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Election Administration in California

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Election Types and Dates

Election Dates

Upcoming Primary Elections

The Presidential Preference Primary is June 7, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Ca. Sec'y. of State Website: Upcoming Election Deadlines [link]

Ca. 2016 Presidential Preference Primary Election Calendar [link]

Upcoming General Elections

The General Election is November 8, 2016.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Ca. Sec'y. of State Website: Upcoming Election Deadlines [link]

Ca. 2016 General Election Calendar [link]

How is a nominee determined?

How is a nominee determined (caucus, primary, convention)?

Primary elections. However, for most elections, California uses a "top-two primary." Under this type of primary, all candidates, regardless of their party, appear on the primary ballot. All voters, regardless of party affiliation, vote in the primary election. The two candidates who earn the most votes in the primary election will then appear on the general election ballot, regardless of those candidates' party affiliations (even if they are in the same party). This top-two system does not apply to Presidential Preference Primary elections, which are conducted as traditional primaries.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Cal. Elec. Code § 8141.5 [link]

Political Party Affiliation

Can voters register by party in the state?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Ca. Elec. Code § 2151(a) [link]

Must voters be registered with a political party if they would like to vote on that party’s candidates in a partisan primary election (i.e., are primaries open or closed)?

Most of California's primaries are conducted as open "top-two primaries" in which all voters, regardless of their party affiliation, vote for any candidate who appears on a single primary ballot. The primary ballot contains all qualified candidates regardless of their party affiliation.

However, Presidential Preference Primary elections are usually closed, meaning that only voters affiliated with a political party can vote for a candidate running in that party's primary. Parties can choose to allow voters not affiliated with a party to vote in their Presidential Preference Primary election. For the 2016 Presidential Preference Primary, the following parties have chosen to allow voters not affiliated with a political party to vote using their party's presidential ballot:

  • Democratic Party
  • Libertarian Party
  • American Independence Party

All other parties in California, including the Republican Party, require that voters be affiliated with their party in order to vote in their primary for President.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Cal. Sec'y. of State's Website: No Party Preference Information [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 8141.5 [link]

When can a voter change or switch their party affiliation?

Any time before the voter registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-06)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2152 [link]

Voter Registration

Who Can Vote?

What are the state's residency requirements for voters?

To register to vote, a person must live in California.

Homeless persons may register to vote by describing on their voter registration application the location where they spend most of their time.The person must provide a description of the location that is clear enough for the elections official to establish that person’s right to vote in a particular precinct. A mailing address needs to be provided for the voter to receive election materials.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives at p. 8 [link]

Cal. Const. art. II, § 2 [link]

Can someone pre-register to vote if they will not be 18 years old by the next election? If so, who?

Yes, 16- and 17-year-olds may pre-register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2101(b) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2000(b) [link]

Can 17-year-olds who will be 18-year-olds by the general election vote in the primary?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2101(a) [link]

Does the state take away the right to vote from persons convicted of certain crimes? If so, what crimes?

A person who is convicted of a felony loses their right to vote while they are serving a prison sentence or on parole.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2201 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2101 [link]

If people lose the right to vote because of a criminal conviction, can they regain the right to vote? How?

A person's right to vote is automatically restored upon release from prison and completion of any required period of parole. However, the person must re-register to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2201 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2101 [link]

Voter Registration Options

Is fully online voter registration available? (i.e., can voters fill in and submit an online application without printing and signing it?)

Yes, but only for people who have a California driver's license or state ID card. Click here to access the website.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Online Voter Registration Website [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2196 [link]

Does the state accept the National Mail Registration Form?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

U.S. Department of Justice website [link]

National Mail Registration Form [link]

Is the state required to register voters at public assistance agencies and driver's license agencies, per the National Voter Registration Act of 1993?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

U.S. Department of Justice website [link]

Student-Specific Rules

Does the state have specific rules on students registering to vote or voting?

A student may register to vote using either their school address or their permanent address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2025 [link]

Voter Registration Deadlines

When is the voter registration deadline?

The 15th day before Election Day.

However, people who move to California after this deadline may register to vote in person at their county election official's office up until the 7th day before Election Day, and they can then vote a new resident's ballot. Additionally, people who become naturalized citizens after the deadline can register to vote in person at their county election official's office up until Election Day itself.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 3400 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3500 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2107 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2102(a) [link]

How is the deadline enforced for mailed applications?

Postmark - Mailed applications must be postmarked by the voter registration deadline and received by the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2102(a)(1) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2107(b)(1) [link]

How is the deadline enforced for online applications?

The application must be submitted and received by the voter registration deadline.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2196(a)(2) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2107(b)(4) [link]

Voter Registration Drives

Does the state require organizations conducting voter registration drives to register?

Any organization requesting more than 50 voter registration cards must complete a brief statement of distribution plans in order to receive the blank applications. This statement must designate the name and address of the person or persons proposing such a distribution plan. This statement must contain declarations executed under penalty of perjury that reasonable steps will be taken to ensure that (1) cards will be given to any potential voter requesting one in order to register; and (2) voter registration cards issued will not be altered, defaced, or changed in any way, other than by the insertion of a mailing address and the affixing of postage, if mailed, or as otherwise specifically authorized by the Secretary of State, prior to distribution to prospective registrants, and that the affidavit portion of the voter registration cards will not be marked, stamped, or partially or fully completed by anyone other than an elector attempting to register to vote or by another person assisting such elector after being requested by such elector to assist in completing the affidavit.

