If you’re a California voter, here’s some important information to help you exercise this essential right.

1. Can I take a ballot selfie?

As of Jan 1, 2017, ballot selfies are now legal!1AB 1494

2. Voter Eligibility

Who is eligible to vote? 

In order to vote, you must be registered to vote Man Voting in California electionsat least 15 days before the election (you only need to register once and then you are registered permanently, unless you move). You are eligible to register to vote in California if you are a U.S. citizen, California resident, at least 18 years old and not in prison or on parole for conviction of a felony.2felony=any crime involving jail time of 1 year or more. see glossary

It is illegal to claim you are eligible to vote if you aren’t eligible for any reason.

3. Procedures at the polling place

What if they don’t have my name on the voting list when I go to vote? 

If your name is not listed on the voter list, you have the right to cast a “provisional ballot,” which means that your vote will only count if officials can later find you on the full voter list.

When the polls close, does that mean all voting stops immediately?

No. As long as you are in line at the polling place before the official polls closing time, you may cast your ballot.

Will my ballot be kept secret? Yes, the government is required to keep your ballot secret.

What if someone tries to intimidate me at the voting booth? You have the right to protection from intimidation or harassment in casting your ballot.3This is also protected by federal law: U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 245

What if I make a mistake on my ballot?

If you make a mistake on your ballot and haven’t put it in the box yet, you have the right to receive a new ballot (but once you drop your ballot in, you can’t re-vote). Vote-by-mail voters may also request and receive a new ballot if they return their ballot to an elections official before the polls close.

Can I get help voting? If you need it, you have the right to receive assistance. You can also bring someone to help you vote,4Voting Rights Act Section 208 but it can’t be your employer or union representative.

Can anyone come with me to vote?

Generally anyone other than your employer or union representative.

Do I have to show ID to vote?

In most cases, you are NOT required to show ID at your polling place. However, if you are a newly registered voter, you may be asked to show some form of identification. But you have the right to cast a provisional ballot even if you don’t provide the documentation.

Acceptable forms of identification: passport, driver license, student ID, copy of recent utility bill, the sample ballot booklet you received from your county elections office, or another document sent to you by a government agency.

4. Voting by Mail

Am I allowed to vote by mail? You have the right to vote by mail if you have requested and received a mail-in ballot. Anyone can be a permanent vote-by-mail voter; no special qualifications are necessary.

When do I need to mail my ballot by?

Your mail-in ballot must be postmarked by election day and arrive within 3 business days in order to count. But you can also drop it off at a polling place on election day (see below).

Can I bring my mail-in ballot to a polling place?

Yes. You have the right to return a completed vote-by-mail ballot to ANY voting location in your county.

If I’m a vote by mail voter, can I vote instead at the polling place?

Yes, but if you don’t turn in your mail-in ballot, you will need to vote by provisional ballot.

5. Language

You have the right to election materials in your language, if there are enough residents in your neighborhood to justify printing them. You can also bring someone to help translate the ballot for you.5Voting Rights Act Section 208

6. Ensuring election legitimacy

  • You have the right to ask questions of elections officials about election procedures and to receive an answer or be directed to the appropriate official for an answer. However, if persistent questioning disrupts the ability to do their duties, officials may stop responding.
  • You have the right to observe the elections process.
  • Reporting suspicious activity. You have the right to report any illegal or fraudulent activity to a local elections official or to the Secretary of State’s Office.

7. Your personal voter information & privacy

Is my voter information private?

  • When you register to vote, the information you include in your registration will be used by elections officials to send you official information on the voting process, such as the location of your polling place and the official voter guide.
  • The government may also give this information to a candidate for office, a ballot measure committee, or other person for election, scholarly, journalistic, political, or governmental purposes, as determined by the Secretary of State. But they can’t release your driver license or social security number.
  • Companies are not allowed to use this information for commercial purposes, and it is a misdemeanor crime if they do.

Is there any way to prevent my voter information from being released to anyone?

If you face a life-threatening situation you may qualify for confidential voter status. For more information, contact the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program toll-free at (877) 322-5227 or visit Safe at Home.

8. Limits on voting rules

Federal law prohibits all literacy tests or any “proof of good moral character” as a way to determine eligibility for voting. Also, state governments may not place any restrictions on voting that would likely have the effect of limiting voting by racial minorities. The courts have applied this to various types of restrictions, for example, striking down certain onerous Voter ID laws (but some Voter ID laws have been upheld).6Voting Rights Act of 1965, codified at 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a); U.S. Constitution, 14th amendment

States may prohibit felons from voting.7Richardson v Ramirez (1974)


  • For more info, check out the California Secretary of State website.
  • If you believe you have been denied any of these rights, or you are aware of any election misconduct, or you just have an election related question, you can call the Secretary of State’s confidential toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).
  • If you have been subject to any intimidation, you can also contact the U.S. Department of Justice.

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