Vote-by-Mail - FAQ
Vote-by-Mail Frequently Asked Questions
- What is Vote-by-Mail?
- What is the difference between an absentee ballot and a Vote-by-Mail ballot?
- What are the benefits of voting by mail?
- Who may vote a Vote-by-Mail ballot?
- What if I have moved and have not updated my registration?
- When can I apply for a Vote-by-Mail ballot?
- How can I get a Vote-by-Mail ballot?
- What information is required on my application?
- Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to Vote-by-Mail?
- How do I qualify for Permanent Vote-by-Mail Status?
- How do I vote my ballot?
- What if I make a mistake marking my ballot?
- When are ballots mailed to voters?
- When do I have to return my Vote-by-Mail ballot?
- What if my ballot doesn't come?
- I will be out of town when the ballots are mailed. How do I get a ballot?
- What should I do if I think my Vote-by-Mail ballot may not arrive on time by mail?
- If I lose the Vote-by-Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
- I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
- If I request a Vote-by-Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at my regular polling site?
- How are Vote-by-Mail Ballots counted?
- How does the Elections Office make sure voters don't vote more than once?
- Do you count all of the ballots that come by mail, or do you just count them when there is a close race?
- What if I forget to sign my envelope?
- How will I get information about candidates and measures?
Vote-by-Mail allows voters to cast a ballot without going to a polling place. If a registered voter has applied to vote by mail, the Elections office mails a ballot to the registered mailing address of the voter beginning 29 days before an election. The voter votes the ballot and returns it to the election office by mail. The voter can also return it in person to the office or to any polling place on Election Day to be counted. Any voter can apply to vote by mail permanently in every election.
Nothing. These are two terms to describe the same type of ballot. The Vote-by-Mail ballot is a more accurate term, because voters no longer need an excuse to vote by mail. Any registered eligible voter may request a Vote-by-Mail ballot.
are the benefits of voting by mail?
Voting by mail is easy and convenient. The ballot arrives in the mail. You can vote in the privacy of your home and take your time to mark your ballot and mail it back. If you can't easily get to your polling place on Election Day, you never have to miss voting in an election because, with a Vote-by-Mail ballot, voting comes to you.
registered voter in
if I have moved and have not updated my registration?
If you were registered to vote by 15 days before the election but now have a new address within
Download a Vote-by-Mail Application. Election Specific Printable Form
Fill in an on-line Vote-by-Mail Application. Online form
Complete and mail the application that came with your sample ballot pamphlet.
Write a letter requesting a Vote-by-Mail ballot with the required information.
Come into the Elections officeWhen can I apply for a Vote-by-Mail ballot?
You may mail, fax or submit your request online anytime before the 29th day before the election. Actual mailing of Vote-by-Mail ballots cannot begin until the 29th day before an election. Completed applications must be received by mail, fax, online or in person on or before the 7th day prior to the election. Applications received after the 7th day before an election will not be processed unless you appear in person in the Elections Office.What information is required on my application?
have your printed name, your residence address in
If a precinct has fewer than 250 registered voters on the 88th day before an election, that precinct can be declared by the elections official to be a "Mail Ballot Precinct". All registered voters in these precincts will receive a ballot in the mail.
You may request an
application from our office or download a Permanent
A Vote-by-Mail ballot will automatically be sent to you for all future elections. This includes all local elections as well as statewide elections.
Once you become a Permanent Vote-by-Mail voter, you will retain that status as long as you vote in all statewide elections. Failure to vote in four consecutive statewide elections will cancel the permanent Vote-by-Mail Voter status, but not your voter registration. If the permanent Vote-by-Mail Voter status is canceled, you can re-apply for that status again.
If you move, you must reregister and apply for permanent status again.
If you have any questions regarding voting by Vote-by-Mail ballot, telephone (530) 225-5730.How do I vote my ballot?
- Mark your ballot using a dark blue or black ballpoint pen.
- Draw a single line to connect the head and tail of the arrow that points to your choice.
- Vote for no more than the authorized number of candidates.
- Be sure to complete both sides of the ballot and all voting cards if there are more than one.
- Any identifiable marks may void your ballot. Your ballot is no longer considered secret if there are such marks such as: initials, names or, signatures. The only exceptions are the votes for write-in candidates.
- Place your ballot cards(s) in the return envelope provided.
- Sign on the return envelope.
- Your ballot will not be counted if there is no signature on the return envelope.
- You will receive voting and ballot return instructions with your ballot. You can also see them online on our website.
