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Voting by mail in California: a brief guide

By Evelyn Archibald

Shasta Editor-in-Chief

Many voters this year will be voting by mail-in-ballot for the first time on Election Day on November 3rd, 2020. In California, between COVID-19 still raging with over 760,000 total cases, and the rampant wildfires leaving the air quality unhealthy, voting by mail could be the safest option. 

Many states are planning to continue allowing voters to use mail in ballots or absentee ballots for the general election, as almost every state did for this year’s primary election. However, the process has faced pushback from the Trump administration, claiming it “doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” 

President Trump tweets his support for voting by mail — but only in Florida. (Photo Credit: Twitter)

This was recently backtracked slightly when President Trump tweeted his support for mail in ballots — but only in Florida. “In Florida the election system is Safe and Secure, Tried and True,” he tweeted. “So in Florida I encourage all to request a Ballot & Vote by Mail!”

Florida has put significant thought into maintaining the integrity of absentee and mail in voting. Susan MacManus, University of South Florida Distinguished University Professor Emerita in political science, said on the state’s progress, “Florida is definitely ahead of the country,” according to USA Today. 

Though Florida has been putting in the work, other states like Oregon have already had mail in measures in place. Oregon became the first state to exclusively vote by mail in 2000, followed by Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Washington

California recently passed Executive Order N-64-20, which states that all registered voters in the state will be sent a mail-in-ballot for the general election, in addition to in person polling centers being open. 

The deadline for registering to vote in California is 15 days before the election, so to be able to receive a ballot all registration forms must be postmarked or submitted electronically by October 19, 2020. To register, you must be: a United States citizen and official resident of California, at least 18 years old on election day, not currently in prison or on felony parole, and not currently found mentally unfit to vote by a court

Once registration forms have been filed, ballots can be tracked here, and will eventually arrive to every registered California voter. There are four ways to vote with your mail-in-ballot: mailing it to your county elections official, returning it in person, dropping it into a ballot box, or authorizing someone to return your ballot for you. 

Dropping off your ballot into a ballot box is one way to vote with minimal contact this year. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

California is allowing for mail-in-ballots to arrive up to 17 days after election day, as long as the ballot has been postmarked before or on November 3. If your ballot will not get there by November 20, it must be brought to any polling place before polls close on election day. You can return it in person either to your county elections official’s office, a polling place, or in an official ballot box in your county — all before 8 p.m. on November 3. As long as someone is not being paid on a per-ballot basis, anyone can return your ballot for you, but to be counted the authorization information must be filled out. 

Though voting by mail has been noted as the safest method of voting this year, and the myth of being more susceptible to voter fraud has been debunked, it still faces opposition from many Americans, including the President and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

Recent decisions from the Postmaster General have been temporarily blocked in court, and may have had negative effects on the efficiency and accuracy of the election. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Recent proposed changes to the USPS from Postmaster General DeJoy were temporarily blocked by Chief Judge Stanley A. Bastian on September 17, who said that President Trump and Postmaster General DeJoy were involved in a “politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service.” The Washington Post reports that he specifically cited the agency of the election, “this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states’ ability to administer the 2020 general election.”

There are 12 propositions on the ballot this year, including two to do with suffrage in California. Proposition 17 would restore the right to vote to parolees, people convicted of felonies who are on parole, and Proposition 18 would let 17 year olds who would turn 18 in the next general election cycle vote in primaries and special elections. (Full list and explanation available here)

Though the governor is not up for election or reelection this year, many local California district races for Congress and State Assembly are important to watch. Check for your sample ballot and who is up for election in your area here

Featured Image: Many Americans will be saying “I voted!” from home this year. (Photo Credit:

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