Human Voter Guide: don't panic if you haven't received your vote by mail ballot

A voter casts a ballot in early voting at the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk on Oct 14, 2016.
A voter casts a ballot in early voting at the Los Angeles County registrar's office in Norwalk on Oct 14, 2016.
Sandra Oshiro/KPCC

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This week, we're answering your questions about vote by mail ballots, Proposition 64 that would legalize recreational marijuana and how to volunteer as a poll worker — and get paid.

If you've got an elections question, submit it in our comment box below, or call 323-538-5722 and leave a voice mail or send a text. You can also send a tweet to me @maryplummer or comment on KPCC's Facebook page.

We're here to help you develop your voter game plan, so we've gathered up what you need to know to vote as an informed citizen on our Voter Game Plan page and our Voter's Edge voter guide

In recent days, the Human Voter Guide has received a ton of questions about the vote by mail ballots that counties have begun mailing out to voters: 

Q: Where is my vote by mail ballot? Why hasn’t it arrived yet?

Here’s what you need to know:

• Los Angeles County election officials began mailing out vote by mail ballots last Tuesday. They mail on a rolling basis, so don’t be worried if yours hasn’t arrived. The county registrar’s office tells me that they’ll continue mailing them out until four business days before the election. 

Q: I'm still worried. How can I check whether my vote by mail ballot is coming?

• A couple tips: it’s a good idea to check your registration status. You can do that easily online if you live in L.A. County by visiting the registrar's voter registration verification web page. For other counties, you can contact your elections office. The Secretary of State has a list of county offices with contact information.

• If you still have questions about your vote by mail ballot, or if you’re going to be out of town and are worried about getting it in the mail, call your county elections office directly. In L.A. County, that number is 800-815-2666. 

• If you’d prefer to skip sending in your vote by mail ballot entirely, you can drive to the L.A. County registrar's headquarters in Norwalk and vote early in person. The registrar’s office allows early voting: you can just show up and vote with or without your mail in ballot during regular business hours, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• The weekends before election day — on Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 5-6 — five other L.A. County early voting locations will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are at the West Covina City Hall (1444 West Garvey Ave. S), West Los Angeles College in Culver City (9000 Overland Ave.), North Hollywood Regional Library (5211 Tujunga Ave.), El Camino College in Torrance (16007 Crenshaw Blvd.), and Antelope Valley College in Lancaster (3041 West Ave. K).

Q: A listener from Glendora asked: "I was wondering if you lose your ballot, your mail in ballot, what do you do if it’s really close to election day?"

If you lose your vote by mail ballot for any reason, you can call your county elections office and request a replacement. In L.A. County, your other option is to drive to Norwalk and vote at the county registrar’s office or at the weekend early voting locations as we mentioned above.

One of our helpful listeners, who says she's also a poll worker, points out that if you've lost your mail ballot, you can also go to the polls on election day and vote provisionally. That means you can cast a ballot that will be counted when election officials verify you're registered and everything is in order. 

What's important here is that you act fast. Deadlines are approaching, and it’s better to get moving on any problems or concerns now. 

Q: How soon do the vote by mail ballots need to be mailed back?

Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 8 to be counted.

There’s a new law in California that allows vote by mail ballots to arrive up to three days after election day. But for this election, you get a little more time because of the Veterans Day holiday, so all ballots need to arrive by Nov. 14. 

And as a reminder, California counts all of its vote by mail ballots, regardless of whether the vote counts are close. So these votes definitely matter. 

Q: Listener Matt Zarro of Hawthorne texted a question about Proposition 64, the statewide ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana: "One of my major concerns is about children mistaking edible candies/cookies for normal sweets and getting sick … . If Prop 64 passes, will we see weed candies and baked goods?”

For this question, I turned to KPCC’s Jacob Margolis for help. He’s done a ton of reporting on Prop 64 and worked on our hour-long Take Two show on this issue.

The simple answer to this question, according to Margolis, is yes: we will see weed candies and baked goods. But there will be special packaging to identify that they contain THC. That’s the active chemical in cannabis. So that may help mitigate some people’s concerns about children mistaking edibles for normal sweets.

It’s interesting to note that in Colorado, they did see an increase in emergency room visits after marijuana was legalized. This was due to accidental ingestion. Like any drug, it’s important to keep it out of the reach of children.

And as a reminder, a YES vote on Prop 64 means that you want to see recreational marijuana legalized in California. Vote NO if you don’t want that to happen.

Q: Are poll workers still needed?

Yes. On Friday, the L.A. County Registrar’s office told us they still need about 500 poll workers to sign up. You can earn between $80 and $175 for the day if you volunteer. Those interested can apply on the registrar's website.

Voters may remember that there were shortages of poll workers in some places during the June primary. If you have the flexibility in your schedule to work as a poll worker, it is a lot of work but a great help in the voting process. 

Q: What about in Orange County? Are poll workers needed there?

Orange County’s Registrar Neal Kelly tells me they still need poll workers there as well. O.C. is still trying to recruit about 1,800 people. You can sign up to be an O.C. poll worker online and find more information about the pay rates here

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.