Unless our democracy has been completely dismantled by Tuesday, November 6, chances are you’re positively itching to cast a ballot in California’s midterm election. You’re not alone. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office reports that more people have registered to vote in the state than ever before—19 million or 76 percent of those eligible. Of course, voter turnout is notoriously low in midterm elections, so enthusiasm in advance might not translate to ballots cast on the big day. But you’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Every vote counts.
In California, registering and voting is relatively easy, or at least easier than in states notorious for suppression. (Also our October 22 deadline is more accommodating than most.) But you may still have questions. If you aren’t registered yet, aren’t sure whether you’re registered to vote, need to update your address, or don’t know what to bring to the polls or how to get there, hopefully we can help.
Who’s eligible to vote?
Most every U.S. citizen who is 18 years or older on election day can register to vote, with three exceptions:
- People in state or federal prison (you can register from county jail!)
- People on parole for a felony conviction
- People who’ve been found “mentally incompetent to vote by a court”
Hooray, you’re eligible. Now how do you register?
If you have a California driver’s license or ID card and know the last four digits of your social security number, registering to vote in California is as easy as filling out an online form (the California Secretary of State’s office accesses your signature through the DMV). If you don’t have a California driver’s license or ID card, you’ll have to print and sign a form after you fill out the online registration, and mail that form to the California Secretary of State’s office (note: postage IS required so make sure to put a stamp on that sucker). If you’d rather mail in a hard copy of your voter registration form, it’s downloadable in ten languages at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s website. Mail to:
Secretary of State
1500 11th Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
OK, I was registered but I recently moved—what do I do?
Have you moved within California since the last election? If you’ve updated your residence address at the DMV or the U.S. Postal Service, they will (supposedly) communicate your address change to the California Secretary of State’s office which will (supposedly) update your info. Otherwise, you have to re-register to vote by filling out the online form or mailing in a paper voter registration form. Want to make sure you’re registered at the correct address? The Secretary of State’s office has a tool, but you have to have a California driver’s license or ID to use it. Alternately, Vote.org has a Check Your Registration tool that’s more user-friendly.
What if I miss the deadline to register? Am I screwed?
You are not screwed because there is a thing called “conditional voting.” As the Secretary of State’s website explains, “While you may not be able to vote at your regular polling place or vote by mail, there is still an opportunity to cast a ballot by completing the conditional voter registration process. Eligible citizens who missed the October 22 deadline can go to their county elections office [the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office is located at 12400 Imperial Hwy., Norwalk] or a designated satellite location [a list of L.A. County branch offices is here] to register and vote conditionally. Their ballots will be processed once the county elections office has completed the voter registration verification process. Voters can complete the conditional voter registration process from October 23 all the way through Election Day on November 6.” Not ideal, but it’s something.
Do you need a California license or ID to vote? What do I need to vote?
Nope, but if you didn’t provide a license or ID number OR a social security number when you registered, you may be asked to provide some form of identification at the polls. So what should you bring with you on election day just in case? Here is a list of items that can be used to prove your identity and/or residency. If you need last-minute help, the California Secretary of State’s office has a voter hotline: (800) 345- VOTE (8683).
How do I find my polling place?
The County Registrar’s office has a polling place locator tool on its site; all you need to enter is your last name, date of birth, house number, and zip code and it looks up your polling place. Once you’ve entered your the aforementioned information, you can also view a map as well as a sample ballot.
How can I get to the polls?
If you need a ride, Uber is rolling out in-app feature that will hail a driver who’ll take you to the correct polling place (Lyft is likely to offer something similar). We’ll update this post as more transportation options (carpooling, etc.) become available. Go vote!
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