Making Democracy Work

Frequently Asked Questions


Make voting a breeze, things you need to know on or before election day

Mail In Elections

Registering to Vote

Election Day Questions

Misc. Questions

Mail In Elections

What is the deadline for requesting a Vote-By-Mail Ballot?

You can request a Vote-By-Mail ballot up to 7 days before an election. Applications are accepted as early as 60 days prior to an election. The easiest way to request a mail-in ballot is by mailing the pre-addressed postcard that is on the back cover of the Sample Ballot sent to all registered voters by the Los Angeles County Election Office. There is also an online application on

When will I receive my Vote-By-Mail Ballot?

Vote-by-Mail ballots are mailed approximately a month before the election. The ballots are mailed as the applications are received. You can check the status of your mail-in ballot by going to the County website Click on the Status of Vote-By-Mail Ballot icon and it will tell you when the ballot is mailed and when it is received by the Election Office. Please note that the icon will appear approximately one month before the election.

What if I don't receive a Vote-By-Mail Ballot?

You can request a replacement ballot by calling the County Registrar at (562) 466-1323

When is the last day to return my voted Mail-In ballot?

Vote-by-Mail ballots must be received by election officials no later than the close of polls (8 p.m.) on Election Day. Postmarks are not acceptable in California. You may return your voted ballot to any precinct polling place in the County.

Do I have to apply for a Mail-In Ballot for each election?

No. You can apply for "Permanent Vote-By-Mail Status" so that you no longer have to apply for future elections. A ballot will automatically be mailed to you for each election. Once a voter receives permanent VBM status, they will retain the status as long as the voter does not fail to return a ballot for 2 consecutive statewide general elections. You can download and print an application for Permanent VBM status from

If I request a mail-in ballot, can I change my mind and still vote at my polling place?

Yes. You may take your VMB ballot to the polling place and surrender it to the pollworkers . You will be given a regular precinct ballot. If you do not have your mail-in ballot to surrender, you will be allowed to cast a "provisional" ballot. Your provisional ballot will be counted after the election official confirms that you did not previously vote using your VMB ballot for that election.

Registering to Vote

When is the last day I can register to vote?

The last day to register is 15 days before an election. Look up your polling location and go and vote. Be prepared to vote on a provisional ballot if your name does not appear in the roster.

Am I registered to vote?

Call or email the LA County Registrar Recorders office to check to see if you are registered. If you've just registered and have not recieved any notification, go to the polls and vote a provisional ballot. You do have to reregister if you have changed your name, address, or voter affiliation.

Do I need to show ID?

If you are voting for the first time.

I am 17 years old. Can I vote in the next election?

As a Los Angeles County resident: If you are a citizen of the United States; If you will be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election; If you register at least 15 days before an election then you will be eligible to vote in that election.

I will be out of the area on election day but I still want to vote.

You can only vote in the County in which you are registered. You will need to apply for a "vote by mail" ballot in writing. You can fill out the application form that comes with your Sample Ballot or on the LA County Registrar Recorders Website,

Important deadline! Send in your application form as soon as you can, but make sure it will arrive at your county elections office in time (i.e. at least 7 days before Election Day.)

Election Day Questions

Many of the following questions can be answered by referring to the LA County Clerk's web site. click here

Where is my polling place?

Find your polling location online through or the County Registrar's website

or call: Santa Monica City Clerk (7am - 8pm) 310-458-8211
LA County Registrar (7am - 8pm) 800-815-2666
League of Women Voters of Santa Monica 310-394-4661

How long are the polls open?

You can go to the polls to vote between 7 am to 8 pm on election day.

How can I find what is on my ballot?

Use the League's website for a look at the candidates, propositions and where you would go to vote for this election.

I received a Vote By Mail Ballot can I drop it off at any precinct?

Yes, just drop the purple envelope in the ballot box. It is not required for you to sign the register.

I have special needs; is there some way I can vote?

Yes precincts are set up to handle a wide variety of accommodations to allow the voter to cast a ballot.

My name was not on the register. I voted a pink provisional ballot; will my vote count?

A provisional ballot is a real ballot; it just needs to have the voter's information verified before the ballot is counted.

Misc. Questions

How does the Electoral College work?

The Electoral College Process

The Electoral College was devised by the Founding Fathers 200 years ago as a compromise between the election of president by popular vote and election by Congress. The Electoral College presently has 538 electors. The number of electors per state equals the number of its U.S. Congressional Representatives (determined by state's population), plus two (as each state has two U.S. Senators regardless of state's population). California has 55 Electoral College votes. The District of Columbia, although not a state, has three electors. On Election Day, voters are actually casting their presidential and vice presidential votes for the electors, rather than for the candidates themselves. (Most states, including California, opt to list the names of the presidential and vice presidential candidates on the ballot, rather than the individual electors' names. 48 states use a winner-take-all system, i.e. in California the winner of the popular vote gets all 55 electoral votes. Two states, Maine and Nebraska, use the district system to distribute the electoral votes according to the percentage of votes each presidential candidate received in each congressional district. On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December (December 15, 2008), each State's electors cast their electoral votes for president and vice president in their respective State capitals. A majority of electoral votes (i.e. 270 of 538 total) are required to elect the president and vice president. The sealed votes are then transmitted to the President of the Senate (who is the vice president of the United States) and he reads them before both houses of Congress. The electoral votes are then counted, and the candidate with the majority is declared president (same with vice president). If there is no majority, then the election is decided by the House of Representatives. At noon on January 20, the elected president and vice president are sworn into office.