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Voting & Elections Toolkits

Voting and advocacy resources by librarians for librarians

Voter Registration in California




  • Voter registration deadlines are determined by the date of the election.  The deadline to register to vote is 15 days before the date of the election.
  • The last day to register to vote for the March 5, 2024, Primary Election is February 20, 2024.
  • The last day to register to vote for the November 5, 2024, General Election is October 21, 2024.
  • Voters who miss the deadline may complete the conditional registration process up to Election Day and cast a provisional ballot.
  • Registration Guidelines

Election Calendar

Online registration

To use the online voter registration system you must have a current and valid driver’s license, learner’s permit or non-driver photo identification card issued by the CA Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If the voter does not have a signature on file with DMV, they must print the application, sign the paper copy, and mail it to their county elections official.

Mail-in registration

Paper forms can be found at county elections offices, libraries, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post offices. Voters can request paper voter registration applications be mailed to them by calling (800) 345-VOTE(8683) or emailing Elections Division staff through the online form.

Refer to the box below for information about ID requirements.

Choosing a political party   

You may choose a political party affiliation when you register, but it is not required.No Party Preference (NPP) voters get a “non-partisan” ballot in presidential primary elections. (See more in “Primaries vs. general elections” box.)                 

Updating registration      

To update registration after a move, name change, or change of political party affiliation, re-register to vote.

Cancelling registration

County elections offices maintain the voter rolls. To cancel registration, the voter completes the California Voter Registration Cancellation Request Form (PDF) and submits it to their county elections office.

County elections offices

ID Requirements for California Voters

ID Requirements for Registration

Online Registration

For online voter registration, a California driver license or state ID, the last four digits of the voter’s social security information, and the voter’s date of birth is required.

Voters who are enrolled in California's confidential address program, Safe At Home, please do not apply to register to vote using the above site. Contact the Safe At Home program toll-free at (877) 322-5227 or by the Safe At Home email form.

Mail-in Registration

To register with a paper voter registration application, voters can pick one up at their county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post office. It is important that the voter registration application be filled out completely and be postmarked or hand-delivered to your county elections office at least 15 days before the election.

To request a paper voter registration application be mailed to you, please call (800) 345-VOTE(8683) or email Elections Division staff through their form.

ID Requirements for Voting

First-Time Voters

In most cases, voters, including first-time voters are not required to show ID, however, it is a good idea for first time voters to bring ID. In particular, “[a] poll worker may ask to see your identification if you mailed your voter registration application and did not include your driver license number, California identification number, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.” Acceptable ID includes photo ID such as “passport, driver license, official California identification card, or student identification card” OR “A copy of a recent utility bill, the county Voter Information Guide you received from your county elections office, or another document sent to you by a government agency”

All Other Voters

In most other cases, voters are not required to show ID at the polling place.

More information on ID requirements.

Where to get an ID

Department of Motor Vehicles

If an applicant for a driver’s license or ID card is eligible to vote in California, they will be registered to vote automatically, unless they opt out.


Obtaining a Driver’s License

Casting a Ballot in California

Important Dates

  • Primary Election: March 5, 2024.
  • General Election: November 5, 2024
  • Counties that have implemented the California Voter’s Choice Act will have vote centers that open 10 days before election day. More information on the Voter’s Choice Act

Voting by Mail

Voting by mail?

  •  Instead of going to the polls on Election Day, you may vote using the vote-by-mail ballot that will be sent to you. Voters may return ballots by:
    • mailing it to your county elections official
      • Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 7 days after Election Day.  
      • If you are not sure your vote-by-mail ballot will arrive in time if mailed, bring it to any polling place in the state between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
    • returning it in person to any polling place within the state or the office of your county elections official;
      • Vote-by-mail ballots that are personally delivered must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
    • dropping your ballot off at a drop-off location or into a ballot drop box within the state; or
      • Vote-by-mail ballots that are personally delivered to a ballot drop-off location must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.
    • authorizing someone to return the ballot on your behalf.
      • Anyone may return your ballot for you, as long as they do not get paid on a per ballot basis. In order for your ballot to be counted, you must fill out the authorization section found on the outside of your ballot envelope.

More information on voting by mail.


Polling places and hours

  • Use the Polling Place Locator to find your polling place
  • For any election, polls in California are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Time off to vote: California Elections Code section 14000 allows workers up to two hours off, without a loss of pay, to vote if they do not have enough time to do so in their non-work hours. The law requires workers to notify their employers two working days before the election if they need to take time off to vote.

Help for voters with disabilities


Voters may enter their zip code at Vote411 to find their local ballots

Sample ballots


Primaries vs. general elections

  • Primary elections are conducted to select each party’s candidates in the general election.
  • In California voters who have not stated a party preference (No Party Preference or NPP) will receive a “non-partisan” ballot that does not include presidential candidates. A nonpartisan ballot contains only the names of candidates for voter-nominated offices and local nonpartisan offices and measures. However, NPP voters may vote in a political party's partisan election if the political party authorizes it. An NPP voter may request the ballot of one of the political parties that authorizes them to vote in the presidential primary election.
  • In a general election, voters are not required to have a party affiliation.


Offices/Measures That May Appear on the Ballot

Federal (even years)

President/Vice-President (elected every four years; next election in 2024)

Senator (elected every six years for staggered terms; next election in 2024)

Representative (elected every two years)

State (even years)

Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Comptroller, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization Members (elected every four years; next election in 2026)

State Senator (elected every two years)

State Representative (elected every two years)

Statewide ballot measures

Municipal (even or odd years)

Which positions are elected depends on county. Examples of offices/measures that may be on ballot include:

School Board and other boards and commissions


City Clerk

City Attorney

Treasurer-Tax Collector

City Council

Local ballot measures

Who are the candidates, and what else is on the ballot?

Important Dates

Primary Election Day is March 5, 2024.

General Election Day is November 5, 2024.

Dates of statewide elections can be found on the Secretary of State’s website

Dates of local elections can be found on the websites of each county’s elections office

Who conducts elections?

  • The California Secretary of State oversees statewide and local elections
  • County Elections Offices maintain voter rolls, prepares ballots and administers balloting for each county

Voter Bill of Rights

Where to go with complaints about candidates or how elections are conducted

The California Secretary of State’s Investigative Services handles reports of Elections Code violations. The Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission handles complaints about violations of the Political Reform Act. Voters can report election related misinformation at

Campaign finance

The Secretary of State’s Political Reform Division provides access to information about campaign contributions and spending, and lobbying activity through the CAL-ACCESS website.

How to contact your elected officials:

Find your elected officials.

General Resources on Voting and Elections

General Resources on Voting and Elections

Election Protection Hotlines

1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682) (en Español)

1-888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683) (Asian multilingual assistance)

1-844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287) (Arabic)

Voter Registration & Election Day Resources

Find useful voter information including:

  • Local Election Office and Contact Information
  • Address, Telephone and Email for Local Election Offices
  • Upcoming Federal Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Upcoming State Election Dates and Deadlines
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Identification Requirements
  • Voter Materials Transmission Options
  • State Lookup Tools – Am I Registered? Where’s my Ballot?

Population-Specific information and Resources

Voting Rights: Laws, Cases, Policy

Voter Engagement

Voter Education

Campaign Finance/Funding Information

Primary Sources, Lesson Plans & Exhibits


Librarians from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT), a Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA), created these reference guides. These guides are intended for informational purposes only and are not in any way intended to be legal advice.

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These guides are designated with a Creative Commons license and re-use and modification for educational purposes is encouraged.

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