The Secretary of State further indicates that the distribution plan should describe how the drive will be organized, what groups will be targeted, what methods will be used to distribute cards, and contain an acknowledgement that organizers know and will follow the laws and rules relating to voter registration. The form is available at the by clicking here.

In addition, organizations or persons who agree to compensate people who assist others to register to vote by receiving completed applications or by assisting with the submission of a registration application electronically on the Secretary of State’s website must maintain a list of the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all individuals that the organization or person has agreed to compensate for assisting others to register to vote, and must provide a written statement to compensated individuals of their personal responsibilities and liabilities under California's Election Code, which must be acknowledged in writing by each compensated individual. This information must either be maintained by the organization for three years or given to the county election official. The county election official may charge a fee not to exceed actual costs for storing the records. A sample statement is available with the state’s voter registration drive guide, Appendix B.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 1 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2159.5 [link]

Cal. Admin. Code tit. 2, § 20001(g) [link]

Are there restrictions on getting voter registration forms?

Yes. An individual or organization that distributes voter registration cards designed under state regulation must obtain the voter registration cards from the county elections official or the Secretary of State. The individual or organization must comply with all applicable regulations established by the Secretary of State when distributing the cards.

The Secretary of State indicates that duplicated voter registration cards cannot be used, and that “only official state or county-issued “ cards may be used. Organizations requesting more than 50 voter registration cards must complete a brief statement of distribution plans (see previous question above).

Further, state voter registration cards must be provided in sufficient quantities to any individuals or organizations who wish to distribute the cards other than to persons who have been convicted of violating section 2158 of the California Election Code within the last five years. Individuals and organizations must be permitted to distribute voter registration cards anywhere within the county.

During the drive, any person requesting a blank form to register must be given one, and failure to do so is punishable by a fine.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, pp. 9, 11 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2158(b)(1) [link]

Does the state require any training in order to conduct voter registration drives?

Trainings are suggested, but not required under state law.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 4 [link]

Does the state have restrictions on who may help others register to vote?

No.

Does the state have restrictions on paying drive workers, or additional rules related to payment?

Yes. Any person or organization that is paying people to help register applicants by receiving completed applications or by assisting with the submission of an online application on the Secretary of State’s website, must do all of the following:

  • Maintain a list of names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all individuals that the person, company, or other organization has agreed to compensate for assisting others to register to vote;
  • Provide each person being compensated with a written statement of their personal responsibilities and liabilities under the California Election Code, sections 2138, 2138.5, 2139, 2150, 2158, 2159, 18100, 18101, 18103, 18106, 18108, 18108.1, and 18108.5, and maintain for at least three years a written acknowledgment that the person received the written statement;
  • Only pay people who comply with section 2159 of the California Election Code, which requires the canvasser to sign in his or her handwriting and affix directly on the affidavit of registration his or her full name, telephone number, and address, and the name and telephone number of the person, company, or organization, if any, that agrees to pay money or other valuable consideration for the completed affidavit of registration; and
  • At the time of submission of applications to elections officials, identify and separate those applications into groups that do and that do not comply with the requirements of Sections 2150 and 2159 of the California Election Code. These sections describe the information required to be provided by the applicant and the requirements that paid canvassers mark the application, respectively. A signed acknowledgment must be attached to each group of applications identifying a group as in compliance with sections 2150 and 2159, and a group as not in compliance with either sections 2150 or 2159, or both.

Failure to comply with these requirements is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 or by six months in jail, or when the failure is willful, one year in jail, increasing with subsequent convictions.

The law also says that a person who, in exchange for money or other valuable consideration, assists another to register to vote by receiving the completed affidavit of registration from the elector, and knowingly misrepresents himself or herself as having helped register another to vote on a registration form, is guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $1,000, by imprisonment in the county jail up to six months, or both.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 18108.1 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2159.5 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2159 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 18108.5 [link]

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 21 [link]

Are there restrictions on the voter registration drive offering something of value to a person in exchange for completing a voter registration application?

Federal law states that whoever "pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years." California's Secretary of State interprets the federal law to mean that "[a]ny type of incentive is considered 'payment,' even things as seemingly innocent as cookies or admission to an entertainment event." California’s interpretation also indicates, “Privately sponsored contests…are outlawed” and says that drives “may not offer food, prizes, discounts, or any other form of compensation to encourage voter registration.”

At least one federal appellate court has interpreted "payment" as "intended to include forms of pecuniary value offered or given directly to an individual voter, and indicated the value should be based on "an assessment of the monetary worth of an item from the perspective of the voter receiving the item." That case held that food vouchers could be "payment."

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

52 U.S.C. § 10307(c) [link]

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, pp. 11, 21 [link]

United States v. Garcia, 719 F.2d 99, 102-103 (5th Cir. 1983) [link]

Must the registration drive worker sign the completed voter registration application, and must the drive or canvasser place other information on applications?

Yes. Any person who assists the applicant in completing the application must sign and date the application below the signature of the applicant. Any person who is paid to assist another to register to vote must sign and affix directly on the application her full name, telephone number, and address, and the name and telephone number of the person, company, or organization that agrees to pay for the completed application, and failure to comply with this provision is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1000 and/or by imprisonment in the county jail up to six months, or for a year if the failure is found to be willful. Individuals who collect an application must provide certain information on the attached, numbered receipt, see question G below. Failure to comply with these requirements does not cause the voter’s registration to be invalid.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2158(b)(2) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2150(d) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 18108 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2159(a) [link]

Does the state have a rule requiring a receipt or other tracking information to be provided to the applicant?

