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I mailed in my ballot. How can I tell if it’s been counted?

Workers sort mail-in-ballots at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on Aug. 25 in San Jose.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The gubernatorial recall election is fast approaching, yet most of California’s 22 million registered voters have yet to fill out and return the ballot they received in the mail last month. As of Wednesday, 70% of the ballots were still out in the wild.

If you have mailed in or dropped off your ballot but are worried that it has somehow gotten off-track, there’s an easy way to check its status. The state offers a free tool that can tell you instantly whether your ballot has been received.

The tool also can help you track a ballot you mail or drop off in the dwindling amount of time left before the Sept. 14 election. Ballots that arrive up to seven days after the polls close will still be counted as long as they are postmarked no later than Sept. 14.

To sign up for ballot tracking, go to the Where’s My Ballot page at the California secretary of state’s website, then enter your name, date of birth and ZIP Code. If you’ve already sent in your ballot, the site will tell you immediately what the status is — whether the envelope has been received, and if so, accepted or rejected.

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Last year, ballot collection became a hotly debated issue in the presidential election. Now both Republicans and Democrats are downplaying their use of the method as a way to ensure voters return their mail ballots by the Sept. 14 deadline in the recall election.

In Los Angeles County, you can check to see whether your ballot has been received and your signature verified at lavote.net/AV_Inquiry.

The secretary of state’s system was built to follow your ballot from the moment it’s sent to you to the moment it’s accepted for counting. Once you’ve registered, you can have the system notify you when your ballot envelope is received and accepted by email, text, phone call or a combination of those. You also can limit the hours when notifications can be sent and pick which of 10 languages to use for the messages.

If your ballot envelope is rejected, it may be because a vote had already been recorded for you, there was more than one ballot in the envelope or there was a problem with your signature on the back — perhaps it was missing or it didn’t match what county elections officials had on file. Typically, the signature comparison is done first by a machine, then by hand for envelopes the machine rejects.

If your ballot is rejected because of a signature problem, county election officials are required to notify you within 24 hours and give you a second chance to verify your signature before the election results are certified. They’ll send you a form to sign, along with a postage-paid return envelope, and that new signature will be compared against your ballot envelope.

Not every voter manages to fix a signature problem, however. In the 2020 election, nearly 50,000 mail-in ballots were rejected for mismatched signatures. Still, that was a tiny fraction — less than half of 1% — of the 15.4 million ballots that were received.

California will have its second gubernatorial recall in 18 years. Why is this liberal state so recall crazy?

According to the secretary of state’s office, signature issues are the main reason for a mail-in ballot not being counted. Another potential problem that’s harder to quantify, though, is the chance that the ballot you dropped in the mail will be lost or delayed en route to the county elections office. The U.S. Postal Service came under withering criticism in the days around the November 2020 election for allegedly failing to deliver tens of thousands of ballots on time in states with much tighter deadlines than California’s, although a later review by the Postal Service’s inspector general suggested that the problem was overstated.

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Nevertheless, if you dropped your completed ballot into the mail and the state’s tracking tool says on Tuesday that it still hasn’t been received, you can cast a provisional ballot in person at one of your county’s voting centers. According to the secretary of state’s office, provisional ballots are typically counted after regular ballots and mail-in ballots to make sure that no one voted twice. If the county has a valid mail-in ballot from you, your provisional ballot will not be counted.


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