Frequently Asked Questions
You can either register online or by filling out a paper form.
- Go to California Online Voter Registration, select "Register to Vote Now," answer all the questions, and at the end click submit.
- For many Californians, this is probably the fastest and easiest way to get registered.
- This form also works for military/overseas voters.
- You can obtain a standard paper registration form by:
- Picking one up at our office (435 Fiscal Dr. in Santa Rosa), any Department of Motor Vehicles field office, post office, public library, city/town hall, or a number of other government offices.
- Requesting that we mail you one by calling (707) 565-6800 or emailing email@example.com.
- Printing a National Mail Voter Registration Form.
- Military/overseas voters should print and fill out a different form called the Federal Post Card Application
- You can return any registration form by:
- Mailing it. On official California voter registration forms, the postage is free. Other types of forms may require postage.
- Drop it off at our office (if we're closed, there is a 24/7 drive-thru drop box available).
- Give it to somebody you trust to drop it off at our office for you.
- You can obtain a standard paper registration form by:
There are several ways.
- Look yourself up in the California Secretary of State’s My Voter Status online database. It shows detailed information about your registration and is nearly updated in near real time. However, you have to enter several pieces of personal information that match exactly with how you registered, including your first name, last name, birthdate, California driver license/ID number, and last four digits of your Social Security Number.
- Look yourself up in Sonoma County’s Voter Registration database. It shows more limited voter information and is only updated intermittently but it only requires you to enter your birthdate and the last four digits of either your (1) California driver license/ID number or (2) Social Security Number.
- Contacting us by calling (707) 565-6800, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting our office in person at 435 Fiscal Dr. in Santa Rosa.
In order to fully cancel your registration, you need you to fill out a California Voter Registration Cancellation Request Form and return it to our office. If you don't have access to a printer, you can call us at (707) 565-6800 or email email@example.com and request we mail you a paper copy of the form.
Please note that you must sign the cancellation form by hand; a digital signature will not suffice.
There are multiple ways you can return the completed form to us:
How can I find out which jurisdictions/districts I live in and which elected officials represent me?
You input your address in our Precinct & District Lookup and it will give you a list of all the major federal, state, county, municipal, school, and special districts you reside in, as well as who your elected officials are. You can also call us (707) 565-6800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note that some of your districts may have changed in 2022 due to redistricting based on 2020 census data.
You should re-register any time you change your name, residence address, or political party.
On your last registration form, you probably inadvertently selected "American Independent Party" for your political party preference when you actually meant to select "No Party/None" (see examples from paper and online registration forms below).
Some people see the word "Independent" and think it means "not affiliated with any political party." This is understandable because that is often how the word is used in media and common parlance. However, the "American Independent Party" is actually a fully qualified political party with its own platform and candidates, just like the Republican Party, Democratic Party, etc.
In California, the term used to describe voters who do not affiliate with any political party is "No Party Preference," NOT "Independent." For more information, refer to the Political Parties section of our website.
Choosing Party on a Paper Registration Form
Choosing Party on an Online Registration Form
You will need to fill out a new voter registration form. However, be aware that the only election where your political party will impact what's on your ballot or who you can vote for is presidential primary elections. In any other election, you will receive the exact same ballot you would receive if you were registered with a different political party.
No. California has Conditional Voter Registration, a.k.a. “same-day registration,” which allows individuals who are otherwise eligible to register and cast a ballot after the standard registration deadline. These "conditional ballots" are counted after Election Day once the voter's eligibility to register has been verified and it has been confirmed they did not cast a ballot anywhere else in California.
Conditional registration is available anytime after the 15-day registration deadline through 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. It typically requires a voter to come to our office or any Vote Center in person. In addition, the voter must vote the ballot they receive on site; they cannot take it with them. However, California Senate Bill 504, which was signed into law in spring of 2022, allows some limited exceptions to this rule for military/overseas voters and voters with disabilities. Call us at (707) 565-6800 or email us at email@example.com for further details.
To a certain extent. Per California Elections Code Section 2194, commercial use of voter registration information is prohibited by law and is a misdemeanor.
