California Voters : Absentee Ballot Request

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Absentee Voting in California

Every state is handling the upcoming 2020 elections differently due to Covid-19. While some states are attempting to run in-person voting as normal, many have made changes to the overall process. California has taken a strong stance against in-person voting, and while it will still be offered in November, the state is pushing for as many voters as possible to utilize absentee ballots. Absentee ballots refer to a ballot that is cast by mail. In May, Governor Gavin Newsom passed Executive Order N-64-20. The order addressed the growing thread from Covid-19. It assured citizens the election would take place in November, but also made changes to how absentee ballots are cast in California.

Getting an Absentee Ballot in California

In California, all voters have the right to request an absentee ballot, without having to cite a reason. The executive order makes it even easier to vote by mail. As long as you are registered to vote in California, you will be sent an absentee ballot. The order does not say when the ballots will be sent out, but they must all be mailed to voters before the election on November 3rd.

If you want to register to vote in California, you must complete the registration 15 days before an election takes place. In order to participate in the presidential election, you must submit your registration no later than October 19th. You can register to vote by submitting an online application, or you can go to one of the following locations:

  • County election office.
  • Polling location.
  • Voting center.

Additionally, you can request a voting application by mail through these locations. Keep in mind, it takes time to process the request, so you do not want to wait until the last minute if you are requesting an application or submitting a completed application through the mail.

If you miss the normal voter registration deadline, there is the option for same day voter registration, also known as conditional voter registration. You can only complete this application in person, and you will not be eligible for automatically receiving an absentee ballot. If it is still 7 days before the election, you may request an absentee ballot, but you must make the request by visiting your country elections office in person.

Casting an Absentee Ballot in California

When you receive your absentee ballot, you are also provided a return envelope to cast your vote. The ballot also comes with a set of instructions, including the list of locations where you can send your ballot and the relevant deadlines. Once you complete the ballot, place it in the return envelope. When you prepare your return envelope, you are required to provide your signature. This is a security measure to prevent someone else from stealing your ballot and casting it on your behalf. Your signature is compared to the signature on file from your voter registration card.

In California, you can mail in your absentee ballot as late as the day of the election. However, any ballots that are not received by November 20th are not counted, no matter when the ballots are postmarked. In addition to mailing in your absentee ballot, there are also deposit boxes at polling stations or county offices where you can physically hand in your absentee ballot. If you are concerned about the security of your vote, but you want to avoid the potential crowds at a polling station, this is the recommended option.

Other Absentee Ballots

In California, military and oversea voters go through the same registration process and use the same deadlines as other absentee voters. The only difference is you can go through a different registration process if you are unable to contact your county office or cannot access the state online registration. You can request an absentee ballot by completing the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), which is available from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

If you are in the military, speak with your voting assistance officer to receive your application. If you are an overseas voter, you can request your application from the U.S. embassy or consulate. While the deadlines are the same, keep in mind there are much longer delivery times overseas. If you are worried about your ballot not arriving in time, you can fax your ballot to your county election official instead.

Preparing for the 2020 Election

Governor Newsom and Secretary of State Alex Padilla have been preparing for the presidential elections since early April. Over 80 election officials and experts were called in, dividing into smaller groups to prepare each county. One of the earliest measures was expanding absentee voting by passing an executive order, but election officials are still preparing physical polling locations.

The biggest challenge is finding suitable polling stations. In the past, polling stations were hosted at schools, senior citizens and even out of garages at private homes. Because of the virus, larger locations are a necessity, so voters have enough space to safely distance themselves.

Because there is an expected surge in absentee votes, there are additional security measures being used to protect mail in votes. Each voter will receive a specialized identification envelope. These envelopes contain a unique barcode, based on voter registration information. In addition to the signature requirements, this will prevent absentee ballots from being stolen, and it will also track votes to ensure voters do not try and vote by mail as well as casting a physical ballot.