Register to Vote in California Elections
Your vote counts! Register to vote - it's easy!
Registering to Vote
- How do I register to vote?
- Who is eligible to vote?
- What is the deadline for registering to vote?
- How do I fill out the registration form?
How do I register to vote?
To register, you'll need to complete a Voter Registration Form. There are many ways to get the form:
- pick up a form at the Ohlone College Library on the Fremont campus or the Learning Resources Center on the Newark Center campus
- pick up a form in person at any number of public offices (library, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), post office, county election office (Alameda County Registrar of Voters), city clerk, etc.)
- call your county's Registrar of Voters (Alameda County Registrar of Voters (510) 267-8683) to request a form be mailed to you
- call 1-800-345-VOTE to request a form be mailed to you
- call your county election office to request a form be mailed to you
- download a form in English (PDF) or Spanish (PDF) from the Secretary of State's web site
- fill out the online registration form at the Secretary of State's website. The form will be printed and mailed to you for your signature. After you verify that the information is correct, the form must be signed and mailed to your county election official for the registration to be processed.
You must re-register when you have a change in address, change in name, or change your political party affiliation.
Anyone falsifying information on the Voter Registration Application Form can be fined or imprisoned, or deported or refused entry into the United States.
Who is eligible to vote?
In order to vote in California, you must:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be a resident of California
- Not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction
- Be at least 18 years of age on the date of the next election
(A person may register to vote at age 17 if he or she will be 18 on or before the next election.)
- Not have been judged by a court to be mentally incompetent
Legal residents of California who are not U.S. citizens, and illegal California residents are not eligible to register or vote. Convicted felons currently serving a prison term or on parole are not eligible to register or vote.
Your identity must be verified before your application is complete. Preferred identification is your Social Security number, California driver's license, or State ID card. If you do not have any of these forms of identification, you may still apply using an alternate form of identification.
What is the deadline for registering to vote?
The voter registration deadline is always 15 days before an election. However, please be advised that voters who register after the 29th day before an election may not receive a sample ballot due to the short turn around time for mailing. However voters should receive notice of the location of their polling place in the mail.
Your registration form must be signed, dated and postmarked by the registration deadline.
How do I fill out the registration form?
The voter registration forms ask for basic information, including your name, street address, mailing address (if different), birthdate, the county in which you reside, and your place of birth (U.S. state or foreign country).
The form also asks for your driver's licence number, email address and phone number; although you are not required to provide this information, a phone number will help your county clerk contact you if there are any problems with your form. Information about choosing a political party affiliation.
You will also be asked if you have been registered to vote in California before. This information helps the county election official remove your old registration information and keeps the election rolls clean of "dead wood". If you have forgotten your previous address, or party affiliation, that's okay - just fill out this section of the form to the best of your ability.
Be sure to sign and date your form! County election officials cannot, and will not process registration forms that are not dated and signed.
You are not required to provide your social security number when registering to vote. There is a stub on the bottom of your form that serves as a receipt. You should hold onto this stub until you receive confirmation that you have been registered. The stub has a number on it that matches a number on your card, and can be used to track a lost or misplaced registration form.
Choosing a Political Party Affiliation
- Do I have to join a political party?
- Can I vote for a candidate that belongs to a different political party than the one I belong to?
- How do I change my party affiliation?
Do I have to join a political party?
On the voter registration form, you will be asked if you want to choose a political party. There are a number of qualified political parties in California.
You may choose one of these parties or you may select "Decline to State", which essentially means you are an independent.
You may also select "Other" and designate a political party that is not an official party in California (meaning it has not reached the threshold of required number of party members to be considered an official party).
Can I vote for a candidate that belongs to a different political party than the one I belong to?
In the General Election, you can of course vote for any candidate you like.
A Primary Election is different. California's current primary system, which is neither "open" nor "closed", is perhaps best called "slightly ajar". Here's the way it works: if you are registered as a member of a political party, you will only be able to vote for candidates in that party's primary election. (For example, a registered Democrat cannot vote in the Republican primary).
However, if you are not affiliated with any party, you may still have the option to vote in a party primary by effectively becoming a member of that party for a day.
Each party organization decides whether and how it will allow independent California voters to participate in its primary. (In 2002, for example, the American Independent, Democratic, Natural Law, and Republican parties allowed independents to vote in their primaries, but the other three qualified California political parties did not.)
For a list of parties that will allow independent voters to participate in upcoming primary elections, contact your county election office (Alameda County Registrar of Voters), check California Voter Foundation's current election information, or consult your sample ballot.
How do I change my party affiliation?
You may change your party affiliation at any time by filling out a new Voter Registration Form. Be sure to re-register at least fifteen days prior to the next election in order for the change to take effect for that election.