However, California law mandates that voter registration information be provided to candidates running for office, ballot measure committees, or other persons for scholarly, journalistic, political, or governmental purposes, as determined by the California Secretary of State. Your California driver license/identification number, Social Security Number, and signature are confidential and are not shared.
If you have questions about the use of voter registration information or wish to report suspected misuse of such information, please contact the Secretary of State’s Elections Division or fill out an Election Voter Complaint Form.
In Sonoma County, the only individuals whose voter information remains completely confidential are those who have applied and been accepted to the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program for those facing life-threatening situations, such as victims of stalking and domestic violence.
Possibly. As required by state law, we do sell voter registration data to individuals/organizations who request it and meet the qualifications to do so. But there are innumberable other ways political campaigns also obtain voters’ contact information.
Just be aware that campaigns may still have your phone number from prior voter lists and countless other means. The truth of the matter is that even households with no registered voters receive calls, mail, etc. from campaigns.
Voting Your Ballot
Yes. You can vote on as many or as few contests as you want. The ones you vote on will be counted; the ones you leave blank will simply be skipped.
It depends. Votes for write-in candidates will only be counted if the following two conditions are met:
- The person you write in is a "qualified" write-in candidate
- You fill in the voting space next to where you wrote the name.
Votes for unqualified write-in candidates are not tallied or reported in election results.
In order to become a qualified write-in candidate, there are specific documentation and filing requirements that a candidate must satisfy. Write-in candidates can typically file and qualify for office much later than candidates appearing on the ballot (often until the 14th day before an election).
A list of qualified write-in candidates is provided at the Registrar of Voters Office the day after the deadline to qualify as a write-in passes. Lists of write-in candidates are also available at every Vote Center and on our website.
Voting by Mail
California Assembly Bill 37, passed and signed into law in fall of 2021, requires that all active, registered voters be sent a ballot in the mail in all elections moving forward. However, you do not have to vote the ballot that was mailed to you and can instead vote in person at any Vote Center. For a complete list of Vote Centers available for the current/upcoming election and dates/times they are open, visit our Where to Vote page and/or map.
We may not have your current residence address and/or mailing address on file. If your mail is being forwarded, the post office will not forward ballots and most other election materials. To check to see that we have your correct residence address and/or mailing address on file, you can look yourself up at the California Secretary of State’s My Voter Status page. You can also call us at (707) 565-6800 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have three main options:
- You can pick up a replacement ballot at our office. Or, somebody else can pick one up for you if they have an Application to Provide Vote-by-Mail Ballot to Representative (Spanish version here) that has been filled out, signed, and dated by you.
- If Election Day is seven or more days away, You can call us at (707) 565-6800 or email us at email@example.com and request we mail you a replacement ballot (if Election Day is six or fewer days away, there is not enough time for us to mail you a replacement ballot).
- If Election Day is ten or fewer days away, you can go to a Vote Center and either (1) request a replacement ballot or (2) vote in person. For a complete list of Vote Centers available for the current/upcoming election and dates/times they are open, visit our Where to Vote page and/or map.
Please note that whenever a second ballot is issued any prior ballots that were issued are automatically voided.
You must get a replacement blue envelope (or a completley brand-new replacement ballot) and fill it out in order for your ballot to count. You can pick up a replacement blue envelope at our office or at any Vote Center. For a complete list of Vote Centers available for the current/upcoming election and dates/times they are open, visit our Where to Vote page and/or map.
It’s possible that you previously opted out of being mailed a paper copy of the Guide. To find out, call us at (707) 565-6800, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look up your voter file at the California Secretary of State’s My Voter Status page. If you previously opted out of being mailed a Guide but want to opt back in, you can do so by phone or by filling out and submitting the County Voter Information Guide Online: Opt In / Out Form online.
Yes. Probably the easiest way is to sign up for California's official ballot tracking service called Ballottrax, which sends out automatic ballot status update alerts by email, text, or voicemail. You can also see the status of your ballot by looking yourself up at the California Secretary of State’s My Voter Status page. Or, just call us at (707) 565-6800 or email us at email@example.com.
