Human Voter Guide: Vote by mail tips and where to research candidates

Vote-by-mail ballots are sorted into their appropriate district after arriving at the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder building in Norwalk. The earliest-arriving mail-in ballots are the first to be counted on election day.
Vote-by-mail ballots are sorted into their appropriate district after arriving at the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder building in Norwalk. The earliest-arriving mail-in ballots are the first to be counted on election day.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

For the last few weeks we've been answering questions about the election. With just a few days to go before California's primary on Tuesday we're back with more voting tips and help. 

This Human Voter Guide segment is the fourth in our series on Take Two. You can also read previous segments in the series to find more questions and answers.

If you have a question about voting or the elections, you can leave a voice mail or text at 323-538-5722. You can also leave your question in the comment box below or tweet it with the hashtag #humanvoterguide.

Q: My question is if I'm registered to vote by mail and received a ballot already, but decided I want to vote in person instead, can I do so? And do I have to do anything special?

Yes, you can vote in person at your polling location even if you've received a vote by mail ballot already. One tip: when you go into your polling place bring your vote by mail ballot with you. When you arrive, you’ll surrender that ballot so that you can vote in person.
Bringing your vote by mail ballot with you will ensure that you don’t have to cast a provisional ballot (provisional ballots are ballots that are given when there are questions about a voter's eligibility). 
Another tip: If you’re a no party preference voter and you want to cast a ballot for the Democratic presidential primary, remember to ask for a “crossover ballot” when you go to your polling location. If you want more information on crossover ballots, check out last week's segment
Q: I'm a registered voter with "no party preference" here in California. I've already mailed in my mail-in ballot but it wasn't a crossover ballot. Is there still any way I can vote in our Democratic primary?
This voter is referring to the fact that California's no party preference ballot does not include presidential candidates. 

Several election officials weighed in on this question, and tell us that the official answer is no. Once you’ve mailed in your ballot, it’s considered a ballot that’s been cast and there’s no way to submit a separate vote for president. If you voted via the no party preference ballot instead of the crossover ballot, and you’ve already mailed it in, you're technically out of luck.

If you're in this situation and upset, it's worth a call to your county elections office. State law favors voters when it comes to elections and occasionally exceptions are made to help people vote. You can find a contact list online
Q: Somewhere I thought I heard that mail-in ballots are only counted when elections are close. Is that true?
For this question, we turned to Kim Alexander, she’s the president and founder of The California Voter Foundation. (Helpful aside: Alexander has a question and answer page on her website that addresses voting quandaries.)

"You know that question goes back to the 2000 election. It was sort of this urban legend that went around that you know, if the election is not close, your vote by mail ballot won’t get counted," she said. "But in California, every vote by mail ballot that’s cast that can be counted is counted."

Alexander explained that in California ballots are counted on election day in waves. The first ballots counted are vote by mail ballots that arrive early. They're counted as soon as the polls close. Next up are ballots cast at polling places, followed by vote by mail ballots that arrive later. The last ballots counted are provisional ballots — this is done to make sure there are not duplicate votes. 

Q: Where do you recommend I go for election candidate information?”
There are a lot of good resources. Here are a few tips:

One last tip:

If you’re confused about voting by mail, or you want to get a jump on voting before Tuesday, remember that no matter what county you live in, you can go in person to your county registrar and vote. Just show up any time today through Tuesday during regular business hours.

If you need help with any voting problems you can also call the statewide voter help line: 1-800-345-VOTE.


Series: Human Voter Guide

We're in the middle of one of the most contentious elections we've seen in a long time, so there's a lot of interest in voting this year. But there's also a lot of confusion. To help clear the way, we're introducing KPCC's Human Voter Guide, a series of questions-and-answers about the California elections.

Have a question? Email our senior political reporter Mary Plummer, tweet her @maryplummer or leave a voice mail or text at 323-538-5722.