Vote by Mail Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I get a Vote by Mail ballot?
- Who may vote a Vote by Mail ballot?
- When can I apply for a Vote by Mail ballot?
- What information must be included in my application?
- How do I vote my ballot?
- When do I have to return my Vote By Mail ballot?
- What should I do if I think my Vote by Mail ballot may not arrive on time by mail?
- What can I do if I become ill and cannot go to the polls, can I request a Vote by Mail ballot?
- If I lose the Vote by Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
- I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
- Can I apply for a permanent Vote by Mail status? ?
- If I request a Vote by Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at my regular polling place?
- Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail?
- How are Vote by Mail Ballots counted?
1. How can I get an a Vote by Mail ballot?
To obtain a Vote by Mail ballot, you must make a request in writing. A request by telephone cannot be processed. For more information, please click here.
Download a Vote by Mail Application Printable form (PDF format.)
Fill in an on-line Vote by Mail Application. Online form.
2. Who may vote a Vote by Mail ballot?
Any registered voter in Contra Costa County may apply for and vote a Vote by Mail ballot.
3. When can I apply for a Vote by Mail ballot?
You may apply for and pick up a Vote By Mail ballot in person at the Elections Department beginning on the 29th day before an election and until the 7th day prior to an election.
You may mail or fax your request before the 29th day before the election. Actual mailing of Vote by Mail ballots cannot begin until the 29th day before an election. Completed applications must be received by mail or fax on or before the 7th day prior to the election. Applications received after the 7th day before an election will not be processed.
However, if during the last 7 days before the election you become ill or disabled or for some unforeseen reason find that you will be away from your polling place on election day, you may make a request in writing that a Vote by Mail ballot be delivered to you. You may authorize another person to come to our office with your application, pick up the ballot, and bring it to you. The ballot must be drop off at any voting place or the County Elections Division office on Election Day.
4. What information must be included in my application?
Applications should have your printed name, your residence in Contra Costa County, the address to which the ballot is to be mailed (if different than your residence) the name of the election and your signature.
5. How do I vote my ballot?
- Use black pen to mark your ballot.
- Fill in the oval completely.
- Vote for no more than the authorized number of candidates.
- Be sure to complete both side of the ballot.
- If you make a mistake, do not try to correct it, call our office for a replacement ballot.
- Place your ballot in the return envelope provided. Sign and write your address on the return envelope
- Your ballot will not be counted if your signature is missing on the return envelope.
6. When do I have to return my Vote by Mail ballot?Vote by Mail ballots sent by mail must be received by the Elections Division on or before 8 p.m. on election night. Vote by Mail ballots received after 8:00 p.m. on election night will not be counted. Postmarks do not count.
7. What should I do if I think my Vote by Mail ballot may not arrive on time by mail?
You may come in person to drop off your Vote by Mail ballot at the Elections Division at 555 Escobar St. in Martinez, any time before Election Day between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m..
On Election Day, you may return a Vote by Mail ballot to the Elections Division or any polling place in Contra Costa County between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
8. What can I do if I become ill and cannot go to the polls, can I ask for a Vote by Mail Ballot?
If you become ill or disabled within six days of an election and are unable to go to your polling place, you may request in a written statement, signed under penalty of perjury, that a ballot be delivered to your authorized representative. He/she will receive your ballot after presenting the signed statement at the Elections Division office. Most hospitals and nursing homes provide assistance for their patients. If your authorized representative returns the ballot, the appropriate sections of the Vote By Mail return envelope must be completed. These ballots may not be mailed.
9. If I lost the Vote by Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
Yes. Call the Elections Division at (925) 335-7800 and a second ballot will be sent to you. You must sign the statement sent to you with the second ballot that you have lost or did not receive your first Vote by Mail ballot. You may also go to your regular polling place or to the Elections Division office and vote a provisional ballot.
10. I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
If you state on your application that the mail is slow or difficult in the country that you are in and you need to receive the Vote by Mail ballot earlier than 29 days before an election, you may receive a special Vote by Mail ballot that can be sent out as early as 60 days prior to an election.
11. How do I qualify for Permanent Vote by Mail Status?
Section 3201 of the California Election Code was amended so that any voter, starting in January 2002, may apply for permanent Vote By Mail Voter status. You may request an application from our office or download a Permanent VBM Application.
A Vote by Mail ballot will automatically be sent to you for all future elections. This includes all local elections as well as statewide elections.
Once you become Permanent Vote By Mail voter, you will retain that status as long as you vote in all statewide elections. Failure to vote in two consecutive statewide elections will cancel the permanent Vote By Mail Voter status, but not your voter registration. If the permanent Vote By Mail Voter status is canceled, you can re-apply for that status again.
If you have any questions regarding voting by Vote By Mail ballot, telephone (925) 335-7800.If you are a permanent Vote By Mail Voter and have not received your ballot 2 weeks before the Election, you should contact the Contra Costa County Elections Division immediately at (925) 335-7800.
12. If I request a Vote by Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at my regular polling place?
Yes, but you must surrender your Vote by Mail ballot with the envelope and give it to the polling place worker before voting a regular ballot.
If you are unable to surrender your Vote by Mail ballot, you may still cast a provisional ballot at your polling place which will not be counted until it can be determined that you have not also voted by Vote By Mail ballot.
13. Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to Vote by Mail?
Yes there are circumstances under which a voter can be required to Vote by Mail. If a precinct has fewer than 250 registered voters on
the 88th day before an election, that precinct can be declared by the elections official to be a "Mail Ballot Precinct". All Mail Ballot voters
will be notified approximately 25 days in advance of their status prior to being sent an official Vote By Mail ballot.
14.How are Vote by Mail ballots counted?
In general, Vote By Mail Ballots are counted in the same manner as regular ballots cast at a polling place. Once it is determined that the signature on the Vote By Mail return envelope matches that of the voter on his or her affidavit of registration form, the ballot and the envelopes are separated. The ballot is then intermingled anonymously with other ballots in order to preserve the voter's right to secrecy.
The first ballot counts you are likely to hear on election night usually reflect the votes cast by Vote By Mail Ballot. These, however, are not a complete total and reflect only those Vote By Mail Ballots returned prior to election day. Those ballots received prior to election day can be "processed" (opened and prepared for counting) as early as 11 days prior to the election. These ballots are ready to be counted as soon as the polls close on election day and this accounts for why Vote By Mail Ballots are the first reported in the election night returns.
A substantial number of Vote By Mail Ballots are returned at the polls on Election Day; these ballots require extra handling to ensure that the voter did not also vote at the polls. These ballots are usually the last to be counted and are not likely to be reported in the vote totals until several days after the election.