Know Your Rights: Voting 101

Aug 25, 2020

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Know Your Rights Voting 101 illustration of woman holding sign that says "Your Vote Matters"

What are the eligibility requirements to vote?

You can register and vote if you are:

  • a United States citizen and a resident of 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, and
  • not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.

How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote online or at the DMV, public assistance offices, your local post office, public library, or your local county elections office if you want to vote in an election that is more than 14 days away. Registering to vote in advance is the best way to ensure you receive elections information and a vote-by-mail ballot in the mail.  

If the election is 14 days or less away, you can still register to vote using same-day voter registration (also called conditional voter registration). Eligible individuals can register or re-register and vote at their county elections office, polling place, or vote center. These ballots are processed and counted once the county elections office has verified the voter’s eligibility.

How do I get election materials in my preferred language?

County elections offices provide election materials in various languages, in addition to English. Please contact your county elections office directly to ask whether your county's voting-related materials are available in your preferred language.

When is the last day to register to vote?

In California, you can now register to vote or change your registration at any time, including on Election Day.

  • If it is at least 15 days before the next local, state, or federal election, you can submit your registration online or by mailing in an application. You can register to vote at the DMV or public assistance offices, or you can pick up a paper voter registration application at post offices, libraries, or your local elections office.  
  • If it is 14 days or less before the next election, you can register or re-register to vote at your local elections office, polling place, or vote center.

When is Election Day?

The 2020 General Election will take place on November 3, 2020.

  • Be sure to check your local elections office website for additional special or local elections in your area.

How do I vote?

In California, you can vote in two ways:

  1. Vote-By-Mail ballot. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, every registered voter in California will be sent a vote-by-mail ballot before the November 2020 election.
    You can return a completed vote-by-mail ballot by:
    • Mailing it to your local elections office - mail ballots must be postmarked no later than November 3rd, 2020. Remember to sign your vote-by-mail envelope. There is no postage required to return a California vote-by-mail ballot but it must be postmarked on or before Election Day.
    • Dropping it off at a ballot drop box, local elections office, polling place, or vote center.
  1. Voting in-person at your local polling place, vote center, or county elections office. Your polling place or nearest vote center will be listed on the sample ballot you receive in the mail once you are registered to vote as well as on your county elections office’s website. Check with your county elections’ office to see if they will offer curbside voting, voting appointments, or other voting options during the November 2020 election. You can vote in person at one of these places:
    • Polling Place - a designated place to vote in your neighborhood that is open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Vote Center - 15 counties in California have opted to adopt vote centers. Vote centers will be open at least 3 days before and on Election Day (Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2020). You can vote early in person, drop off your ballot, get a replacement ballot, vote using an accessible machine, get assistance in multiple languages, and register to vote at any vote center in the county. All vote centers are open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • County Election Office - each county has an office for elections where you can vote early or on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

You can also check here online or call your county elections office to find out where you vote.

If I am in line when the polls close can I still vote?

Yes! If you are in line at a voting location by 8 p.m. on Election Day, you have the right to vote.

How do I find my voting location?

Once you are registered to vote, you can vote at your local elections office, local polling place, or any vote center in your county on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Vote centers will be open at least 3 days before and on Election Day (Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2020).

Your local polling place or nearest vote center could change between elections. Updated information will be listed on the sample ballot you receive in the mail before the next election as well as your county elections office website. You can look-up your polling place or find vote center information online, or you can call your county elections office to find out where you vote.

Where can I find more information about candidates and issues?

Voter’s Edge California and Ballotpedia are comprehensive, nonpartisan online guides to elections covering federal, state, and local races in the state of California. Users can see their personalized sample ballot by entering their address and can get information on candidates, measures, and who supports them.

Where can I find more information about voting?

Call the California Secretary of State 1-800-345-VOTE (English), 1-800-232-VOTA (Spanish), or visit their 2020 election website. Visit your local county elections office’s website for local information.

Visit LetMeVoteCA.org to learn more about voting rights for people impacted by the criminal legal system.

PDF version is available in English here and in Spanish here.

View more voting resources here.