The following is a guide that I shared with my workplace on Oct. 20 and am recording here in case it can be useful to anyone else.
1. Today [Oct. 20] is the recommended deadline for sending in your ballot by mail.
2. Don’t worry: There are other ways to vote, including through official ballot drop boxes.
3. Questions? I’m hosting Voting Made Easy Office Hours on Zoom today, from 1pm to 5pm. Drop in at any time with any questions, or just to fill out your ballot in a friendly environment. We won’t talk about which candidates we’re choosing, or how we’re voting on propositions, but we can talk about logistical things like when and where to turn in ballots, how to find a voting guide that you vibe with for the more esoteric parts of the ballot, and more.
This year, all registered California voters were sent a vote-by-mail ballot. That means it’s more accurate to say that November 3 is the deadline than it is to call it Election Day. All of October up through November 3 is Election Day!
What follows is some info about how to turn your ballot in, how to vote if you didn’t receive one, and some voter guides that can demystify state and local races.
Perhaps the most important part of all of this: If you have any questions at all, or would like to walk through any part of this with someone, please ask me. If I don’t know, I can find out, and I would be delighted to help!
In addition to the presidential election, your ballot is chock-full of vital state and local races and propositions. These smaller and less immediately clear ballot items can be critically important; for example, if you rent, or if the school’s recent Cost of Living survey has you thinking about housing costs in California, Prop 21 will be of particular interest to you. Both the LA Tenants’ Union and landlords statewide have taken strong, opposing stances on it.
Am I registered to vote?
Check your voter status here: https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/
Where can I vote?
Enter your address here to find your nearest location.
USPS recommends allowing 14 days for a mailed-in ballot, so if it’s after October 20, voting in person or turning in your ballot at an official drop box listed on https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/ is your best bet. (Using that site will help you to avoid unofficial ballot boxes if you wish to do so.)
I want to vote early.
An excellent idea! Visit https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/ to find your nearest location. You can vote TODAY, and I suggest it. The earlier the better.
What if it’s after October 20, or I’m concerned about the mail?
Drop your ballot off in person! Find your nearest location at https://caearlyvoting.sos.ca.gov/.
What if I’m concerned about intimidation at the polls?
Vote well before Nov. 3, and at an off-peak time if possible.
What if I’m having a hard time getting to a ballot drop box, or someone I know is?
On the back of the ballot’s return envelope, a voter can legally authorize someone else to return their ballot for them. (See attached image for an example.)
How do I know where my ballot is and whether it’s been counted?
Visit WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to sign up for updates!
Who’s funding what?
The CA Secretary of State’s site and Cal-Access.com provide info on who is funding which candidates and ballot measures. These search tools aren’t as user-friendly as I would like. If you have questions, let me know — I will do my best to get to the bottom of it!
As in all parts of life, view marketing campaigns skeptically, perhaps especially the ones that claim to protect vulnerable populations. The people most able to afford lots of glossy mailers and big billboard ads are rarely the ones who most need change or have the most to lose.
Can I get a helpful voting guide?
I’ve tried to represent a range of views here, including both major political parties, our local paper, and a few smaller groups. Links to the group’s platform/core principles are included where applicable.
- The Los Angeles Times (and info on voting)
- The California Democratic Party (principles)
- The California Republican Party (principles)
- Democratic Socialists of America — Los Angeles (principles)
- The California Libertarian Party (principles)
- The Sierra Club: local endorsements and congressional endorsements (environmental conservation; principles)
- ISideWith.com offers a 2020 voter quiz to determine which candidates best suit your beliefs and priorities. (I found that link through Teaching Tolerance’s toolkit for polarized classrooms.)
If you know of a guide that might be a useful addition, send me a link and I’ll edit this post to add it.
Thank you for reading, and happy voting!