Human Voter Guide: Vote by mail ballot deadline and tips for election day

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The Nov. 8 general election is just over a week away — so if you haven't already decided how you're going to vote, it's officially crunch time.

Tuesday is the deadline for Californians to request a vote by mail ballot so we'll answer your questions on that below.

We're here to help you develop your voter game plan. Find everything you need to know on our Voter Game Plan page and our Voter's Edge voter guide

Still have an election-related question? Submit it in our comment box below, or call 323-538-5722 and leave a voicemail or send a text. You can also send a tweet to me @maryplummer or comment on KPCC's Facebook page.

Now, to your questions: 

Q) A lot of people have received their vote by mail ballots. Have I missed the deadline?

Nope. Believe it or not, you can still request a vote by mail ballot and get one in time to vote. But just barely. Tuesday is the deadline.

If you live in L.A. County, the easiest way to do that is via the county website. You’ve got until midnight Tuesday to fill it out.

Q) The next question comes from Jane Lowenthal of Northridge. She texted in her question and wants to know if the process is the same to become a permanent vote by mail voter? Can you do that online as well?

Unfortunately, no. For L.A. County voters that is a separate application that’s not available online.

The online application is for one-time requests.

Q) We’ve got another vote by mail question — this one comes from a listener in Culver City:

"Hi my name is Kat Deloian. I saw posted on Facebook that the mail in ballots require 20 cents more postage than the standard postage rate, but I’ve already mailed in my family’s ballots and I didn’t put extra stamps on them. I’m really worried about this, please let me know if I’ve screwed up and don’t get to vote in this year’s election."

No worries, L.A. County vote by mail ballots only require one first class stamp. What she read on Facebook wasn’t correct for L.A. County, it may have been referring to a different county.

Also, it's a little-known fact, but the U.S. Postal Service is required to deliver ballots even if they're short on postage. Officials don't recommend you do it on purpose, but if you make a mistake on your postage, it’ll still get there. 

Q) So postage for vote by mail ballots varies by county?

Yes, because like all postage the cost of mailing it depends on the weight of the ballot. Check with your country registrar if you're not sure.

In Orange County, for example, some ballots are two pages and will require two stamps. The Orange County Registrar tells us if your ballot is only one page, one stamp will cover it. 

The reason postage matters is that you want to avoid anything that can cause a delay.

Q) Switching gears now, let’s focus on election day. Some listeners are concerned about potential violence at the polls given some of the comments on the campaign trail. Is that a real concern?

It’s certainly something that people on all sides are thinking and talking about. I talked to Republicans and Democrats last week who are concerned about the tension around this election.

If voters see any signs of voter intimidation or other concerns, they should report it to the Secretary of State’s office. The phone number is (800) 345-VOTE.

You should also flag any issues with a supervisor at your polling location.

Q) This next question came in from Twitter, it’s from the folks at the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. They ask: if you are registered to vote in one county, can you drop off your ballot in another county?

No, California voting laws prohibit this. However, on election day, you can vote at any polling location as long as it's in the county where you're registered to vote. If you go somewhere that’s not your official polling location, you’ll fill out a provisional ballot. All of these ballots are counted just like regular ballots. The one downside is you may not get to vote on all of your local measures if you vote provisionally.

Q) Early weekend voting started over the weekend in L.A. County, how’d it go?

There were a lot of long lines, some people reported two to three hour wait times. The new program had a total of 7,756 early votes during its first weekend open, according to the L.A. County Registrar's office. 

If you want to avoid long lines, there are options. L.A. County has about 75 locations where you can drop off your vote by mail ballots. Details are available here.

You can also vote any time during the week at the county's Norwalk headquarters

Q) Any other tips?

During a previous Human Voter Guide segment we answered a question about write-in candidates and explained that your write-in candidate votes don’t count unless they're on the official list.

Well, good news for supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Late last week, California's Secretary of State released the official list and Sanders is on it.

So if you want to make a symbolic vote for Sanders it will be counted.

Do you have your voter game plan? Use our Voter's Edge election guide to find your personalized ballot.

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.