Politics

Human Voter Guide: How to register, change parties, request crossover ballot

Got questions about the elections? Our Human Voter Guide has answers.
Got questions about the elections? Our Human Voter Guide has answers.
Photo by jamelah e. via Flickr Creative Commons

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We're in the middle of one of the most contentious elections we've seen in a long time, so there's a lot of interest in voting this year. But there's also a lot of confusion.

To help clear the way, we're introducing KPCC's Human Voter Guide, a series of questions-and-answers about the California elections that will air on Take Two and that we'll post on kpcc.org.

If you've got a question, email our senior political reporter Mary Plummer at mplummer@scpr.org, send her a tweet @maryplummer or leave a voice mail at 323-538-5722. You can also text questions to that phone number. 

Q: When's the deadline to register to vote in California's June 7th primary?

It's May 23.

Q: Is there a way to find out if I'm already registered?

Yes, most counties in California allow you to do this online. Here in Los Angeles County, you can check the county registrar's elections website, put in your information and find out your status.

Q: Let's say I am already registered, but now I want to switch parties — to vote for a Republican or a Democrat.

You'll have to re-register. The deadline to do that is also May 23.

Visit the secretary of state's voter registration website.

Keep in mind that to vote in the Republican presidential primary, you'll need to be registered as a Republican.

To vote in the Democratic presidential primary, you can be registered as a Democrat or as a designation called "No Party Preference." In California, this used to be called "decline to state.”

It’s also important to know this: if you're registered as having "No Party Preference" and you want to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, you will have to request what's called a "crossover ballot."

You can do that in person on Election Day at your polling place or, if you want to vote by mail, you've got to request it from your county elections office by May 31. You should have received information in the mail about how to do this. If you haven't, reach out to your elections office as soon as possible.

Q: Say I've registered without marking any party preference. What's going to be on my ballot?

You'll fall into that "No Party Preference" category. Again, you'll only be able to vote for a Democratic presidential candidate with your crossover ballot. If you don't have that crossover ballot, you will get a ballot without any presidential candidates on it.

And, if you're in the "No Party Preference" category, and you want to vote Republican, you need to re-register this month. Be sure to do it by the May 23 deadline for the primary and you can do it online.

Q: Beyond the presidential candidates, what else should I expect to see on my ballot?

Barbara Boxer is retiring from her U.S. Senate seat. In the race to succeed her, you’ll see more than 30 candidates listed on your ballot across two pages. Be careful to just vote for one candidate or your vote for that race won’t count.

Also, depending on where you live, there could be state Senate and Assembly seats, as well as county and local positions on your ballot.

In L.A. County, a major race is underway for two open seats on the Board of Supervisors in districts 4 and 5. 

There is also one statewide ballot measure. It’s called Proposition 50. A "yes" vote on Prop 50 would support amending the state constitution so that California lawmakers can suspend their peers without pay. Most legislators get a salary of about $100,000 each year paid by the state. 

Q: Earlier you mentioned voting by mail. We know that's an option a lot of people are switching to in California. When do those ballots arrive?

Yes, about 4.1 million people (24 percent of all registered voters) in California are registered to vote by mail. The numbers have been growing statewide over the past several years. Those ballots started going out in the mail Monday, May 9, and will continue until June 3.

It's important to remember that if you get a vote-by-mail ballot in the next week or two and it doesn't have the presidential candidate you'd like to vote for on it, there's still time to change your registration until May 23. Contact your county elections office to do that. 

Once you've got a vote by mail ballot, make sure you get it postmarked on or before primary election day, which is June 7. It needs to arrive by June 10 to be counted. 

Q: How do I contact my county elections office?

The secretary of state’s website has a helpful list of county elections offices

To see which races you'll be voting on based on where you live, and to get more information about candidates, issues and how to vote, go to KPCC's My Ballot Voter Guide.

Series: Human Voter Guide

We're in the middle of one of the most contentious elections we've seen in a long time, so there's a lot of interest in voting this year. But there's also a lot of confusion. To help clear the way, we're introducing KPCC's Human Voter Guide, a series of questions-and-answers about the California elections.

Have a question? Email our senior political reporter Mary Plummer, tweet her @maryplummer or leave a voice mail or text at 323-538-5722.