Any registered voter in California can decide whether to vote at a polling place or vote by mail. To learn more, select any of the questions shown below.
- Voting for the First Time
- Status of your Vote-By-Mail Ballot
- Where's My Ballot?
- How to Vote for U.S. President
- California Replacement Ballot Application
- Application to Provide Vote-by-Mail Ballot to Representative
County elections officials mail vote-by-mail ballots to all active registered voters. If you believe you are already registered, you can verify your registration online with our “My Voter Status” tool.
If you are not already registered, you can register online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov.
Instead of going to the polls on Election Day, you may vote using the vote-by-mail ballot that 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 ballot by
- mailing it to your county elections official;
- 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 7 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 the state between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
- returning it in person to any polling place within the state or the office of your county elections official;
- 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.
- dropping your ballot off at a drop-off location or into a ballot drop box within the state; or
- Vote-by-mail ballots that are personally delivered to a ballot drop-off location must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
- authorizing someone to return the ballot on your behalf.
- Anyone may return your ballot for you, as long as they do not get paid on a per ballot basis. In order for your ballot to be counted, you must fill out the authorization section found on the outside of your ballot envelope.
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(s) in your voter registration record. To preserve the secrecy of your ballot, the ballot will then be separated from the return envelope, and then it will be tallied.
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.
When you registered to vote, you were asked to provide your driver license number, California identification number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you are a first-time voter in a federal election and you did not provide this information when you registered, and you plan to:
Vote by mail: prior to voting your ballot, send a photocopy of your personal identification to your county elections official. If you do not do this prior to voting, you will be contacted by your county elections official upon receipt of your voted ballot to request the required proof of identity. You must provide an acceptable form of identification to your county elections official before they can open your vote-by-mail ballot return envelope. If your identity cannot be verified, your vote-by-mail ballot return envelope will not be opened and your ballot will not be counted.
Vote in person: prior to receiving your ballot at your polling location, you may be asked to provide an acceptable form of identification.
Examples of acceptable forms of personal identification are as follows: 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, or a copy of your passport, driver license, California identification card, or student identification card. For more information on the type of identification to use when you vote for the first time, review the complete list of acceptable forms of identification (PDF), call the Secretary of State's toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683), or contact your county elections official.
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.
You may also check the status of your ballot by visiting, “My Voter Status.”
The California Secretary of State is now offering Where’s My Ballot?—a way for voters to track and receive notiﬁcations on the status of their vote-by-mail ballot. Powered by BallotTrax, Where’s My Ballot? lets voters know where their ballot is, and its status, every step of the way.
A voter who has signed up will receive notices via email, text, or voice message from the county elections official regarding the status of the voter's vote-by-mail ballot including:
- When the ballot has been delivered
- The date that the voter's ballot is expected to be delivered to the voter
- If the voter's ballot is returned as undeliverable to the county elections official by the USPS
- When the voter's completed ballot has been received by the county
- Whether the voter's completed ballot has been accepted or a reason why the ballot could not be accepted and instructions of steps the voter can take in order to have the ballot accepted
- The deadline for the voter to return his or her ballot if the county has not received a voter's completed ballot by specified dates as determined by the county elections official
Sign-up at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to receive automatic email, SMS (text), or voice call notiﬁcations about your ballot.
Where'sMyBallot? is available in every county in California.
Qualified political parties in California may hold presidential primaries in one of two ways:
- Closed presidential primary - the party only allows voters indicating a preference for that party to vote for its presidential nominee.
Three parties are holding a closed presidential primary: the Green Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Republican Party
- Modified-closed presidential primary - in addition to allowing voters indicating a preference for that party to vote for its presidential nominee, the party also allows No Party Preference voters (voters who did not indicate a party preference) to vote for its presidential nominee.
Three parties are holding a modified-closed presidential primary: the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party, and the Libertarian Party
No Party Preference/No Party
You can request a replacement ballot with presidential candidates from your county elections office by submitting a No Party Preference Cross-over Ballot Notice and Application (PDF) to your county elections office or by:
- Other electronic Means
Only the registered voter themself may request a replacement ballot. A request for a replacement ballot that is made by any person other than the registered voter is a criminal offense. (Elec. Code, § 3014(a).)
The California Replacement Ballot Application can be found here:
Application to Provide Vote-by-Mail Ballot to Representative
If you need a replacement ballot, you may apply in writing for a vote-by-mail ballot to be provided to your representative. This application must be provided in person to your county elections office by your representative. (Elec. Code, § 3014(b).)
Once you mark your ballot, you may return your voted ballot by any of the methods described above.
The Application to Provide Vote-by-Mail Ballot to Representative can be found here:
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 be registered as a military or overseas voter by completing the California Online Voter Registration (COVR) 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.