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Frequently Asked Questions About Absentee Voting

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Who may vote by mail?

Where can I obtain an application for a vote by mail ballot?
When must I apply for a vote by mail ballot?
What information must be included in my application?
When will my vote by mail ballot be mailed?
How do I vote my ballot?
How do I return a vote by mail ballot?
Do I have to sign the vote by mail ballot return envelope?
When must I return the voted ballot?
If I lose the vote by mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
Can I give my voted mail ballot to someone else to return for me?
Can I apply to be a permanent vote by mail voter?
I will be out of the country on election day. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
Can I change my mind and still vote at my regular polling place?
How are vote by mail ballots counted?
Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail?


Who may vote by mail?
Any registered voter may vote by mail ballot. (Elections Code 3003).

Where can I obtain an application for a vote by mail ballot?
You must apply in writing to Monterey County Elections (Elections Code 3001). Fill out this form, sign and mail or call 831-796-1499.

An application for a vote by mail ballot is also included in the sample ballot and voter information pamphlet sent to you by the county elections official prior to each election (Elections Code 3022).

When must I apply for a vote by mail ballot?
Vote by mail ballot applications are processed in the period 29-7 days prior to an election (Elections Code 3001). You may submit an application prior to this time, but the Elections Office will hold it until the 29th day before the election.

The elections official accepts applications received less than 7 days prior to an election for 'pick-up' in the Elections Office only.

If during the final week before an election you become ill or disabled or for some unforeseen reason find that you will be away from your polling place on election day, you may request (in writing and signed under penalty of perjury) that an absentee ballot be delivered to you. You may authorize another person to bring you the ballot and to return it to the elections officials after you have voted it (Elections Code 3021).

What information must be included in my application?
Your application must include your printed name, your residence address (in the county where you are applying for the vote by mail ballot ), the address you want the vote by mail ballot sent to, and the date and name of the election you are applying for (e.g. November 4, 2008 General Election). In addition, you must sign and date your application (Elections Code 3006).


When will my vote by mail ballot be mailed?
According to California Elections Code, vote by mail ballots can be mailed no sooner than 29 days before the election. If the 29th day is a holiday, vote by mail ballots will be mailed the next business day. According to the USPS, ballots will take 3 to 9 days to reach voters.

How do I vote my ballot?
Follow the instructions provided by the Elections Office. Failure to complete your ballot correctly could jeopardize your vote. If you have any questions, please call the Elections Office at 831-796-1499.

You will receive a return envelope to sign and return the ballot. You must use the envelope provided. (Elections Code 3010). Do not place ballots for another person in your envelope!

How do I return a vote by mail ballot?
There are two ways a voter can return their ballot:

  1. By mail (please be aware that postage may vary from one election to another, depending on the weight of the envelope. Please make sure to verify the amount of postage required by reading the instructions enclosed with your ballot and return envelope.
    Voters who live in a mail ballot precinct will not need to afix postage and their blue return envelope will say “NO POSTAGE NECESSARY IF MAILED IN THE UNITED STATES”)
  2. Drop off the voted ballot in person to any of the following locations:
    1. Elections Office
    2. Some City Halls in Monterey County (this service is not provided for all elections. Please verify that this service is available by calling Monterey County Elections at 796-1499)
    3. Any polling place in Monterey County on Election Day (ballot must be returned to the County from which it was issued, voters CANNOT drop their ballot off in another county to be forwarded to our office).

However, any voter because of illness or physical disability is unable to return the voted ballot, may designate their spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person residing in the same household to return the voted ballot for them.  Please have the voter complete the flap on the return Vote by Mail Ballot envelope, indicating who will return that ballot.  Voter must sign. See below.

Do I have to sign the vote by mail ballot return envelope?
Yes. The Elections Office, by comparing this signature to the signature on your voter registration card, can determine that you are the authorized voter. This is an important protection for you.
Your signature does not allow anyone to determine how you voted. To preserve the secrecy of your ballot, once the signature comparison is made, the ballot is separated from the envelope and the ballot becomes as anonymous and secret as any other ballot.

If you omit any of the required information from your vote by mail ballot application, the Elections Office will send you a ballot, but will also include a notice that the missing information must be provided in order for the ballot to be counted (Elections Code 3009 and 3019).