Yes. Each registration card has a unique serial number printed on it and a receipt stub at the bottom. If a person takes a completed registration card for submitting it to the elections official, the person who collected the application must sign and date the receipt and provide their full name, telephone number and address. If the person is being paid to collect applications, the person must also provide the name and telephone number of the person or organization that is agreeing to pay money or other valuable consideration for the completed affidavit of registration. The receipt must be provided to the applicant. If there is a problem with the applicant’s registration, the receipt can be used as proof of completion and intent to register. Anyone who willfully violates the receipt requirement in Section 2158 of the election code is subject to a fine of up to $200. Additional penalties apply for violations of the additional rules applicable to persons who are paid to assist applicants or those who pay them (see previous questions).

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2158(b)(2) [link]

Cal. Sec. of State, Guide to Voter Registration Drives, p. 17 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 18107 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2159(a) [link]

Are there restrictions on copying completed voter registration applications prior to submitting them to the election official, or other restrictions on data entry or disclosure?

California law does not directly address copying restrictions. However, disclosure (which does not include turning in the form) of a driver’s license number, ID card number, social security number or signature will result in an infraction punishable with a fine of up to $500.

In addition, an individual or organization that distributes forms under state statute, collects voter registration forms, or assists with the submission of an online registration on the Secretary of State’s website, in addition to not using the registration form information for any personal private or commercial purpose, must employ reasonable security measures, including employing administrative and physical safeguards, and, for voter registration form information available in an electronic form, technical safeguards, to protect the voter registration information from unlawful disclosure and misuse. Violating this rule is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

Cal. Elec. Code § 18111 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2138.5 [link]

Is there a time limit for voter registration groups to submit the voter registration applications they collect?

Yes. Registration applications must generally be delivered to the county elections official or mailed within three days of receipt from the applicant, but must immediately return all completed applications on the day of close of registration for any election. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are excluded. All unused cards must be returned upon completion of the distribution plan. The Secretary of State’s distribution plan form also indicates blank cards must be returned to the elections official immediately after the book closing deadline, and whenever instructed to do so by the elections official.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

California Secretary of State's Guide to Voter Registration Drives, Appendix A [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2139 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2138 [link]

What are the consequences for failing to submit applications on time?

Any person who knowingly or negligently retains a completed registration card, without the voter’s authorization, for more than three days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and state holidays, or after the close of registration, commits a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1000. Further, any person who knowingly or negligently interferes with the prompt transfer of a completed registration application to the elections official commits a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1000.

Source (confirmed on: 1904-01-01)

Cal. Elec. Code § 18103 [link]

Same-Day Registration

Can voters register and vote on the same day (i.e., does the state offer same-day registration)?

No. Although California has passed a law requiring same-day voter registration, this law will not take effect until after California's Secretary of State certifies that California's voter registration database complies with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2170 [link]

Voters Who Have Moved or Changed Their Name

Can people vote if they moved, but did not update their voter registration with their new address?

A registered voter who moves to a new address within California after the voter registration deadline (14 days or less before Election Day) may vote on Election Day in the precinct assigned to their old home.

Additionally, a registered voter who moved to a new address within the same county at any time without updating their voter registration record may vote in the precinct assigned to their new home or at the county elections office or other central voting location in the county. These voters must cast provisional ballots.

All other voters must update their voter registration record with their new address before the voter registration deadline or they will be unable to cast a vote that counts.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2116 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14311 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2035 [link]

Can people vote if they have changed their name, but did not update their voter registration with their new name?

Yes, such people may vote by providing their old name and their new name at their polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14218 [link]

Language, Literacy, and Disability Access

Language and Literacy Access

Does the state have any places that must provide election materials in languages other than English, per Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Yes; the entire state must provide voting materials in Spanish.

The following counties must provide materials in additional languages:

  • Alameda - Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese
  • Los Angeles County - Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese
  • Orange County - Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese
  • Sacramento County - Chinese
  • San Diego County - Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese
  • San Francisco County - Chinese
  • San Mateo County - Chinese
  • Santa Clara County - Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Voting Rights Act Amendments of 2006, Determinations Under Section 203, 76 Fed. Reg. 63602 (Oct. 13, 2011) [link]

Does the state have any other rules about providing election materials in languages other than English?

For counties that are not covered by the federal Voting Right Act's language materials provisions, state law places language access requirements on them if at least 3% of the county's voting age population speaks that languge and cannot vote in English without assistance. In these counties, a facsimile ballot and ballot instructions written in the language spoken by the languge minority group must be posted in the polling place, and copies of this ballot and ballot instructions must be provided to such voters in the voting booth upon request. The Secretary of State can also require additional counties provide these materials. These counties must also make efforts to recruit election officials in such languages.

Additionally, all counties can provide voter registration applications and cards in non-English languages.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14201 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14219 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 12303 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2103(g) [link]

Who can help a voter with reading assistance or translation if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to vote due to inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Under state law, if a voter declares under oath at a polling place that they cannot mark a ballot, the voter may be assisted by any one or two people of the voter's choosing other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14282 [link]

Disability Access

Who can help a voter with a disability if they can't vote on their own?

