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It's Voter Registration Day. Here's How To Register In California (And Why To Do It Early)

Vote nixon CPR.jpg
Andrew Nixon
Signs mark the vote center at the California Museum in Sacramento February 26, 2020.

Tuesday Sept. 22 is National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan effort that encourages Americans on the fourth Tuesday of September to get ready for the upcoming election.

In a statement, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla described the day as “the perfect time to sign up” for the millions of Californians who have yet to register.

All voters must be registered to participate in the November election, which starts in earnest in California in early October when mail-in ballots will be sent out to all active, registered voters in the state.

In California, you can register, pre-register (if you are 16 or 17) or check your registration at registertovote.ca.gov. Teens who pre-register will receive a confirmation in the mail once they turn 18 stating their voter registration is now active.

To answer questions about registering to vote and the benefits of doing so early in the process, CapRadio’s PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols spoke with Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.

Here’s a Q&A from their conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

Why is it important to register to vote early?

Californians now have the option to register to vote on Election Day.

But if you wait until the last minute, you are not going to get your ballot information sent to you ahead of time. You’re not going to get your vote-by-mail ballot sent to you ahead of time.

It’s important for voters to register early so they have plenty of options for how to return their ballot. And to ensure that they have the voting materials that they need from their county elections office and the Secretary of State to help them make informed choices.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in California?

The official registration deadline is Oct. 19 and you can get a vote-by-mail ballot mailed to you if you make that deadline. You can also request a ballot — maybe you’ve lost a ballot and you want to get a new one. Counties will send ballots out up until a week before the election. After that point, they will be asking you to come in and pick up a ballot in person or to go to a voting site.

How many Californians are registered to vote?

We have exceeded 21 million registered voters, however, we still have several million who are eligible but not registered to vote. But we are seeing the number rise and that’s largely due to automated voter registration that’s been in place at the DMV now for over two years.

What advice do you have for Californians who have recently moved and want to register to vote?

Californians are very mobile, especially young Californians move around a lot.

We see that now with the pandemic, people have changed their living situations, moved in with family. We’ve got college students who are now at home and not at school. So, there are a lot of people who are perhaps in between residences and maybe wondering where they should register to vote.

Wherever you are staying right now, register to vote there. If you’re not sure that you will be there a month from now, you can find a family member or trusted friend that can be your mailing address to put down on the voter registration application where you receive your election materials.

How else can voters get their questions answered?

There are a lot of great online tools. But there are also staff people in county election offices who help you. So, any voter who has any questions, they should feel free to call their county election office and ask for help. There are staff people who will be happy to answer your questions.

The California Secretary of State’s Office encourages Californians to update their voter registration if they have moved, changed their name or wish to change their political party preference. Voters statewide this year can track their ballots through California’s official “Where’s My Ballot?” tracking tool at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov.

For more information on voting, visit capradio.org/election

Copyright 2020 CapRadio