Five Tips for California Voters

Preparing to vote in Election 2016
Preparing to vote in Election 2016

With so many propositions on the ballot and airwaves filled with political ads, voters need help more than ever to get ready and vote in this election. Here are five tips courtesy of the California Voter Foundation (CVF) to help everyone vote with confidence.

1. You don't have to vote on everything on the ballot.

It's OK to leave some contests blank. Voting is not a test. The important thing is to be a voter and cast a ballot. Even if you just want to vote in the Presidential Election, or if you want to skip that contest entirely, the votes you do cast will still be counted. You can write a candidates' name in the presidential race, but it will only be counted if that person is on the list of official write-in candidates (look on this page of the Secretary of State's site for the list once it's published). 

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2.  Your party preference doesn't matter this election. 

You can vote for any candidate of any party in the November 8th General Election. It is only the Primary election, which California held in June, where your choices among the presidential candidates are restricted based on your party preference. 

3.  Go online for information to help you vote.

There are many reliable, nonpartisan election web sites with just what you need to make your choices, especially on the 17 propositions on the California ballot. In addition to Ballot Brief's Quick Guide to a Long List of Props, there are sites like VotersEdge.org, Calvoter.org and CaliforniaChoices.org. The Proposition Song and SeePolitical provide multimedia music and video resources that both inform and entertain. For a full round-up, see CVF's list of Top Ten Online Voter Resources

4. If you are voting by mail, get it in early with correct postage and remember to sign the ballot envelope.  

The US Postal Service advises voters to mail their ballots by Nov. 1 - a full week before the election - to ensure timely delivery. Most counties require voters to pay their own postage, and in some counties more than one stamp is required.* This election, eight counties - San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Marin, Plumas, Alpine and Sierra - provide postage-paid envelopes to all vote-by-mail voters. Typically ballots with no or insufficient postage still make it through the mail since counties cover insufficient postage costs but don't put your ballot at risk of being delayed.

You can also return your completed ballot in person to your county election office or official dropoff locations, or at your polling place on Election Day. Whether returning in person or by mail, be sure to sign your ballot envelope. If you registered online, your driver's license signature is the one counties will use to verify so be sure your signature is similar to the one on your license. 

5. Your county election office can answer most questions.

Never got your mail ballot or sample ballot? Need a replacement ballot? Not sure if you are registered or where to go to vote? Your county election office is where you can find answers to most voting questions. County election offices also allow any voter to request, complete and cast a vote-by-mail ballot in person during regular business hours anytime until November 7th for those who wish to vote early. 

CVF's Directory of County Election Offices provides each county's contact information and web site link, along with direct links to online tools you can use to look up your sample ballot, vote-by-mail or registration status, or find your polling place. 


*NOTE: According to the L.A. County Registrar's office, the postage required for a Vote by Mail ballot is a single first-class stamp.

The California Voter Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with a goal of advancing the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process. 

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