Under Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act, any voter who requires assistance to vote by reason of blindness, disability, or inability to read or write may be given assistance by a person of the voter's choice, other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Under state law, if a voter declares under oath at a polling place that they cannot mark a ballot, the voter may be assisted by any one or two people of the voter's choosing other than the voter's employer, an agent of that employer, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

52 U.S.C. § 10508 (federal law) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14282(a) [link]

Does the state have other rules related to access for persons with disabilities?

If a polling place is deemed inaccessible by the Secretary of State, poll workers must bring voters with physical disabilities a ballot that they can mark outside of the polling place. Alternatively, such voters may request to have an absentee ballot delivered to their home, even if the usual deadline for requesting an absentee ballot has passed.

Additionally, voters with disabilities may receive assistance when completing a voter registration application and reasonable accomodations. A person assisting the voter must sign and date the application beneath the voter's signature. If a disability prevents a person from signing a voter registration application, they may make their mark or a cross. Voters whose disabilities prevent them from signing their name on any election document may also use a signature stamp.

Finally, voters who are declared mentally incompetent by a court lose the right to vote. To be declared mentally incompetent, the court must (1) find by clear and convining evidence that the person cannot communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process, AND (2) any one of the following circumstances apply:

  • A conservator has been appointed for the person (or person and estate) under Division 4 of California's Probate Code; or
  • A conservator has been appointed for the person (or person and estate) under Chapter 3 of Part 1 of Division 4 of California's Welfare and Institutions Code; or
  • A conservator has been appointed for the person under Section 5352.5 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, the person has been found not competent to stand trial, and the person's trial or judgment has been suspended pursuant to Section 1370 of the Penal Code; or
  • A person has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, has been found to be not guilty pursuant to Section 1026 of the Penal Code, and is deemed to be gravely disabled at the time of judgment as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (h) of Section 5008 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

In any proceeding under the Welfare and Institutuions Code heard by a jury, the jury must unanimously find by clear and convincing evidence that that the person cannot communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process before the person will be disqualified from voting.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2208 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 2150(b), (d) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3021 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14282(c) [link]

Early Voting, Absentee Voting, and Other Ways to Vote

Vote-by-Mail

Does the state provide mail ballots to all voters without a request?

Generally, no. However, election officials may automatically send voters vote-by-mail ballots in precincts that have fewer than 250 voters instead of establishing a polling place in the precinct.

Additionally, the governing authority of a local government can choose to conduct local, special, and consolidated elections entirely by vote-by-mail ballots if any one of the following circumstances apply:

  • No more than 1000 registered voters are eligible to participate in the election; or
  • The election is in a city, county, or special district with 5000 or fewer registered voters, and the election is on a ballot measure or measures restricted to (1) the imposition of special taxes or (2) expenditure limitation overrides; or
  • An election on the issuance of a general obligation water bond; or
  • An election of the Directors of the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District; or
  • An election of the Aliso Water Management Agency, or its affected member agencies; or
  • An election of the San Jacinto Mountain Area Water Study Agency; or
  • An election of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District
  • An assessment ballot proceeding.

If a local government chooses to conduct one of the above local, special, or consolidated elections entirely by vote-by-mail ballot, then the election must be held on one of the following dates:

  • The first Tuesday after the first Monday in May of each year; or
  • The first Tuesday after the first Monday in March of each even-numbered year; or
  • The last Tuesday in August of each year.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 1500 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3005 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 4000 [link]

Early Voting/Absentee In-Person Voting

Does the state have early voting/absentee in-person voting?

Yes, California has a form of in-person absentee voting. Voters can apply for, receive, and cast a vote-by-mail absentee ballot during one trip to the county election official's main office or a satellite office.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 3009(b) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3018 [link]

Where does early voting/absentee in-person voting take place?

At the county election official's main office and any satellite offices that the county election official establishes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 3018 [link]

When does early voting/absentee in-person voting take place?

The period begins 29 days before Election Day and ends 7 days before Election Day. However, a voter who applies for a ballot during this period has the option of holding onto their ballot and casting it up until the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 3017 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3001 [link]

What official chooses early voting/absentee in-person voting locations?

The county election official.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 3018 [link]

Are lists of early voters/absentee in-person voters published? How?

Yes, lists of such people who vote by absentee ballot, including in-person absentee voters, become open to public inspection before absentee ballot envelopes are opened.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-10)

Cal. Elec. Code § 15105 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 15111 [link]

Absentee Voting by Mail

Can anyone vote absentee by mail without an excuse? If not, what excuses allow a voter to vote absentee by mail?

Yes, any person can obtain vote using a vote-by-mail absentee ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3003 [link]

Deadline to apply for absentee ballot by mail

The application must be received no later than the 7th day before the election.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3006(a) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3001 [link]

How does a voter apply for an absentee mail ballot?

A person can apply for a vote-by-mail absentee ballot using either a written application or, if the county allows it, by applying over the phone or internet. A written application is included in the sample ballots send to all registered voters, and people can also obtain a written application by requesting one from their local election official or downloading one by clicking here <English> or here <non-English languages>. Completed written applications can be mailed or personally delivered to the county election official's office.

Counties may also choose to allow people to apply over the phone or electronically through a website. For example, the City and County of San Francisco allows voters to apply using these methods. Voters should contact their county election official to determine whether these options are available in their county.

