California Elections

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Arkansas governor signs bill reinstating voter ID law
03/24/17 |
Publication Date: 
Friday, March 24, 2017 - 14:00

Arkansas’ governor signed a measure Friday requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot, reinstating a voter ID law that was struck down by the state’s highest court more than two years ago. ...

Unlike that measure, the latest version of the requirement allows voters with[out] a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot if they sign a sworn statement confirming their identity. ...

The legislation is one of two efforts by lawmakers to revive the voter ID requirement. Earlier this month, they voted to put a proposed constitutional amendment imposing the requirement on next year’s ballot. ...

The measure will take effect 90 days after the Legislature formally adjourns, which is expected next month.

Lacking Evidence of Voter Fraud, Legislatures Target Its Specter
03/23/17 |
Publication Date: 
Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 01:30

Nationwide, Republican state legislators are again sponsoring a sheaf of bills tightening requirements to register and to vote. And while they have traditionally argued that such laws are needed to police rampant voter fraud — a claim most experts call unfounded — some are now saying the perception of fraud, real or otherwise, is an equally serious problem, if not worse. ...

In the wake of Republican claims, bills have been filed in at least 27 state legislaturesto stiffen rules or document requirements for registering and voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. At least 16 have proposed new or revised voter ID laws; many more are tightening requirements to register.

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California Election Info

Upcoming Elections in Your State

2016 General Election: November 8, 2016

Voter Registration Deadline: October 24, 2016

For more information:

Election Day:

Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. pacific time on Election Day.

If you are in line when the polls close, you will still be able to vote.

Some counties offer early voting at a few locations before Election Day.  Voters should contact their county elections office to see if they offer early voting.  County contact information can be found by visiting the Secretary of State’s website at:

How to Find Your Polling Place:

A voter can determine his or her proper polling place by checking the California Elections Division’s website ( 

A voter can also determine his or her polling place by calling (800) 345-VOTE (8683), or by texting Vote to GOVOTE (468683). 

A voter’s polling place location will also be printed on the Sample Ballot he or she receives from the local county elections official prior to an election.


Already registered? Verify your voter registration status.

Registration Deadlines:

California does not have same day voter registration.  In California, the deadline to register to vote for any election is 15 days before the Election Day.  The 2016 General Election Voter Registration Deadline is October 24, 2016.

How to Check Your Registration: Use or call 866-OUR-VOTE.

Registration Eligibility: To register to vote, you MUST be:

  • A United States citizen;
  • A resident of California;
  • 18 years of age or older on Election Day;
  • Not found by a court to be mentally incompetent;
  • Not currently imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction. (If you have a felony conviction, your right to vote is automatically restored once you have completed parole.  However, you must re-register to vote before the registration deadline.)

How to Register:


Individuals may register to vote online in California.  The Online Voter Registration Form asks for your California driver’s license or California identification card number, the last four digits of your social security number, and your date of birth.  If you do not have a California driver’s license or California identification card, you may still register to vote through the Online Form by completing the form by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on the 15th calendar day before an election (October 24, 2016).

In Person

You may find a voter registration application at any county elections office or DMV office.  Voter registration applications are also available at most post offices, government offices and public libraries.  If you register at the DMV or other location, retain proof of your voter registration application in case your application is not properly transmitted to the Secretary of State.

By Mail

Voter registration forms are also available by mail.  Applicants may call the California Secretary of State’s Office at (800) 345-VOTE to receive a voter registration form.  Applicants may also contact their county elections office to receive a voter registration form.  Mail-in applications must be postmarked 15 days prior to the election to be eligible.

By Voter Registration Drive

Some groups conduct voter registration drives.  If you sign up during a voter registration drive, the organizers of the voter registration drive must turn the registration forms into the county elections office by the registration deadline or they must mail or drop them off at the county office within three days, whichever comes first.  If you have filled out a voter registration form at a voter registration drive, be sure to check with your county elections office to ensure that elections officials have received and processed your registration form.  If the registration deadline is close, you should turn in the registration form in person to the county elections office, or you should mail it yourself.

If you registered to vote, but election officials do not find your registration on file, you may be able to use a procedure called “conditional voter registration,” and vote by provisional ballot while county elections officials determine your eligibility.  If you are not entered into the voter rolls, you have the option to file a lawsuit in superior court to compel election officials to register you.  

