California absentee and mail ballot guide
California absentee ballot overview
All California elections are held by mail. This means that California will automatically send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter ahead of all elections.
California absentee deadlines
- Earliest day to apply: January 1
- Request deadline (online): N/A
- Request deadline (by mail): Received by 7 days before Election Day
- Request deadline (in person): Election Day
- Deadline to return your ballot (by mail): Postmarked by Election Day
- Deadline to return your ballot (in person): Received by Election Day
California absentee ballot rules
- All California elections are vote-by-mail. This means that California will automatically send a mail-in ballot to every registered voter ahead of all elections.
- If you need to update your mailing address temporarily for a specific election, request a one-time absentee ballot.
California online ballot request
California does not allow you to request your ballot online.
California by-mail ballot request
- Download the California absentee ballot application.
- Fill out all of the required fields.
- Print the application.
- Sign and date your application. This is very important.
- Mail or hand-deliver your completed application directly to your local election office as soon as possible, but no later than the deadline.
- If it’s close to the deadline, call your local election office and see if they will let you submit your application via email or fax.
- Your application must be received by 7 days before Election Day.
California in-person ballot request
- Visit your local election office.
- Ask the clerk to give you an absentee ballot application.
- Fill out all of the required fields.
- Sign and date your application.
- The deadline to apply in person is Election Day.
After you receive your ballot
- Carefully read and follow the instructions, and fill out all required fields.
- Sign and date the outside envelope.
- Mail or hand-deliver your ballot to your local election office. You can also hand-deliver your ballot to a drop box if one is available nearby. You can use our Find Out Where To Vote tool to find an official drop box.
- If you mail your ballot, it must be postmarked by Election Day.
- If you hand-deliver your ballot, it must be received by Election Day.
- If you miss the deadline – or forget to sign the outside envelope – your vote will not be counted.
California absentee ballot ID requirements
- ID required when requesting a mail-in ballot:
The signature on your absentee ballot application will be compared to the signature on your voter registration card to ensure they match.
- ID required when returning a mail-in ballot:
Your signature on the return envelope will be compared to the signature on your voter registration card to ensure they match. If you forget to sign the return envelope, your ballot might be rejected.
California absentee ballot tracker
Track your ballot here: California absentee ballot tracker
California absentee ballot curing
Ballot curing is the process of resolving any problems with your absentee or mail ballot to ensure that your vote is counted. After tracking your ballot, contact your local election office to fix any issues that have been noted.
- Your ballot will be rejected if your signature is missing or if your signature does not match the signature already on file.
- You must fix these issues by 5:00 pm two days prior to the certification of the election for your vote to be counted.
California emergency ballots
Some states have special procedures that allow you to obtain an emergency ballot if a medical or other emergency occurs after the standard absentee ballot application window.
Emergency Ballot Rules
All California elections are held by mail, and the state laws do not mention emergency ballots. If you are emergency worker who has been assigned outside of the state, your local election office can send your ballot via email or fax if needed.
Dates & Deadlines
California does not offer emergency ballots.
Contact your local election office
Local election office
Contact your local election office if you have questions.
Statewide election office
This is the statewide agency that is ultimately responsible for California elections. You can contact them with questions, but your local election office will probably respond faster.
Secretary of State Elections Division 1500 11th Street, 5th Floor Sacramento, CA 95814