OK, California: It’s election time again.
First up is the state’s primary on June 7, and ballots are being sent to every registered voter. Early voting starts in many counties, including Los Angeles and Orange, on May 28. So who’s running for what? Why does it matter? What to do with that ballot in your mailbox? And what to do if there isn’t one in there?
Here’s what you need to know:
How does the primary work?
In California’s top-two primary for state and congressional elections, all candidates are listed on a single ballot, and the two who receive the most votes, regardless of party, advance to the November election.
California voters decided in 2010 to switch to the open primary system, where voters aren’t limited to choosing among candidates from their own parties. (The ballot measure didn’t change the rules for nonpartisan offices or for presidential primaries, where the qualified parties have their own rules.)
In some races — L.A. County supervisor, sheriff or L.A. mayoral contests, for example — if a candidate gets even one vote over 50% in the primary, he or she wins outright.
What are we voting on?
Gov. Gavin Newsom is up for reelection for his second and final term after overwhelmingly beating a recall attempt last year. Californians will also pick candidates for lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general and secretary of state. State Assembly seats and even-numbered state Senate districts are on the ballot as well.
Californians will also cast primary votes in two separate U.S. Senate races — though they’re both for the seat held by Sen. Alex Padilla, who was appointed by Newsom after Kamala Harris left the Senate to become vice president. A special vote to finish the term ending Jan. 3, 2023, and the regularly scheduled vote for the six-year term ending in 2029 are next to each other on the ballot.
What about Los Angeles County and L.A. races?
The marquee race in L.A. is for the successor to termed-out Mayor Eric Garcetti. In a crowded field, billionaire developer Rick Caruso and progressive U.S. Rep. Karen Bass are the front-runners in polls.
What about the congressional races?
Because of her mayoral run, Bass’ seat representing South Los Angeles in the U.S. House is among those up for grabs. It is almost sure to remain in Democratic hands, while other key races in the state are far tighter. Nationally, the president’s party typically loses congressional seats in the midterm election, and President Biden is facing low approval ratings, so Republicans are expected to capture the House. The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, could become a key issue in some races, including several in California. The contests in California are unlikely to determine control of the chamber, but they could determine the margin between the parties.
California is losing a congressional seat for the first time in its history due to slow population growth. The shifting lines for 52 new districts — drawn by an independent panel — have fueled increased competition, prompting some officials to resign early or not seek reelection.
California has a new congressional map after losing a seat due to relatively flat population growth. Use this interactive map to explore the state’s new political boundaries.
When do ballots go out?
California congressional matchups for the 2022 midterm election are quickly taking shape after new district lines were approved Monday.
How do I check if I’m registered to vote?
Visit the secretary of state’s office online to check your registration status. You’ll need your California driver’s license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you recently registered online, the secretary of state’s office recommends waiting at least 24 hours before checking.
You may have to register again if you’ve moved and didn’t notify the Department of Motor Vehicles or Postal Service, or if you changed your name since the last time you voted.
When is California’s 2022 primary election? Here’s how to register and how to cast a ballot in the state primary election.
What if I miss the deadline?
Don’t panic. Visit a local voting center on or before June 7 to complete a conditional voter registration. This process allows citizens to cast a ballot, but it won’t officially count until county election officials verify the voter registration.
What if I’m registered but want to change political parties?
You must re-register online here or apply in person at a county election office.
Where can I find a voter guide?
The secretary of state’s office is mailing guides between April 28 and May 17. They’re also available online.
What if I need a guide or voting instructions in another language?
Can I vote if I don’t have a permanent address?
Yes! Your right to vote isn’t canceled out if you’re homeless, living off the grid or don’t yet have a fixed place. You must, however, be 18 years or older on election day, a U.S. citizen and a state resident to qualify to vote.
Addresses are requested when registering to vote because it helps election officials determine which races you’re eligible to vote on. Plus, it allows them to mail you a ballot and voter guide. But voters can also fill out the address section with the place they spend most of their time.
What happens if I didn’t get a ballot?
County election officials will mail you a second ballot if you request one. Otherwise, apply for a late vote-by-mail ballot by filling out this form and submitting the application in person to your local county election office.
How do I return my mail-in ballot?
Ballots can be submitted in person at voting centers or in drop boxes. To find your closest center or drop box, enter your city and ZIP Code here. Ballots can also be mailed to county election officials so long as they are postmarked on or before June 7, election day. (Don’t forget to sign the return envelope.) To be counted, a ballot must be received no later than June 14.
I want to vote in person. How do I find out where to go?
Your sample ballot should have an address printed on it showing your local polling site. If an address isn’t listed, call the secretary of state’s voter hotline at (800) 345-8683 or check here. Early voting sites can be found here.
If you can’t find your ballot in the mail, you can show up at your local polling place and vote with a provisional ballot or request a late mail ballot.
I made a mistake on my ballot. What can I do?
It’s best to contact your local county elections office and order a new ballot. Election officials will be able to guide you if you’ve made a mistake once you’ve already submitted your ballot.
OK, I voted. How can I make sure it got counted?
Check here to track your ballot online. You’ll be able to see when it was received and when it was counted.
What happens after election day?
Now, we wait until county election officials finish counting ballots and certify the results. This could take some time, as mail-in ballots postmarked on election day have seven days to trickle in after the June 7 in-person voting. County election officials must send official totals to the secretary of state by July 8.
And then it’s on to the general election Nov. 8.
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