California General Election


Official Voter Information Guide


How to Vote

You have two choices when voting. You may vote in person at a polling place in your county or you may vote by mail.

You do not have to vote in every contest on your ballot. Your vote will be counted for each contest you vote in.

Voting at the Polling Place on Election Day

Polls are open in California from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. Some counties also offer early voting at a few polling places before Election Day. When you receive your county sample ballot booklet in the mail a few weeks before Election Day, look for your polling place on the back cover of the booklet. If you do not receive your sample ballot booklet, contact your county elections office. You can also obtain your polling place address by visiting or calling the Secretary of State’s toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683). When you arrive at your polling place, a poll worker will ask for your name and check an official list of registered voters for that polling place. After you sign next to your name on the list, the poll worker will give you a paper ballot, unique passcode, or computer memory card, depending on the voting system your county uses. Go to a private booth and begin voting. Poll workers are there to assist voters with the voting process. If you are not familiar with how to cast a ballot, ask a poll worker for instructions on how to use the voting system. State and federal laws require that all voters be able to cast their ballots privately and independently. Each polling place is required to have at least one voting machine that permits voters, including those who are blind or visually impaired, to cast a ballot without assistance. The voting machine also must permit you to privately and independently verify your vote choices and, if there is an error, permit you to correct those choices before casting the final ballot.

Voting by Mail

If you are not a permanent vote-by-mail voter (formerly known as an absentee voter), you still may choose to vote by mail in this election. Your county sample ballot booklet contains an application for a vote-by-mail ballot. The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot from your county elections office is October 30. After you mark your choices on your vote-by-mail ballot, put it in the official envelope provided by your county elections office and seal it. Sign the outside of the envelope where directed. You may return your voted vote-by-mail ballot by:

  • Mailing it to your county elections office;
  • Returning it in person to any polling place or elections office within your county on Election Day; or
  • Authorizing a legally allowable third party (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household as you) to return the ballot on your behalf to any polling place or elections office within your county on Election Day.

Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by county elections offices no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, so be sure to mail your vote-by-mail ballot a few days before Election Day.

Even if you receive your vote-by-mail ballot, you can change your mind and vote at your polling place on Election Day. However, you must bring your vote-by-mail ballot to the polling place and give it to a poll worker to exchange for a polling place ballot. If you do not have your vote-by-mail ballot, you will be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot.

Provisional Ballots

If your name does not appear on the voter list at your polling place, you have the right to cast a provisional ballot at any polling place in the county in which you are registered to vote. Provisional ballots are ballots cast by voters who:

  • Believe they are registered to vote even though their names do not appear on the official voter registration list;
  • Believe the official voter registration list incorrectly lists their political party preference; or
  • Vote by mail but cannot locate their vote-by-mail ballot and instead want to vote at a polling place.

Your provisional ballot will be counted after county elections officials have confirmed that you are registered to vote and did not vote elsewhere in that same election.

© California Secretary of State