How to vote in California? CALmatters answers your questions
Q: Do I have to re-register for the midterms?
As long as you haven’t moved or legally changed your name since the last time you voted, you should be good to go.
But don’t just take our word for it. Check your registration status here.
If you do need to register again, you can send in an application online. You’ll hear from your county’s registrar of voters office when you’ve been approved. Do it by May 19, or else you’ll have to file for a conditional application in person at your county elections office.
Q: How do I change my political party if I’m already registered?
You’ll need to re-register. Do that here.
Again, do it by May 19, or you’ll have to file for a conditional application in person at your county elections office.
Q: If I am registered to vote already will I get a vote by mail for the primary—or do I need to register for that by itself?
When you registered to vote, you were given the chance to register as a permanent vote-by-mail voter. If you checked that box, then you can expect to get a ballot in your mailbox.
If not, you can re-register online or print and fill out this application and send it to your county elections office.
Q: If I am a Democrat am I only allowed to vote for Democratic candidates? If I am unaffiliated do I only get to choose one ballot, which is either Democrat or Republican?
No and no.
California’s nonpartisan “top two” primary rules make things very simple: everyone gets the exact same ballot with all the of candidates listed together and you can vote for whoever you want to. Your party doesn’t matter. Neither do those of the candidates. You can vote for candidates of different parties across different races. It’s a free-for-all, which is why you sometimes hear it called a “jungle primary.”
Once the votes are all tallied, only the first and second place winners will move on to the general election in November—hence the name, “top two.” That could be a Democrat and a Republican, a Democrat and a Democrat, a Republican and a Republican, a “no party preference” candidate and a Green, etc.
Q: What happens if my ballot gets lost in the mail?
It’s too late to request another replacement ballot by mail (the deadline was May 29), but you still have options.
You can go to your county elections office and request one in person. Find your office here. You can do that anytime between now and election day.
Likewise, if your county has early voting centers open (find out here), you can also request a new ballot there. And if you live in one of the “Voter Choice Act” counties (Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo), head on over to one of your new vote centers.
If you don’t have time to do any of that before June 5th, just go to your polling place on election day and request a provisional ballot there.
Q: What if I make a mistake on my ballot?
There’s no universally recognized way to correct a ballot, so just get yourself a new one. Bring your ballot to your local polling place on election day and request a replacement. Remember to bring that messed up ballot! They won’t let you vote in person if you leave it sitting on your coffee table.
We’re happy to answer your questions to help ensure that every eligible Californian who wants to vote knows how to do it.