It’s National Voter Registration Day. Here’s how to register for the general election

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You can register to vote by filling out an online form, calling 800-345-VOTE to get a registration form mailed to your address, or picking up a form that’s available at most DMVs, post offices, public libraries and government offices. Photo by Amy Ta.

September 22 is National Voter Registration Day. There are less than four weeks left to register to vote, and only six weeks before all the ballots have to be submitted. So let’s talk about how to participate in the 2020 election. 

How do I register to vote

You have until October 19 to do that. Here’s how: 

  • Take a few minutes to fill out the form on registertovote.ca.gov
  • Call (800) 345-VOTE to get a registration form mailed to your address.
  • Pick up a registration form. Most DMVs, post offices, public libraries and government offices will have them. Then you mail it to your county’s office. Every California county address is listed here.

What if I moved since I last voted?

It’s time to re-register. If you’re not sure where you’re registered, you can always check your voter status to make sure you’re all set before it’s time to vote.

What if I’m already registered?

You’ll get your mail-in ballot by October 5. And if you want to vote in person, select voting centers will open on October 24. All voting centers will be open October 30.

I got a mail-in ballot. What if I didn’t ask for one of those?

Everyone gets one this year in California. Thanks to the risks of public gathering brought by COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that requires counties to provide a mail-in ballot to every registered voter. 

That doesn’t mean you have to vote by mail. You can still vote in person at a voting center, or drop your mail-in ballot off at a voting center or a ballot drop box.

If October 5 rolls around and I don’t get my ballot, then what?

Then you probably want to check with your county office to figure out why that happened. Each county’s contact information is listed here.

What happens if I don’t register to vote by October 19? 

You can register all the way up to Election Day and make sure your vote is counted. If you register after the deadline, you’ll fill out a provisional ballot. That just means the county has to verify that you’re registered before your ballot is tabulated. It likely won’t get counted until after Election Day. 

How do I make sure my vote gets counted? 

California has an online tracking system that lets voters keep track of their mail-in ballots. It updates when the voter’s ballot is sent to them, when it arrives at their home, when it arrives back to the county office, and when it is tabulated. You can also find your county’s tracking system to check the status of your mail-in or provisional ballot here.

Where is my nearest voting center?

You can look up the nearest voting center or drop box, but much of that information is coming soon. Los Angeles County, for example, promises locations will be released 30-40 days before the end of the election, on November 3.

How early should I get my ballot in?

That varies by state, but luckily Californians have more time than most votres. California has a new law that requires counties to accept mail-in ballots postmarked by November 3 up to 17 days after the final day to vote. 

If you’re still nervous, drop it off at a voting center or a ballot drop box on or before November 3, or you can authorize a friend to drop it off for you by filling out the authorization section on the ballot.