How to Vote:
California Voting Basics

Each state has different felony disenfranchisement laws, which can cause confusion and lead some eligible voters to not participate out of fear of making a mistake. In California, advocates are fighting to make sure the rules are clear.

Here in California, the only time you are not allowed to vote is if you are currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.

You CAN VOTE if you are a US citizen and resident of California, 18 or older on election day, and:

  • You are in county jail serving a misdemeanor or awaiting trial for any crime.
  • You are in jail as a condition of probation.
  • You are serving a felony county jail sentence under realignment.
  • You are currently on probation, parole, mandatory supervision, or post-release community supervision.
  • You have a juvenile adjudication.
  • You are not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.

Step 1: Register!

Before casting your ballot, you must have a current voter registration in the county where you usually live. You’ll need to update your registration if you have been released from prison, moved, or changed your name since you last voted. Check your voter registration status and register to vote online.

You can register online or by submitting a paper registration form until 15 days before an election. After that, you can register and vote in person at your local voting location. 

In general, you do NOT need photo identification to vote in California. However, if you did not provide either your driver’s license, state ID, or Social Security number when registering to vote AND it is your first time voting in a federal election, you’ll need to show documentation of your name and address. Click here to learn more about acceptable forms of identification.

Step 2: Vote!

In California, you have choices for how to vote:

  1. Vote-By-Mail ballot.
    All registered voters will be mailed a ballot before elections. You can choose to return a completed vote-by-mail ballot by:
    • Mailing it to your local elections office, or
    • Dropping it off at a ballot drop box, local elections office, polling place, or vote center.
    • Remember to sign your vote-by-mail envelope and return it before polls close on Election Day. You can track your ballot here to make sure it’s counted. No postage needed!
  2. Voting in-person at your local polling place, vote center, or county elections office. Your polling place or nearest vote center will be listed on the sample ballot you receive in the mail once you are registered to vote as well as on your county elections office’s website.

You can also check here online or call your county elections office to find out where you vote.

Click here to learn more about your voting options.

Never leave the polling place without voting. If someone tells you that you can’t vote for any reason, request a “provisional ballot” and vote as you planned. In California, provisional ballots are counted after elections officials have confirmed that you are registered to vote and that you did not vote elsewhere in that election.If you feel you are being harassed or someone is telling you that you cannot vote, please call (866) OUR-VOTE (687-8683).