/voter-complaint.
Rumor: Videos, images, or emails suggesting voter registration information is being manipulated means voters will not be able to vote.
Facts: Make sure to check the sources of shocking information and call state or local election offices to get the most accurate election information. Disinformation and misinformation are often utilized by bad actors to discredit the elections process. As such, it is imperative to catch the spread of disinformation by recognizing the risk, questioning the source, investigating the issue, thinking about the emotion the information is attempting to invoke, and report disinformation to the Secretary of State’s Office at VoteSure@sos.ca.gov.
Rumor: California return envelopes were designed with holes to allow election officials to peek inside and toss out ballots.
Facts: It is against state and federal law for election officials to tamper with the election process, such as “tossing“ out ballots. Holes in the envelope were designed for helping visually impaired voters know they are signing their official ballot envelopes, and to help election officials ensure each ballot has been extracted from the envelope without inspecting the ballot.
Rumor: Californians with a felony background are prohibited from voting in the state’s election.
Facts: A person with a criminal history can register to vote if the following applies: if they are on parole, probation, mandatory supervision, under post-release community supervision, federal supervised release, or in a county jail. A person with a criminal history cannot vote if they are currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony. Once the prisoner is released, their right to vote is automatically restored and they should visit RegisterToVote.ca.gov or fill out a paper registration form to register to vote.