If you make a mistake, do not try to correct it, call our office for a replacement ballot.
are ballots mailed to voters?
By law, the first day ballots can be mailed to voters is 29 days before an election. Ballots are mailed continuously from that date until 7 days before Election Day.
Vote-by-Mail ballots cannot be forwarded. If you no longer live at your registered address, your ballot will be returned as undeliverable. If you have questions about voting by mail or about your voter registration, please call our office at (530) 225-5730. You can also check your voter registration online.
returned by mail must be received by the Elections Department on or before 8 p.m.
on election night. Vote-by-Mail ballots received after 8:00 p.m. election night will
not be counted. Postmarks do not count. You
may also return your ballot to any polling site in
if my ballot doesn't come?
Check your ballot status online or call our office to find out when it was mailed. If you have not received your ballot within a week after it was mailed, we will check your registration, track your ballot and send you a replacement ballot if necessary.
will be out of town when the ballots are mailed. How do I get a ballot?
Your may request that your ballot be sent to the address where you will be, vote it and mail it back from there. Call the Elections Department for instructions. You may have to complete a 2nd issue form if your original ballot was already mailed.
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You may drop your
ballot off at the Elections Department Ballot Drop-Box at
On Election Day,
you may return your ballot to the Elections Department or any polling site in
I lost the Vote-by-Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
Yes. Call the Elections Department at (530)225-5730 and request that a second ballot be sent to you or complete the 2nd issue form available online. You must sign and return the 2nd Issue form sent to you stating that you have lost or did not receive your Vote-by-Mail ballot. Upon receipt of the 2nd Issue form, a 2nd ballot will be sent to you.
You may come into the Elections Department to sign the form and get another ballot.
You may also go to your regular polling site and vote a provisional ballot on Election Day.I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
If you state on your application that the mail is slow or difficult in the country that you are in and you need to receive the Vote-by-Mail ballot earlier than 29 days before an election, you may receive a special Vote-by-Mail ballot that can be sent out as early as 60 days prior to an election.
If you are going to be out of the country for any length of time, you should register to vote on the FVAP (Federal Voting Assistance Program) website.If I request a Vote-by-Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at my regular polling site?
Yes, but you must bring your Vote-by-Mail ballot with you and give it to the poll worker with the envelope before voting at the polling site. The ballot at the polling site will be the same type as the one you received in the mail.
If you are unable to surrender your Vote-by-Mail ballot, you may still cast a provisional ballot at your polling site which will be counted after it can be determined that you have not also voted a Vote-by-Mail ballot.How are Vote-by-Mail ballots counted?
In general, Vote-by-Mail Ballots are counted in the same manner as regular ballots cast at a polling site. Once it is determined that the signature on the Vote-by-Mail Ballot return envelope matches that of the voter on his or her voter registration card, the voter is given credit for voting. The ballot and the envelope are separated. The ballot is then intermingled anonymously with other ballots in order to preserve the voter's right to secrecy.
Vote-by-Mail ballots are the first reported in the election night returns. These, however, are not a complete total and reflect only those Vote-by-Mail ballots returned prior to Election Day. Those ballots received prior to Election Day can be "processed" (opened and prepared for counting) as early as 11 days prior to the election.
A substantial number of Vote-by-Mail ballots are returned at the polls on Election Day (these ballots must also have their signatures verified). These ballots are likely to be reported in the vote totals later during the post election process.
does the Elections Office make sure voters don't vote more than once?
When a voter applies for a Vote-by-Mail ballot, it is recorded in the voter’s individual record. When the list of voters for the polls is printed, Vote-by-Mail voters are indicated by the words, "Vote-by-Mail" next to their names. The office gives an updated list of voters voting by mail to all poll workers on the weekend before the election. If a voter with the words, "Vote-by-Mail" next to his/her name goes to the polls, the poll worker will ask for the Vote-by-Mail ballot. If the voter doesn't have it, he/she must vote a provisional ballot.
you count all of the ballots that come by mail, or do you just count them when there
is a close race?
We count every Vote-by-Mail ballot as long as we can match the voter's signature with the signature on the voter's registration card.
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if I forget to sign my return envelope?
If we get your ballot at least two weeks before the election and you have forgotten to sign the return envelope, we will mail it back to you and ask you to sign and return it.
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will I get information about candidates and measures?
You will receive voter information for all local candidates and measures with your ballot. In a statewide election, your household will also receive a State Pamphlet with information about State propositions and candidates. You may also visit our website for links to information about candidates and measures and the CA Secretary of State website at www.sos.gov/elections.
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