CA Voting 101 – Lesson 5

Welcome to CA Voting 101—Lesson Five

Securing Your Mail-in Ballot

California is a “convenience voting” state. One element of that definition is that voters may request a mail-in ballot at any time for any reason. Voters may also request permanent vote by mail status.  DID YOU KNOW that the percentage of California voters who vote by mail on a permanent basis exceeds 50%? Election Integrity Project hopes, through continuing voter education, to reverse that trend. Lesson Six will give you the details of the reasons why using a mail ballot when you have another choice puts not only your own vote, but also fair election results in jeopardy. There are understandable reasons to cast a mail-in ballot.

  • Because of work, travel or physical and health considerations, you cannot get to your polling place on Election Day
  • You live in a precinct that contains fewer than 250 registered voters

If you do not fall into either of the two above categories, please pay close attention to Lesson Six of this series and then decide whether to rethink your choice.

Watch the calendar.

Mail-in ballots must be posted by the Elections Office 29 days before Election Day. If you DO use a mail-in ballot, you should receive it at least 26 days before Election Day. It is important to watch your calendar closely. If your ballot does not arrive on time, it is vital that you call your elections office immediately. They should invalidate your ballot in the system, and make arrangements to send you a new one. This way, if anyone has gained access to your ballot, it will be neutralized before it can be voted and submitted fraudulently.

Submit your ballot wisely.

Once you receive your ballot, you may submit it any time before or on Election Day. There are several ways to submit it, and they are NOT equal with regard to ballot security. You will want to submit your ballot in the safest possible way. In REVERSE order of ballot security: FIRST, you may mail your ballot through USPS or other postal service. This is the least secure way to submit your ballot.  (See Vote by Mail Concerns series at for further explanation.) SECOND, you may drop your ballot off at one of the community drop-off locations provided by your County Elections Office. The security of this method of submission varies according to your county; some counties have procedures in place that protect your ballot well, and others do not. Please investigate your county’s procedures before selecting this method by looking for the following:

  • Each drop-off box should be monitored by two representatives from your Registrar’s office.
  • Monitors should inspect the envelope of each ballot to be submitted to be sure that it is filled out correctly.
  • Rules for submitting multiple ballots should be the same as those at the polls on Election Day:
    • Voters must have signed the portion of the envelope that indicates their permission for a third-party to submit their ballot;
    • Submitters must also sign the envelope and indicate their relationship to the voter (only close relatives or a members of the voter’s household can lawfully submit a ballot that is not their own);
  • Ballot boxes should be in a secure location during the day, and locked up safely when the facility is closed.
  • TWO representatives from the County Elections Office should pick up submitted ballots as near to closing time as possible each day and transport them together to the Office.

Note: if you find yourself at a ballot drop-off location and you are concerned that proper procedures are not in place, contact your County Elections Office and the Election Integrity Project right away. If your county is carefully observing the procedures above, then this is one step better than submitting your ballot by mail. THIRD, you or your designee may submit your ballot on Election Day at any polling place within your county. This is the third best way to submit your ballot. FOURTH, you may take your ballot directly to the County Elections office before or on Election Day. IF your Registrar’s office is following the same security procedures listed above for drop-off locations, then this is one step more secure that the drop-of location. FIFTH, the best way to submit your mail-in ballot is to take it to your OWN precinct’s polling place (if you have one) on Election Day and SURRENDER IT. It will be marked invalidated and you will receive a regular ballot to cast, the safest way to vote.