How to vote in California

Where do you live?

Select a state

Are you registered to vote?

How do you plan to vote?

Oct. 19Last day to register

No ballot
request needed

Sept./Oct.First day ballots are sent

Oct. 5First day to vote in person

Read more about how to register and vote by mail this election.

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Register to vote

If you’re unsure if you’re registered to vote, check your status first. You can register to vote online here . You can register in person through Election Day, Nov. 3. For other methods, the deadline to register is Oct. 19.

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Fill out your ballot

Ballots will start being automatically sent to all active voters in California by Oct. 5.

Mailed ballots need more than your vote. Most require at least one signature and can’t have any stray marks. They must be sent back in the envelope provided.

Are you running into voting problems? Let us know.

Here’s a more detailed guide on how to make sure your ballot is counted. Be sure to follow the instructions that accompanied your ballot and contact your local election officials with any questions.

Return your ballot

Your ballot can be returned at a dropbox, in person or by mail by you or a third party. Prepaid return postage for ballots is guaranteed in California.

Ballots must be dropped off in person or postmarked by Nov. 3 and received by mail no later than Nov. 20. Check with local officials for specific times. The U.S. Postal Service recommends voters mail their ballot at least one week prior to the state deadline, by Oct. 27.

You can track your ballot’s status here .

Don’t wait too long! The U.S. Postal Service sent a warning to the California Secretary of State that ballots could be delayed for a narrow set of voters.

Your ballot is verified and counted

From identifying information and tracking bar codes on your ballot to signatures, a lot has gone into making sure your vote is accurate and will count by the time your ballot is returned.

In California, the signature submitted with your ballot will be checked against what election officials have on file. For certain problems with your ballot, election officials are required to contact you and offer you a chance to “cure” it so it can be counted.

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Absentee ballots may start being processed Oct. 5 and formally counted after polls close on Election Day. Dates can vary based on jurisdiction size or the number of mail ballots sent.

About this story

Editing by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Ann Gerhart. Copy editing by Briana R. Ellison and Brian Cleveland. Additional development by Lucio Villa. Illustrations by Abbey Lossing. Susan Berger, Mark Kreidler, Alan Neuhauser and Annette Nevins contributed to this report.

Voting information for this project was collected from official sources, including secretaries of state, county clerks and written election codes. In some cases, The Post used news reports, court opinions and published research from sources such as the National Conference of State Legislatures to check or verify details.

See something that we missed? Let us know.

Kate Rabinowitz is a graphics reporter at The Washington Post. She previously worked at Propublica. She joined The Post in 2018.FollowFollow
Brittany Renee Mayes joined The Washington Post as a graphics reporter in June 2018. She previously worked at NPR on the visuals team as a news applications developer. FollowFollow
Elise Viebeck is a political enterprise and investigations reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 2015.FollowFollow
Leslie Shapiro has been a Graphics Reporter for The Washington Post since 2016, focusing on data visualization and new media storytelling.FollowFollow