Identification Required for Registration:

The Voter Registration Form asks for your California driver’s license or California identification card number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.  If you do not have a driver’s license, California identification card or Social Security card, you may still register to vote.  You may leave the space requesting this information blank, and an elections official may contact you for more information regarding your eligibility to vote.  You may be required to provide proof of identification or residence the first time that you vote.  The California Secretary of State has published a list of acceptable identification, which includes:

  • Driver’s license or identification card of any state
  • Passport
  • Employee identification card
  • Identification card provided by commercial establishment
  • Credit or debit card
  • Military identification card
  • Student identification card
  • Health club identification card
  • Insurance plan identification card
  • Public housing identification card

If You Want to Vote Early

You may vote at your county elections office 7–29 days out before an election.  Some counties permit voting in person at the county elections office through and including Election Day.  A county may have other locations available for early voting.  You may check online for these locations or contact your county elections office

If You Want to Vote Absentee

Any registered voter may vote by absentee ballot (known as “vote-by-mail”). If you apply by mail, your application to receive an absentee ballot must be received by your county elections office at least 7 days before Election Day. To apply for your vote-by-mail ballot you can do one of the following:

  • Apply in writing to your county election official so that the elections office receives the application at least 7 days before Election Day.
  • Complete the vote-by-mail ballot application.  This application should be included with your sample ballot, which your county elections official will mail to you prior to each election.  Again, send this application so that it will arrive at the county elections office at least 7 days before Election Day.
  • Depending on where you live, your county elections office may allow you to request a vote-by-mail ballot online or by telephone.
  • Request a vote-by-mail ballot in person at your county elections office.

If you become ill or disabled after the deadline, or find that you will be unable to go to your polling place on Election Day, you may request a vote-by-mail ballot in person at your county elections office.  You may also send someone age 16 or up to your county elections office with a written request.  That person may pick up your ballot and return it to the elections office, if that person signs an affidavit stating, among other things, that he or she has your authority to pick up your ballot for you.  Check with your county elections office for your options.

Turning in your Absentee (Vote-by-mail) ballot

You may return your vote-by-mail ballot by returning it in person to your county election official or to any polling place in your county by 8 p.m. on Election Day.  If you mail your vote-by-mail ballot, it must be postmarked by 8 p.m. on Election Day, and be received at the county elections office within 3 days after the election.

Identification Requirements to Cast a Ballot

Most voters will not need to provide identification or proof of residency when they vote.  Usually, the ONLY time a voter in California is required to show any type of document before voting is if you:

  • Registered by mail or online;
  • Did not provide your driver’s license number, state identification number or last four digits of you social security number on your registration form; and
  • It is your first time voting on a federal election in this county.

In that instance, you may be asked for one of over 30 acceptable forms of identification or proof of residency, such as a driver’s license, utility bill or a check from the government.  If you are voting by mail you should include a copy of this identification or proof of residency with your ballot.  This does NOT have to be a photo ID.  If you do not have any of these documents to prove your identity or proof of residency, you can vote by provisional ballot, which will be counted if the signature on your ballot matches the signature on your registration form.  Be sure to ask an election official the deadline for providing your identification to the county elections office.

VoteRiders has created California voter ID info cards in English and in Spanish.

Moving within the Same County

If you moved within the same county since you last registered to vote, you may still vote at the new polling place, or the county elections office, but you will have to vote by provisional ballot.  You may be required to provide proof of identification.  If you move within the same precinct within 14 days of the election, it is legal to vote at your former polling place by regular ballot.

Moving Between Counties

If you moved less than 14 days before the election, you can vote by regular ballot at your old polling place only.

If you moved more than 14 days before the election and you did not re-register to vote in the voter’s new county, you may not vote in the election.

Registering and Requesting an Absentee Ballot

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), also known as Standard Form 76, to register to vote and to request an absentee ballot.  Military and overseas citizens can register to vote by fax or mail, or can register to vote online using the California Secretary of State’s webpage.  Visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) California-specific FPCA page for details on using the FPCA. 

Receiving an Absentee Ballot

Military and overseas citizens can receive voting materials by fax, email, or postal service.  If you wish to use the fax or email options, you must indicate this on your FPCA.  Instructions for doing so are found on the FVAP’s California-specific FPCA page.

Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot

Military-Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting: Absent uniformed service members (and their eligible dependents) and U.S. citizens living outside of the United States may request an absentee ballot under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA).  The voter can get step-by-step assistance and forms at

If you have a felony conviction you can vote, unless you are currently imprisoned in state prison, currently imprisoned in county jail serving a state prison sentence, or currently on parole.  Your rights will be automatically restored, but you must re-register to vote before the registration deadline.

For details, see the Secretary of State’s webpage, Voting Rights for Californians with Criminal Convictions or Detained in Jail or Prison. 


Top Issues

For more information for voters with disabilities, find a National Disability Rights Network partner in your area.

For more information for student voters, visit the Student Voting Guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Information provided by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

Voting as a Student

As a student, you have a constitutional right to register and vote in the place you truly consider to be “home” — whether that’s your parents’ house, your apartment, or your dorm room. But before you make the important decision about where to vote, make sure you know the voting rules (and sometimes consequences) of registering to vote in that state.

More Info On Student Voting

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Election Information for your state