All the Practical Things You Need to Know About Voting in the California Primaries

The primaries are happening today. You should probably know what to do

You’re busy, I get it. You have work to do, kids to feed, a cat with a hernia you need to get to the vet ASAP. You’re planning to vote in the California primary election, but you haven’t actually looked into how do that yet. That’s where I come in. As a low level employee of Los Angeles magazine, I’m able to put in the hour or so it takes to navigate the California Secretary of State’s antiquated and overwhelmingly interlinked Web site to find everything you need to know about voting. No need to thank me, I’m just doing my civic duty (and what my boss told me). Here, in convenient listicle form, I answer your practical voting-related questions.

1. When do I vote in the California primaries?
Polls are open on Tuesday, June 7, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

2. Am I registered?
There’s no such thing as a dumb question (except number three, below). You can check to see if you’re registered here. If you’re not—sorry, it’s too late to vote in the primaries, but you have until October 24 to register for the November 8 general election.

3. Can I vote online?
No, of course you can’t. This is the government we’re talking about, not The Voice.

4. I can just mail in my ballot or something, right?
Yes, if you’ve already signed up for vote-by-mail (the deadline for that was May 23, but you can still apply for a mail-in ballot in the general election).

5. Wait, I don’t remember if I actually signed up for that. Is there a way to check?
Yes. Sift through that pile of unopened bills that have accumulated on the counter next to overripe avocados. It’s probably there.

If not, look up your county on this list, proceed through whatever gauntlet of minor inconveniences presents itself, and you should be able to check your vote-by-mail ballot status. If you live in L.A. County, it’s actually easy—just fill out this form. Sidenote: I literally just checked mine, and apparently I’m registered to vote by mail? That’s news to me. If I ever got a ballot in the mail, I lost it immediately. But that’s okay because…

6. I signed up for vote-by-mail, but now I have no idea where my ballot is. Can I still go vote at a polling place?
Thankfully, yes. Even if you did lose or forget your vote-by-mail ballot, you can still show up at a polling place and get what’s called a “provisional ballot.” Fill one of those bad boys out, and your vote will still be counted.

7. I signed up for vote-by-mail, and I have my ballot, but I haven’t looked at or thought about it at all until now. Is it too late to send it?
Procrastination is real. Thankfully, as long as your mail-in ballot is postmarked on or before election day (June 7) and received no later than three days after election day (June 10), you’re good. Better get that thing in the mailbox like right now, though. Of course, you can always drop it off at a polling place in person.

8. How do I actually find a polling place?
You can find one by typing your address in here. There’s at least a moderately good chance the site will work and lead you to a polling place near your address. Best of luck.

9. Can I take tons of cute selfies in the voting booth?
No. It is forbidden. You could go to jail.

10. Can I vote for whoever I want? Can I vote in other people’s primaries???
So, this is important. If you’re registered with a party, you’ll receive that party’s ballot and will only be able to vote in that party’s presidential primary. Easy peasy. If you listed “no party preference” when you registered to vote, though, that’s when things get wild.

Nonpartisan voters—shoutout to all 2.2 million of you guys—can mix it up a bit. You’re not invited to vote in the Republican primary, but you can vote in the Democratic primary. The secret is that you have to specifically request a Democratic ballot. If you don’t ask, they’ll give you a ballot with no presidential primary candidates listed on it, which is super lame. And then once you start filling it in, THERE’S NO GOING BACK. So make sure you ask for the right ballot the first time around. 

11. Should I even bother?
Yes, absolutely. But also…