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    What to Know About Voting by Mail in California

    Credit…Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    Good morning.

    Election Day is less than 40 days away, and if you are a registered voter in California, a mail-in ballot will be coming your way soon.

    California is one of nine states automatically mailing ballots to registered voters this year, and mail-in ballots have been widely used in the state, even before the coronavirus pandemic. In the presidential primary in March, 3 out of 4 Californians received their ballots in the mail.

    Here’s what you need to know about voting by mail in the coming election.

    County elections officials will begin sending ballots to the state’s 21 million registered voters no later than Oct. 5. If you are an active registered voter, you do not need to request a mail-in ballot for this election.

    However, if you have moved or sat out the last few elections, it’s important to check your voter status to ensure you will automatically receive a ballot in the mail.

    If you are an inactive voter, you can register to vote here. You have until Oct. 27 to then request a mail-in ballot.

    This year, as the Postal Service grapples with unusual postal delays, worries over ballot deliveries abound.

    Voters will be able to track the status of their mail-in ballots using the “Where’s My Ballot?” tool. Notifications are sent when a ballot has been mailed to a voter’s address, when a cast ballot has arrived at the county official’s office and when it has been counted.

    No, you have until Oct. 19 to register online, which is recommended if you want to avoid going to an elections office or polling place on Election Day.

    You can also register to vote by mailing in an application, which must be postmarked by Oct. 19.

    If you miss the Oct. 19 deadline, however, California allows residents to register and vote through Same Day Voter Registration available from Oct. 20 through Election Day. You will need to visit a polling place or county elections office to complete registration this way.

    You can peruse the online Voter Guide before a printed one comes in the mail sometime ahead of the general election.

    Sign up for On Politics to get the latest election and politics news and insights.

    This year, California voters have a number of propositions to vote on, with a few likely to have big effects on the economy, affirmative action and housing. For a detailed briefing on this year’s ballot propositions and races, you can consult this 2020 Election Guide by CalMatters.

    If you choose to return your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked by Nov. 3 and election officials must receive it by Nov. 20.

    In the chance that there are postal delays, sending in your ballot as early as possible is advised. This also leaves time for officials to review your ballot signature and send it back to correct any discrepancies.

    If you are not sure if your ballot will be received by then, you can also drop off your mail-in ballot at a polling place, county elections office or a county drop box anytime before 8 p.m. on Election Day. Officials have said that polling places will have separate lines for people dropping off ballots.

    You can also authorize someone to return the ballot on your behalf, as long as they do not get paid on a per ballot basis.

    • Oct. 5: County election officials will begin sending out mail-in ballots. Also, early in-person voting begins.

    • Oct. 19: The last day to submit voter registration applications online or by mail. You can still register to vote up to Election Day but you must go to your county elections office or polling place to register in person.

    • Oct. 27: The deadline to request a mail-in ballot.

    • Nov. 3: Election Day. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by this date.


    Credit…Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press
    • A California woman was charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon on Saturday after driving a car into a crowd of protesters in Yorba Linda. [The New York Times]

    • The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings across the state as windy and dry conditions are expected to raise wildfire concerns through Monday. [NPR]

    • Immigrants have managed to continue sending substantial amounts of money home, even after the coronavirus pushed their own jobs and earnings into free fall. [The New York Times]

    • Berkeley will ban large grocery stores from displaying junk food like candy, chips and soda near checkout lanes next year. [Eater]

    • California will allow public health officials to participate in a program to keep their home addresses confidential, after several public health officers received threats during the pandemic. [KHN]

    • Ocean heat waves linked to climate change are disrupting the food webs of sea lions and other marine creatures. [The New York Times]

    • At the University of California, Berkeley, athletes, coaches and administrators face the most complicated puzzle in sports: the return of college athletics. They are allowing The Times an inside look at their journey’s ups and downs. [The New York Times]


    California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

    Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

    California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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