Voting in a Pandemic: California’s Plan Explained

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There is a lot of confusion surrounding how voting will take place in California in the upcoming election. The Secretary of State’s Office and each of the 58 County Elections Offices are working tirelessly to ensure that the vote in November will be as accurate as ever while creating simple options to keep voters safe during the pandemic.

This year each registered California voter will have our ballot mailed to us. This is to give us the option of voting from home. The safest and easiest way to vote is simply to fill out the ballot at home and return it in the mail. If for any reason you need or want to vote in person you will still be able to do so.

Tips on Voting from Home:

  • The return envelopes must be signed by the registered voter. Signatures will be checked to verify the identity of each voter. This means that you cannot sign for someone else. If you use a stamp or mark an X when you sign official documents, you must sign your ballot envelope that way too. Signing the outside of the ballot envelope will prevent voter fraud.
  • If you use assistive technology like a screen reader you can contact your County Elections Office and request Remote Accessible Vote-By-Mail (RAVBM). This is a format available in all California counties which allows people to use their own assistive technology to read and mark their ballot on their computers. It means that you can vote privately and independently at home. RAVBM is NOT online voting.
  • Ballots must be postmarked on or before November 3rd. Given the current slowdown of post offices California ballots that are postmarked on or before November 3rd can arrive up to 17 days after November 3rd and will still be counted.
  • If you do not want to mail your ballot you do not have to! You can fill it out at home, place it in the envelope, sign the envelope, and then take it to a secure drop box near you. Each county will have drop box locations which will be open to the public for at least a few days before the election. Your ballot will explain where the drop box is near you, or you can contact your County Elections Office to inquire.

If You Want or Need to Vote in Person You Can:

  • Every county will have polling places operating at least three days leading up to November 3rd. Some counties will have polling place operating for even longer. The time will vary from county to county, but November 3rd will be the last day to vote in person everywhere.
  • Many counties are adjusting their polling place locations to sites which are safer during the pandemic than sites they have used in the past. If you will be voting in person, please check your ballot to find your polling place or find your polling place by checking the Secretary of State’s Website.
  • Some people will need to vote in person to use specific accessible voting equipment. Each county will have accessible voting equipment (along with standard voting booths) available on election day.
  • Some people will need to vote in person if they lose or mess up their ballot. Polling places will be able to issue provisional ballots if you need a replacement.
  • Some people prefer to vote in person. This is fine! Each county is working hard to set up polling places which are as safe as possible during the pandemic. You will be expected to follow social distancing guidelines when you vote, but it is your right to vote in person if you would like to.

Hopefully this helps clear up some of the confusion. As always check back here for more voting information, and check for in depth information for California voters with disabilities.

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