Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day! But many Californians have misconceptions about their right to vote, how to vote, and how to make sure their vote is counted.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Register to vote by the Octobeelections aheadr 20th deadline. That’s right, you have to register before the deadline if you want to vote this November. You can register online at registertovote.ca.gov in 10 different languages. You can also pick up a voter registration card from a local post office, county election office, or department of motor vehicles and mail it in. Registration cards must be postmarked by October 20th.
  2. Mail your vote-by-mail ballot one week before the Election to make sure it gets counted. Unlike registration cards, postmarks don’t count for vote-by-mail ballots. Vote-by-mail ballots count only if they are received by the election office before the polls close on Election Day. This means that if you mail your vote-by-mail ballot too close to Election Day, it may not be received in time to count. Don’t believe me? Check out this recent report on all the vote-by-mail ballots that go uncounted. For procrastinators out there (including myself), you should know you can also drop off your vote-by-mail ballot at the county election office or at a nearby poll site on Election Day.
  3. Some former felons and incarcerated people CAN vote! One of the biggest misconceptions is that if you have a criminal record, you can’t vote. That’s not true. If you are off parole, on probation, or off community supervision, you can vote. The right to vote is temporarily taken away in California while a person is in state prison or on parole. After the sentence is served though, your right to vote is immediately restored. Formerly incarcerated people don’t need to do anything special to reinstate their voting rights; they just need to re-register to vote at their new address. Learn more and download a helpful factsheet at letmevoteca.org.
  4. You don’t have to vote on everything on the ballot. In a 2011 public opinion survey we conducted, we found that half of all California Latinos believe they have to vote on everything on the ballot. The truth is, you can vote on as many or a few things as you like and your votes will still be counted. Don’t let the large number of contests deter you from voting. Get informed as much as possible and vote on the issues that matter most to you.
  5. Wealthy special interests have a lot of influence in our elections but there is one way voters can help hold them accountable. Campaigns need money to talk with voters (all that mail you receive and those TV ads are expensive). Sometimes it can be frustrating not to know who is really behind those ads and campaign messages. Is anything they’re saying true? Well, now you can find out who’s behind the candidates on your ballot and which special interests are funding the yes and no sides of a ballot proposition. It just might change your opinion about some issues. Check out votersedge.com to access the contests on your ballots, get simple, clear concise information about each side, and find out who the top funders are.

I hope these tips help. We have to show up and vote this year and every year!  Your vote is your voice. Don’t let anyone take that away.

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