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Are Voter ID Laws Dead? That Depends.
09/29/16 |
Publication Date: 
Saturday, October 1, 2016 - 00:00

[A]fter eight years of litigation and study, the evidence of in-person voter fraud is still scant. The courts in Texas and North Carolina held that even if lawmakers were concerned about voter fraud, the laws they enacted were not tailored to fight it effectively. The courts ruled that the forms of ID lawmakers chose as acceptable weren’t necessarily the most secure kinds, and noted that legislators opted not to include other forms of state-issued identification, such as student or public assistance IDs, that were just as secure. ...

For now, though, it appears that people who turn up to the polls in North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas and many other voter ID states won’t be turned away if they don’t have an ID on them. They will be able to cast a provisional ballot or sign an affidavit attesting to who they are. This situation does not satisfy either side in the larger dispute, but at the moment it appears to be the national norm. That is, of course, until and unless the Supreme Court steps in.

DMV gives wrong information on Wisconsin voter ID
09/29/16 |
Publication Date: 
Thursday, September 29, 2016 - 15:30

State officials told a judge last week they had trained workers to make sure people could easily get IDs for voting, but an audio recording was released Thursday of Division of Motor Vehicles employees telling a man he couldn’t get one quickly because he didn’t have a birth certificate with him. ...

The recordings were made Sept. 22, the same day Attorney General Brad Schimel filed court documents claiming DMV “field staff are now trained to ensure that anyone who fills out these forms will receive a photo ID, mailed to them within six days of their application,” even if they don’t have a birth certificate.

The Nation first reported on the recording, which was made by Molly McGrath, the national campaign coordinator with VoteRiders, a group opposed to voter ID laws that helps people get IDs.

McGrath, who also provided a copy of the recording to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, said her group visited 10 DMV stations around Wisconsin. DMV employees gave the visitors answers “all over the board” regarding how long it would take to get an ID, she said.

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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

California Election Info

Upcoming Elections in Your State

2016 General Election: Tuesday, November 8

  • Voter Registration Deadline: October 24
  • Early Voting Dates: October 10 - November 7

For more information visit the California Secretary of State website.

Please note that the information in the sections below has not been updated, and refers to the 2015 general election.

Polls are open from 7:00am to 8:00pm on Election Day.

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

Early voting is available by Vote-by-Mail at the county’s election office and, in some locations, before Election Day. Please check with your county election official for dates, times, and locations.  Some, but not all, counties provide early voting in person at the elections office up until May 31. After May 31, a county may require the voter to provide a reason to vote in person at the elections office.  Check with your county election official.

Unless your county is conducting a Vote-By-Mail election or you live in an area that is a Vote-By-Mail precinct, your polling place location will be printed on the Sample Ballot you receive from the local county elections official prior to an election.  You may search for your polling place online or contact your county election official.  If you live in a Vote-By-Mail precinct, the elections office will notify you of the two closest polling places where you can return your ballot in person, if you prefer not to return it by mail.  If you live in a county that is conducting a Vote-By-Mail election, you can vote in person at the Elections Office, but be sure to bring your ballot with you to avoid voting by provisional ballot.


Already registered? Verify your voter registration status.

Registration Deadlines

Voters must register at least 15 days* before any election.  You can also register online.

*There are some exceptions to this 15 day deadline.  You may still be eligible to vote if you became a U.S. citizen after the registration deadline (15 days before any election).  To register, bring proof of U.S. citizenship and a signed form stating that you have established residency in California and are eligible to vote to your county elections office.

If you move to California after the registration deadline, you are still be eligible to vote in California but only for President and Vice President.  To register, you must sign an oath 7-14 days before the election, stating that you are a resident of California, are eligible to vote, and that you have not voted in any other state for the same election


How to check if you are registered

Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE

You may also contact your county election official or search your county’s database. 

Eligibility Requirements to Register

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.)


Types of identification you will be asked for when you register

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 identification the first time that you vote.  The California Secretary of State has published a list of acceptable identification.


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.


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.  

If You Want to Vote Early

You may vote at your county elections office 7-29 days out before an election using a Vote-By-Mail ballot, or depending on the county, an electronic voting machine.  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 absentee ballot by returning it in person to your county election official or to any polling place in your county or by end of polls 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.

Types of identification you will be asked for when you register

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, Social Security Card, or California identification card, you may still register to vote.  You may leave the space blank, and an elections official will provide you with an identification number.


Identification requirements when you vote in an election 

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;
  • 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.

You may need to re-register to vote if:

  • You move.
    • If you moved within the same county since you last registered to vote, you may still vote at the polling place where you would have been entitled to vote, 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 moved within 14 days of the election, it is legal to vote at your former polling place.  If you have moved to California from out of state 7-14 days before the election, you may register to vote for President and Vice President in a federal election.  See your county elections office.
  • You change your name. 
    • If you have changed your surname, you may state your former name and your current name at the polls.  You will sign your current name and your former name on the same line in the roster and a notation that the two names are the name of the same person.
  • You change your political party choice.

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. 

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.

Military and overseas citizens can use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) if they are concerned with receiving their printed ballot and returning it by the 8:00 p.m. Election Day deadline.  Ballots must be returned by the 8 p.m. Election Day deadline if sent by fax, or if sent by mail, post marked by Election Day and received by the county election office within 3 days of the election.  Note that California law does not permit voted ballots to be sent back by email. The FWAB is a blank ballot on which voters write-in their choices.  The FWAB form may also be used to register to vote and to apply for the absentee ballot, all in one step, but check with your county elections office before using the FWAB for registration, because not all states permits its use for this purpose.  If the FWAB is being used to register to vote, it must be received by the voter registration deadline.  For specific instructions, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program's California-specific FWAB page.

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 **not yet updated since 2014**

For more information for voters with disabilities, visit the National Disability Rights Network’s voting resource center.

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

Information provided by Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights

2016 Election Information for your state