When must I return the voted ballot?
Vote By Mail ballots may be returned by mail prior to the election or delivered to any polling place in Monterey County on election day.
Vote By mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by Monterey County Elections no later than 3 days after Election Day. If you are not sure your vote by mail ballot will arrive in time if mailed, bring it to any polling place in our county between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

If I lose the vote by mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
Yes. However, you must sign a statement under penalty of perjury that you have lost or did not receive the first vote by mail ballot (Elections Code 3014). The Elections Office maintains a record of each request, and provides a list of these requests to the polling place to ensure that each voter casts only one ballot. If you vote twice by vote by mail ballot, even if by mistake, neither ballot will be counted (Elections Code 3013 and 3014).

Can I give my voted ballot to someone else to return for me?
If you are ill, or have a physical disability, you may designate a relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister or household member) to return your voted ballot for you. Your relative may return it in person to the elections official or to a polling place in your county, or may place it in the mail for return to the elections official. Contact Monterey County Elections at absentee@MontereyCountyElections.us> for more information (Elections Code 3017).

Do I have to apply for a vote by mail ballot for each election?
No. Anyone may apply for "permanent vote by mail" status. Permanent vote by mail voters are automatically sent a vote by mail ballot for every election. To become a permanent vote by mail voter, you must complete and mark the 'Vote by Mail' box on the vote by mail application on this website, the application on your voters pamphlet or application mailed to you. (Elections Code 3201).

Permanent vote by mail voters will retain permanent status as long as he/she casts a ballot in all statewide elections (Elections Code 3206). If a permanent vote by mail voter fails to cast a ballot in a statewide election, he or she will be removed from the permanent vote by mail voter list and will need to reapply in order to have this status restored.

I will be out of the country for an election and am concerned that the mail is slow and I may not receive my vote by mail ballot in time to complete it and return it by election day. Is there any way I can apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
Yes. If you are in the military or temporarily living overseas you may qualify as a "special absentee voter." Special absentee ballot applications may be processed by the elections official as many as 60 days prior to an election (Elections Code 3103).

An application for a special absentee ballot for a primary election is also good for the subsequent general election (Elections Code 3104).

If I request a vote by mail ballot, can I change my mind and still vote at my regular polling place?
Yes, but you must bring your unvoted vote by mail ballot and give it to the polling place worker before voting a regular ballot (Elections Code 3015).

If you are unable to surrender your vote by mail ballot, however, you may still cast a "provisional" ballot at your polling place which will not be counted until it can be determined that you have not also voted by mail ballot (Elections Code 3016 and 14310).

How are vote by mail ballots counted?
In general, vote by mail ballots are counted the same as regular ballots cast at a polling place. Once it is determined that the signature and address on the vote by mail ballot return envelope matches the signature and address of the voter on his or her registration form, the ballot and the envelope are separated. The ballot is then placed anonymously with other ballots in order to preserve the voter's right to secrecy. If the right of a voter to cast a vote by mail ballot is challenged, and that challenge is upheld, the ballot remains in the envelope, is not counted, and the reason is indicated on the envelope (Elections Code 15105).

The first results you are likely to hear reported on election night usually reflect votes cast on vote by mail ballots. These, however, are not complete totals and reflect only those vote by mail ballots returned prior to election day. Those ballots received prior to election day can be "processed" (i.e. check the signature, etc.) as many as 10 business days prior to an election (Elections Code 15101). These ballots are then ready to be counted as soon as the polls close on election day. Totals from these vote by mail ballots are reported first in the election night returns.

However, a substantial number of additional vote by mail ballots are returned on election day either to the polling place or to the Monterey County Elections Office (Elections Code 3017 and 3020). These ballots, because they require the extra handling of checking the voter's signature, to ensure that the voter did not also vote at the polling place, are usually the last ballots counted, and are not likely to be reported in the vote totals until several days after the election.

Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail?
Yes, there are two circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail.

  • First, if an election precinct has fewer than 250 registered voters on the 88th day prior to an election, that precinct can be declared by the elections official to be a "mail ballot precinct" and all voters in that precinct will automatically be sent absentee ballots (Elections Code 3005). This is usually a very small number of precincts.

  • Second, certain elections can be declared by the governing board to be "all mail ballot elections". In this case, all voters in the election will receive a ballot in the mail. A return postage paid envelope will be mailed with the ballot materials. The types of elections which can be conducted by mail are very limited, generally only applying to very small elections or elections in specified special districts throughout the state (Elections Code 4000).

 

 

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