Requirements To Register to Vote:
- be a United States citizen
- be 18 years of age on or before the day of the election (you can pre-register at 16)
- be a resident of the State of California
- not be in prision or on parole for the conviction of a felony
- not judically determined to be incompetent to vote
You do not need to know how to read or write in English or any other language. No tests are given when you register to vote.
How To Register to Vote
To register to vote you must complete a brief voter registration application on paper or online. When you register online, the system will search the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database for your California driver license or identification card number, date of birth, and last four digits of your social security number. If your information is found and you authorize elections officials' use of your DMV signature, an electronic image of your DMV signature will be added to your voter registration application after you click "submit" at the end of the online application. If there is no signature on file with DMV, all of your information will be transmitted to your county elections office; you will just need to click "print," sign the paper application, and mail it. Your county elections official will contact you when your voter registration application is approved or when more information is needed to confirm your eligibility.
You can also register to vote using paper registration forms which are available in public libraries, post offices, government offices and the DMV. If you call your County Election Office, they will mail you a registration form.
You must provide the following information on the Voter Registration Form:
- Your full name - first, middle, last.
- Your complete residence address - not a post office box or a place of business.
- The address where you get your mail (if different from your residence) - this may be a post office box.
- Your complete date of birth - month/day/year.
- Your California drivers' license number (or identification card number) or the last four digits of your Social Security Number (SSN). If you do not include this information you will be required to provide identification the first time you vote.
- The name of the state in the U.S.A. or foreign country where you were born (not on all forms).
- Your political party preference - you may check "No, I do not wish to register with a political party" if you wish. View our Political Parties Fast Facts for help!
- The address at which you were last registered to vote (if any).
- The language in which you prefer to receive election materials - language choices will vary by county.
Information on the Voter Registration form that is optional:
- Your telephone number. This number becomes a public record.
- Your email address.
- Mr. Mrs., Ms., or Miss.
You will receive a notice by mail that you are registered to vote. If you do not receive the notice within three weeks of mailing your registration form, call your County Election Official and ask if you are registered to vote.
What is Your Residence?
Where are you legally entitled to register to vote?
The statute refers to your "domicile" - the place where your family lives, where you physically reside, the address on your driver's license, where you claim your homeowner's property tax exemption or renter's tax credit, the place where you intend to return whenever you are gone from it. You can only have one domicile, even if you own more than one house. See the California Election Code for more information about domiciles.
- If you are a college student living away from home you may register at your college residence address (on or off campus) or at your permanent home address, but only at one of these places.
- If you own more than one residence you must decide which one is your "domicile: and register to vote at only one address.
- If you are homeless you may register as long as you maintain a fixed location where you can receive mail and at which you can be assigned to a precinct.
Re-Registering to Vote
You must re-register to vote (by filling out new registration form) if:
- You change your address within the county or move to another county in California
- You change your name
- You wish to affiliate (join) a political party or change your political party affiliation
- You want to change where your ballot is being mailed
If you move within the same county, you may also send a letter to the County Election Official giving your old and new address and signing your name as you are registered.
If you are living at the same address, you do not need to re-register if you miss one election or many elections.
Pre-Registration for 16 & 17 Year Olds
You can also pre-register to vote at 16! More from the CA SOS.
Are you registered to vote? Only your county's elections office can tell you. To find out or to answer any other questions about your registration, call or email your county election office. Some county election web sites allow voters to check their registration and political party affiliation electronically.
You may register at any time, but you must be registered on or before 15 days prior to the election in order to vote. A postmark on the 15th day prior to the election is acceptable.
If you register between 29 and 15 days priorto the election you will be sent a sample ballot only if there is time to process your registration. Otherwise you will receive a post card giving your polling place location. Sample ballots will be available at your polling place or online from your County Election Office website.
- There is an exception for persons who were naturalized after the 15th day prior to an election. At any time between their naturalization and close of polls on election day they may go to the County Election Official's Office, provide proof of citizenship and a declaration of residency, and then they may both register and vote.
- There is also an exception for people who establish residency in California after the 15th day prior to an election. Up through the 7th day before the election, these new residents may go to the County Election Official’s office and vote a special ballot for President and Vice President of the United States only.
Voter registration is free. No fee may be charged for voter registration. No postage is required to mail the voter registration application to the County Election Official.
Specific Questions for Voters
To review how to use your county's voting system, click this resource from the Secretary of State. For more detailed answers to frequently asked questions about voting, go to the Secretary of State Website or contact your County Election Official's Office.
Overseas and Military Registration
There is a special form for registering to vote and for requesting a vote-by-mail ballot if you are living in a foreign country on election day or if you are in the military service. After you fill out the form and sign it you must mail it to your County Election Official.
The Voter Registration/Vote-by-Mail form is available online at the Federal Voting Assistance Program. California is one of the states which will accept a printed copy of this online form. The form is also available at American Embassies and Consulates in postcard form.
A request for a vote-by-mail ballot from an overseas voter is regarded and processed as a request for permanent vote-by-mail status.
See Military & Overseas Voter Information (California Secretary of State).
See also Overseas Vote Foundation.
|Get Help Understanding Political Parties using our Fast Facts||1.5 MB|