It's the day before the election and I realize I forgot to mail my Vote-by-Mail ballot. If I send it in now will it still count?
Yes, as long as it is postmarked on or before Election Day and we receive it at our office via USPS or a bona fide private mail delivery company no later than seven days after Election Day.
If you are mailing the ballot domestically, this is usually plenty of time even if you mail out the ballot on Election Day itself. However, if it is afternoon or later on Election Day, if possible it's probably safest to drop the ballot off at an Official Ballot Drop Box or Vote Center to avoid any chance of the ballot being postmarked late.
Important: Do not forget to sign and date the blue return envelope!
Absolutely not. All valid Vote-by-Mail ballots are counted. Because voters are cautioned that Vote-by-Mail ballots returned on Election Day will not be included in Election Night results, this has been misunderstood to mean that they are not counted at all. This rumor is likely due to a misunderstanding of how Vote-by Mail-ballots are processed.
Counting Vote-by-Mail ballots involves several steps:
- Verifying the signature on the outside of the blue envelope is valid when compared to the voter's signature(s) we have on file.
- Extracting the ballots from the blue return envelopes.
- Unfolding the ballots and inspecting them for any damage that might disrupt our ballot scanning equipment (coffee/food stains, tears, bent corners, etc.).
- Scanning the ballots.
For Vote-by-Mail ballots that we receive on Election Day itself and the day prior, there is often simply not enough time to complete all these steps on Election Night. It can take a week for those Vote-by-Mail ballots to be included in the official election results tally, and even longer for Vote-by-Mail ballots that arrive after Election Day (but which were postmarked on or before Election Day).
In other words -- if you want your Vote-by-Mail ballot to be included in the results reported on Election Night, GET IT IN EARLY!
Voting In Person
With Sonoma County’s transition to the Voter’s Choice Act election model in 2022, voters who want to vote in person can now do so at so-called “Vote Centers.” Vote Centers are similar to traditional polling places except there are fewer of them and they provide much greater flexibility for in-person voting in the following two ways:
- They are open daily up to ten days prior to Election Day (as well as on Election Day itself), including weekends and holidays. In contrast, polling places were only open on Election Day itself.
- Voters can vote regularly at any Vote Center they choose; they are not assigned to a specific polling place.
To find a Vote Center for the current/upcoming election and dates/times it is open:
- Visit our Where to Vote page and/or map
- Check the ballot instructions insert included with your Vote-By-Mail ballot
- Check your County Voter Information Guide
- Use the Secretary of State’s Early Voting and Vote-by-Mail Ballot Drop-Off Locations tool
- Call us at (707) 565-6800 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A provisional ballot is provided when an individual is voting in person but the poll worker or election worker cannot immediately verify the person’s eligibility to vote. For example, maybe the poll worker cannot find the voter in the registration database because they are under a different name or residence address. Or maybe the voter thought they were registered but they're not.
In cases like this, the person is required to fill out their current information on the front of a pink provisional ballot envelope before they are allowed to cast a ballot. All provisional ballots are then set aside and not counted on Election Night. Over the next couple weeks, staff at the Registrar of Voters Office will research the person’s eligibility to vote and make sure they have not already voted by mail or voted at another location (another Vote Center, another county, etc.).
Finally, if everything checks out, the voter's information entered/updated and their ballot is counted.
Candidates & Political Campaigns
In general, campaign committee treasurers are responsible for establishing and maintaining a record-keeping system to ensure that contributions and expenditures are recorded in compliance with legal requirements. Campaign finance laws dictate which forms must be filed and which filing deadlines apply. To obtain more information about the specific disclosure and filing requirements for your campaign committee, refer to our Campaign Finance page and/or the California Fair Political Practices Commission site.
Candidate qualifications and requirements are specific to the office being sought. The Registrar of Voters Office has limited information regarding local candidate filing processes at our Candidate Filing page. For information about filing for a state or federal office, visit the California Secretary of State Candidate Information page.