Additionally, any voter can request as part of their application that they be added the list of "permanent vote-by-mail voters." These voters will automatically be sent a vote-by-mail absentee ballot for every future election without having to reapply. A voter will be removed from this list if they do not vote by mail for four consecutive elections.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3007.7 (electronic application) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3007 (written application) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3206 (permanent absentee voters) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3006 (written application) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3201 (permanent absentee voters) [link]

San Francisco Elections Website [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3001 (generally) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3008 (phone application) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3007.5 (electronic application) [link]

Can a voter make an online request for an absentee mail ballot?

Counties may choose to allow people to apply electronically through a website. For example, the City and County of San Francisco allows voters to apply using this methods. Voters should contact their local elections official to determine whether this option is available in their county.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3007 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3007.5 [link]

Does a voter need to submit any supporting documentation or verification with an absentee mail ballot or absentee mail ballot application? If so, what is required?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3006 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3011 [link]

Are there restrictions on who may request or turn in an absentee mail ballot application for a voter?

Any person or organization may distribute blank written applications and collect completed applications from voters. A person or organization who collects an application from a voter must submit the application to the county election official within 72 hours of receiving it.

However, note that election officials will only deliver a vote-by-mail absentee ballot to the voter personally or, with the permission of the voter, to the voter's child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, or a person live at the voter's address. If the voter does designate one of these people to receive their ballot for them, that person must be at least 16 years old.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3008 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3009(b) [link]

Deadline to return absentee ballots

The ballot must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day, or alternatively, the ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than 3 days after Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3020 [link]

Are there restrictions on who may return a voter's absentee mail ballot for them?

Yes. The voter may designate only the voter's child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, or a person live at the voter's address, to pick up and return the voter's absentee ballot for them. The person the voter designates must be at least 16 years old.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3009(b) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3017 [link]

What are absentee ballots sent by mail usually called?

Vote-by-mail ballots.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3003 [link]

Are there any special emergency rules that allow a voter to vote absentee by mail if they are unable to make it to the polls at the last minute?

Yes. A voter may request an emergency vote-by-mail absentee ballot after the application deadline for any of the following reasons:

  • The voter will be absent from their precinct on Election Day; or
  • The voter will, due to illness or disability, be confined to their home or a hospital, sanatorium, or nursing home on Election Day; or
  • The voter will, due to a physical disability, be unable to go to their polling place on Election Day or, because their polling place is inaccessible, they will not be able to vote at their polling place on Election Day.

These voters may request an emergency ballot either in person at the county election official's office or by sending their county election official a written, signed statement requesting the ballot. The statement can also be delivered to the county election official by any person (called an "authorized representative") who has been designated by the voter to deliver it. The emergency ballot may also be given to the authorized representative who must then deliver it to the voter. An emergency ballot must be returned to the county election official's office by the voter or the voter's authorized representative no later than the time the polls close on Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3021 [link]

Are lists of people who vote absentee by mail published? How?

Yes, lists of such people who vote by absentee ballot become open to public inspection before absentee ballot envelopes are opened. Additionally, the list of permanent absentee voters is open to public inspection for governmental and election purposes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 15105 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 3203(b)(3) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 15111 [link]

Presidential-only ballots

Under federal law, any registered voter who moves out of the state after the 30th day before a Presidential election may vote for President and Vice President either in person at the voter’s previous state of residence or using an absentee ballot from the voter’s previous state of residence.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

52 U.S.C. § 10502(e) [link]

Absentee Voting for Military and Overseas Voters

Who is eligible for military/overseas absentee voting?

To qualify as a military or overseas voter, a person must be either:

  • A member, or the spouse or dependent of a member, of the active or reserve components of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard; a Merchant Marine; a member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps; a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corps of the United States; or a member on activated status of the National Guard or state militia.
  • A citizen of the United States living outside of the territorial limits of the United States or the District of Columbia, who either (1) last lived in California before leaving the county, or (2) was born outside of the country but has a parent or legal guardian who last lived in California, and the person has not registered to vote in another state.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 321(b) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 300 [link]

How do voters apply for a military/overseas ballot?

A military or overseas voter can apply for a ballot by using the state's standard vote-by-mail absentee ballot application or a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). These applications can be submitted to the county elections official in person, by mail, by fax, or if the county allows it, electronically through the internet. These applications can also be used to register the person to vote, if needed. After a military or overseas voter applies for a ballot, that person will be added to the list of people who are permanent vote-by-mail voters, and they will automatically receive vote-by-mail absentee ballots in future elections without needing to reapply.

The elections official must send the ballot to the qualified military or overseas voter either by mail, facsimile, or electronic transmission, as requested by the voter.

Alternatively, a military or overseas voter can vote using a federal write-in absentee ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3102 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3105 [link]

Deadline to apply for a military/overseas ballot

The application must be received no later than the 7th day before Election Day. However, to serve as both an absentee ballot application and a voter registration application, the application must be postmarked no later than the 15th day before Election Day.

If a person is recalled into active service after the 7th day before Election Day, then the person may apply up until 5:00pm on the day before Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3102(e) [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 3111 [link]

Deadline to return the military/overseas ballot

The ballot must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day, or alternatively, the ballot must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received no later than 3 days after Election Day.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3020 [link]

Who is eligible to use a write-in absentee ballot? How does it work?

