Vote by mail ballots are printed and inserted into a ballot packet prepared for each individual voter based on their residence. In addition to the ballot, each packet includes voting and return instructions and an “I voted” sticker.
Vote by mail ballots are delivered to USPS for mailing to voters. Ballots for military and overseas voters are mailed 45 days before an election. All other vote by mail ballots are mailed 29 days before the election. Once delivered to the post office, ballots are sorted into postal routes for delivery to voters.
Voters can sign up to receive notifications about when their ballot is mailed, received, and counted by visiting WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov. Voters can also use the My Voting Information tool on this website to confirm if their ballot has been issued or received by our office.
Voting the Ballot
Ballots should be marked using blue or black ink and placed into the return envelope. The envelope must be signed and sealed.
Voters do not need a new ballot if a mistake was made when marking it. They should simply mark the ballot in a way that makes their intention clear. If a ballot is physically damaged or lost, a voter can request a replacement.
Postage is paid on all return ballots and they can be dropped in any mailbox. Ballots can also be returned to a secure drop box. Returned ballots are collected from USPS and the drop boxes by our staff and returned to our warehouse for processing.
Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day or returned to a drop box before 8pm on Election Day.
Once returned, each ballot is run through a sorter which captures the signature image from the envelope. That signature is then compared to the signature on file to determine if they match. After the signature is reviewed, the ballot is run through the sorter a second time and grouped based on status: accepted, no signature, or additional review needed.
For envelopes returned with a missing or non-matching signature, the voter is mailed a letter and given the opportunity to provide their signature so their ballot can be counted.
Once the signature is accepted, the voter is given participation history and their ballot moves on for processing.
Ballots returned from other counties are forwarded to the appropriate elections office.
Accepted ballots are ready for extraction. The envelopes are opened using a high-speed envelope cutter and are grouped into batches.
Batched envelopes are given to teams of two for extraction. Ballot cards are removed from the envelopes and are counted and oriented.
The now empty envelopes are boxed for storage. Ballots are boxed and transported to the Tally Room for counting.
Each batch of ballots is run through a ballot scanner which reads the marks on the ballots.
The scanners do not calculate the results when scanning, they simply read the scans. At 8pm on election night, the results are counted and posted online.
When the scanner cannot read a mark, it is sent to adjudication. In adjudication, a staff member reviews the ballot and indicates to the system the voter’s intent. If a ballot is physically damaged and cannot be read by a scanner, it is set aside for duplication. A team of two examines the damaged ballot to determine the voter’s intent and then makes a duplicate by marking a blank ballot. The original and duplicate ballot are marked so they can be identified.
All ballots and election materials are sealed and securely stored for 6 or 22 months before being destroyed.