California allows military and overseas voters to use the federal write-in absentee ballot (FWAB) for voting in general elections for federal office. Any military or overseas voter can use a FWAB to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 3105(b)(2) [link]

On Election Day

Where do you vote in person?

Where do you vote in person?

In the polling place assigned to the voter's precinct.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 12281 [link]

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

What hours are the polls open on Election Day?

7:00am - 8:00pm. People waiting in line to vote at 8:00pm must be allowed to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 14401 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 14212 [link]

In the Voting Booth

Are there rules about what materials a voter can and cannot bring into the voting booth?

Voters cannot bring within 100 feet of a polling place any campaign materials for or against a candidate or ballot measure. Voters also cannot bring in a sign that describes voter qualifications or circulate any petition.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 18370 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 319.5 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 18541(a)(2) [link]

Can a voter bring children into the voting booth with them?

Yes.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 14222 [link]

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

Are employers required to give employees time off to vote?

If a voter does not have enough time outside of work to vote, they may take off time from the beginning or end of their shift to vote, or at another time if the employer and employee agree to it. The employee's pay cannot be reduced for taking up to 2 hours off to vote. If the employee suspects they will need time off to vote 3 or more days before the election, then the employee should give their employer 2 working days' notice of their intention to take time off to vote.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 14000 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 14002 [link]

Campaigning, Electioneering, and Recording Devices

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering during early voting/absentee in-person voting?

California law prohibits the following activities within 100 feet of an early voting location or an election official's office:

  • Circulating any type of petition
  • Photographing or recording voters entering or exiting the polling place
  • Questioning voters about their qualifications to vote
  • Soliciting votes or speaking to voters about their votes
  • Advocating for or against any candidate or ballot measure
  • Displaying or wearing anything with a candidate or ballot measure's name, likeness, or logo.

Additionally, electioneering in the presence of a an absentee voter when the person electioneering knows they are voting their ballot is prohibited.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 18370 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 319.5 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 18371 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 18541 [link]

Are there restrictions on campaigning/electioneering on Election Day?

California law prohibits the following activities from occurring within 100 feet of a polling place or election official's office:

  • Circulating any type of petition
  • Speaking to voters about their votes
  • Questioning voters about their qualifications to vote
  • Advocating for or against any candidate or ballot measure
  • Displaying or wearing anything with a candidate or ballot measure's name, likeness, or logo.

Additionally, electioneering in the presence of a mail-in voter when the person electioneering knows they are voting their ballot may be illegal.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 18370 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 319.5 [link]

Can a voter wear a button or t-shirt with a candidate's name or logo on it into the polling place when they vote?

No. No person may from wear a button, hat, shirt, or sticker containing a candidate or ballot measure's name, likeness, or logo inside the polling place or within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Ca. Elec. Code § 18370 [link]

Ca. Elec. Code § 319.5 [link]

*NEW 1** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) inside the polling place or voting booth?

No, unless the person obtains special permission from an election official to use the phone to obtain information to assist in casting their ballot. A voter may not take a picture of a marked ballot.

Source (confirmed on: 10/7/2016)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14291 [link]

Memorandum No. 16143 from Jana M. Lean, Chief, Elections Division, California Secretary of State (May 16, 2016) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 18541 [link]

Cal Const. Art II § 7 [link]

*NEW 2** Can a voter use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) outside the polling place but within the zone around the polling place where campaigning/electioneering is banned?

No person can use a digital or recording device to dissuade another person from voting or from voting for or against a particular item on the ballot. Otherwise, state law does not address whether a digital or recording device can be used in this area, and local practice may vary.

Source (confirmed on: 10/7/2016)

Cal. Elec. Code §§ 18370, 18540 and 18541 [link]

Who's at the Polls?

Can persons other than election workers observe inside the polls?

Yes, any person can observe inside the polls.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Secretary of State, Elections Observation Rights and Responsibilities (page 4 of PDF file) [link]

*NEW 3* Can a poll observer use a digital or recording device (such as a cell phone or camera) in the polling place?

Taking photographs and making recordings are prohibited unless local election officials explicitly permit it. The use of cell phones for other purposes is not addressed in state law, and local practices may vary.

Source (confirmed on: 10/9/2016)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14291 [link]

Memorandum No. 16143 from Jana M. Lean, Chief, Elections Division, California Secretary of State (May 16, 2016) [link]

Observer Guide to Elections, City and County of San Francisco [link]

Are there other rules on what poll observers can or cannot do?

Local election officials can require people who observe election proceedings at the polls to check in with poll workers and wear an identification badge. Local election officials can also create rules that regulate observer behavior, such as prohibiting them from using cell phones or other electronic devices in the polling place. People who wish to observe inside the polls should contact their county election official to determine what rules may apply to them.

Additionally, state law says that any person can inspect the precinct roster, but only precinct board members may sit at the desk or table they use to check voters in.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Secretary of State, Elections Observation Rights and Responsibilities (page 4 of PDF file) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14223 [link]

Provisional Voting and Voters at the Wrong Polling Place

When should a voter be offered a provisional ballot?

Under Section 203 of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, if a person claims to be a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the person desires to vote and the person claims to be eligible to vote in a federal election, but the person’s name does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the person is not eligible to vote, then that person must be permitted to cast a provisional ballot at that polling place. The person may cast the provisional ballot after executing, before an election official at the polling place, a written affirmation stating that the person is (1) a registered voter in the jurisdiction, and (2) eligible to vote in that election.

Additionally, any person who votes in a federal election as a result of a federal or state court order, or any other order extending the time established for closing the polls by a state law in effect 10 days before the date of that election, may only vote in that election by casting a provisional ballot. Any such ballot cast must be separated and held apart from other provisional ballots cast for different reasons.

Under state law, a voter must be offered a provisional ballot in any of the following circumstances:

  • The voter claims to be eligible to vote, but the voter's eligiblity cannot be determined by elections officials by inspecting the precinct's index of registration or the files held by the county election official
  • The voter moved to a new address within the same county but did not update their voter registration record with their new address before the voter registration deadline
  • The voter is an emergency worker, and the governor has declared a state of emergency and authorized emergency workers to vote outside of their precincts
  • The voter is voting during a court-ordered extension of the time that the polls are open.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14217 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14313 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14310 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14402.5 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14311 [link]

52 U.S.C. § 21082 (federal law) [link]

If a voter casts a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct, will the ballot be counted?

Yes. If both precincts have the same races, the entire ballot is counted. If they are different, only votes in those races the voter would have been able to vote in in their correct precinct are counted.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14310(c)(3) [link]

Finding out if a provisional ballot was counted

Voters can learn whether their provisional ballot was counted, and if not, the reasons why it was not counted. To do so, voters click here for county-specific instructions. Some counties allow voters to check their provisional ballot status online, while others require voters call the county election official's office.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14310(d) [link]

Cal. Sec. of State Website: Ballot Status [link]

Ballot Shortages/Voting Machine Malfunctions

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a polling place runs out of printed ballots? Are handwritten/photocopied ballots allowed?

If a polling place runs out of ballots, the county elections official must deliver additional ballots to the polling place. Voters may choose to either wait for the additional ballots to arrive, or they may vote under an alternative procedure that was established by the county election official and approved by the Secretary of State before the election. Voters should contact their county election official to learn what this alternative procedure is.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14299 [link]

What is the law or procedure on emergency ballots if a voting machine breaks or malfunctions?

If a voting machine malfunctions, voters can vote using paper ballots supplied by election officials. Blank provisional ballots can be used as paper ballots, and they will be counted as regular ballots.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14300 [link]

Voter ID and Challenges

Voter ID

Who must show ID to vote?

The only voters who must show ID to vote are first-time voters in a California county who registered to vote by mail and did not provide with their voter registration application at least one of the following: (1) their driver's license number, state ID card number, or the last four digits of their social security numbe (written on the application in the appropriate place); or (2) a copy of their current and valid driver's license card, state ID card, or other photo ID that has the voter's name and photo; or (3) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document, so long as it has the voter's name and address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

2 C.C.R. 20107 [link]

What ID is acceptable?

Any one of the following documents is acceptable:

  • A copy of their current and valid driver's license card, state ID card, or other photo ID that has the voter's name and photo; or

  • A copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or other government document, so long as it has the voter's name and address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

2 C.C.R. 20107 [link]

Is a student ID an acceptable form of identification?

Yes, as long as it either (1) includes the voter's name and photograph, OR (2) is issued by a public school and includes the voter's name and address.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

2 C.C.R. 20107 [link]

Does the address on the ID have to match the address at which the voter is registered?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

2 C.C.R. 20107 [link]

If a voter has no ID, are there alternatives such as an oath or witness?

Yes, a voter may cast a provisional ballot. So long as the voter's signature on the provisional ballot envelope matches the signature on the voter's voter registration form, the ballot will be counted.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14310(d) [link]

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: Provisional Voting [link]

Do elections without federal offices on the ballot (such as off-year gubernatorial elections) have different ID requirements?

No.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

2 C.C.R. 20107 [link]

Challenges to Voters at the Polling Place

Who can challenge a voter at the polling place?

On Election Day, only a member of the precinct board (in other words, a poll worker) may challenge a voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14240(a)-(b) [link]

What are the allowed reasons on which a voter can be challenged at the polling place?

Any or all of the following are grounds for a challenge on Election Day:

  • The voter is not the person whose name appears on the registration index;
  • The voter does not live in the precinct, unless the voter moved into the precinct within 14 days before Election Day;
  • The voter is not a U.S. citizen;
  • The voter has already voted that day; or
  • The voter is presently on parole for the conviction of a felony.
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14240(a) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14242 [link]

Is there a requirement for the challenger to provide cause or evidence?

Yes, probable cause is required to bring a challenge.

If someone presents a document or list to a precinct board member that concerns another voter's qualifications and indicates that this voter should be challenged, the precinct board member must first determine whether any evidence accompanies that list or document. Before using the document or list and any accompanying evidence to initiate a challenge, the precinct board member must contact the county election official (or their deputy) and ask whether the document or list and any accompanying evidence constitutes probable cause to challenge the voter.

Additionally, unless other evidence is presented, a piece of mail returned undelivered by the post office is not acceptable evidence to initiate a challenge based on the ground that a voter does not live in the precinct. It is also not, by itself, acceptable evidence upon which a challenge may be decided.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14241 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14240(c) [link]

How does a voter defend their eligibility to vote if they are challenged?

Depending on the challenge, the voter can defend their eligiblity in the following ways:

  • If the voter is challenged on the ground that they are not the person whose name appears on the registration index, the challenge will be dismissed if the voter swears under oath that they are that person. If the voter refuses to take the oath, they cannot vote.
  • If a voter is challenged on the ground that they have already voted in the election, the challenge will be dismissed if the voter swears under oath that they have not already voted in the election. If the voter refuses to take the oath, they cannot vote.
  • If the voter is challenged on the ground that they do not live in the preinct, or if they are challenged on the ground that they are not a U.S. citizen, then the precinct board must hold a hearing at that time to determine whether the voter is eligible. If the voter is challenged on the ground that they do not live in the precinct, the board may only ask the voter to confirm under oath that they do live in the preinct. If the voter refuses to answer the precinct board's questions at the hearing, or if the board otherwise determines that the voter does not live in the precinct or is not a U.S. citizen, then the voter cannot vote. The precinct board may, at its discretion, request any other person present in the polling place whom the board believes may have knowledge or information concerning the facts of the challenge be sworn and answer questions about the challenge.

Any doubt in the interpretation of the law must be resolved in favor of the challenged voter.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 14249 (refusal to take oath) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14245 (oath of single vote) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14243 (oath of identity) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14251 (doubt resolved voter's favor) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14247 (determining residency and citizenship challenges) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14244 (oath of residence in precinct) [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 14246 (determining identity and single-vote challenges) [link]

State and Local Election Officials

The State Election Authority

Who/what is the state election authority?

Secretary of State

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 10 [link]

Current official

Alex Padilla

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: About Alex Padilla [link]

E-mail

Click here to access the e-mail form for the Elections Division.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: Email Elections Division [link]

Phone

(916) 657-2166

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: Contact Information [link]

Address

Elections Division
1500 11th Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: Contact Information [link]

Local Election Authorities

What local election official(s) are in charge of major state-level elections (such as the even-year November general elections)?

The county's Board of Supervisors and either the County Clerk or the county's Registrar of Voters. The County Clerk is typically responsible for most voter registration and election administration duties, except that in counties that have established a Registrar of Voters' office, the Registrar administers election procedure.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Gov. Code § 26802.5 [link]

Cal. Gov. Code § 25201 [link]

Cal. Gov. Code § 26802 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 320 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 307 [link]

What is the county-level election official?

The county's Board of Supervisors and either the County Clerk or the county's Registrar of Voters. The County Clerk is typically responsible for most voter registration and election administration duties, except that in counties that have established a Registrar of Voters' office, the Registrar administers election procedure.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Gov. Code § 26802.5 [link]

Cal. Gov. Code § 25201 [link]

Cal. Gov. Code § 26802 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 320 [link]

Cal. Elec. Code § 307 [link]

What is the municipal-level election official?

City elections are conducted either by city clerks or county election officials, depending on the city.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 10002 [link]

Contact information for local election authorities

Click here to view a list of contact information for county election officials.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Sec. of State's Website: County Elections Offices [link]

The Voter File

Voter File Basics

National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) Disclosure Law

Section 8 of the federal NVRA requires that each State maintain for at least 2 years and make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters, except to the extent that such records contain information about a person declining to register to vote or information about the identity of a voter registration agency through which a particular voter might have chosen to register.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

52 U.S.C. § 20507 [link]

Acquiring a Voter File

Under state procedure, who may acquire a voter file?

Any person.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2194(a)(3) [link]

Who is the state-level contact for acquiring a voter file?

The VoteCal Help Desk, which is part of the Secretary of State's Office, Elections Division. It can be reached in the following ways:

Phone: 1-888-868-3255 (direct line) E-mail: Click here to access the e-mail form for the Elections Division.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-20)

Interview with the California Secretary of State's Office [link]

How much does the state charge for the file?

$1.00 per thousand records, up to a maximum of $30.00.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-20)

Interview with the California Secretary of State's Office [link]

What format is the file available in?

The voter file is available as a tab-delimited plain text file, and is only provided on a CD-ROM or DVD.

Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-20)

Interview with the California Secretary of State's Office [link]

Use of the Voter File

Does the state have restrictions on commercial use of the voter file?

Yes. Commercial, personal, and private use of voter file information is illegal. These prohibited uses include, but are not limited to:

  • Harassment of any voter or voter’s household.
  • Advertising, solicitation, sale, or marketing of products or services to any voter or voter’s household.
  • Reproduction in print, broadcast visual or audio, or display on the Internet or any computer terminal, except that such reproduction is allowed if done to serve one of the allowed uses of the voter file information (listed below).

People can use voter file information for only the following purposes:

  • Election purposes
  • Scholarly purposes
  • Journalistic purposes
  • Political purposes
  • Governmental purposes
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2194(a) [link]

Does the state have restrictions on non-commercial use of the voter file?

Yes. Commercial, personal, and private use of voter file information is illegal. These uses include, but are not limited to:

  • Harassment of any voter or voter’s household.
  • Advertising, solicitation, sale, or marketing of products or services to any voter or voter’s household.
  • Reproduction in print, broadcast visual or audio, or display on the Internet or any computer terminal, except that such reproduction is allowed if done to serve one of the allowed uses of the voter file information (listed below).

People can use voter file information for only the following purposes:

  • Election purposes
  • Scholarly purposes
  • Journalistic purposes
  • Political purposes
  • Governmental purposes
Source (confirmed on: 2016-04-11)

Cal. Elec. Code § 2194(a) [link]