Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is a vote by mail ballot?

A vote by mail ballot is a paper ballot, identical to the ballots issued at Polling Places on Election Day. The ballot is mailed to you with instructions on how to mark it and how to return it. (Note: a vote by mail ballot was formerly referred to as an absentee ballot in California).

 Why does increasing voting by mail make sense for my state given the health crisis?

Some of our polling places have the potential to see thousands of Shasta County voters on Election Day. More voters casting their ballots by mail means fewer people (and shorter lines) at the polling places. Less crowded polling places keep voters and poll workers safer by making it easier to maintain social distancing and sanitization standards.

Can I still vote in person?

Yes, Shasta County will have a vast majority of the same polling place locations from the March 3, Presidential Primary Election open during the November 3, 2020 Presidential General Election. If you’d like to cast your ballot in person, vote the ballot you receive in the mail and bring it to your polling place on Election Day, or our office beginning October 5, 2020.

Receiving a ballot

How can I verify/update my voter registration information to ensure my address information is correct?

View voter registration information: ShastaVotes.org/voter-profile/

Verify/update voter registration information: RegistertoVote.ca.gov

Do I need to request a vote by mail ballot?

Our office will mail a ballot to every active, registered voter in Shasta County. This is to comply with State Assembly Bill 860, signed on June 18, 2020 by Governor Newsom which requires California counties to mail ballots to all registered voters for the November 3, 2020, Presidential Election.

Can I use an address, other than my registration address, to receive my vote by mail ballot?

Yes. If you will temporarily be out of town on election day you can complete the Seasonal Voter form to provide a temporary mailing address.

When will ballots be mailed to voters?

The last day ballots can be mailed is least 29 days before each election. We will send our ballots out as soon as they are prepared and ready. Follow our Facebook or Twitter page for updates on when ballots are being mailed for the current election.

How long will it take to receive my ballot after it is mailed by the election office?

The answer to this really depends on your local USPS service. If you have not received a ballot a week after they are mailed, please call our office.

If I do not receive my ballot in the mail, can I get a replacement ballot?

Yes. If you haven’t received a ballot in the mail at least a week after they’ve been mailed, call our office. You can pick a replacement ballot up in our office at 1643 Market Street.

Voting and Returning a ballot

How do I fill out the ballot?

Completely fill in the oval next to the choice you would like to make on your ballot. Be mindful of headings at the top of each contest that tell you what you are voting on, as well as how many choices you can make in that contest.

What can I use to fill out my ballot (pen, pencil, particular color, etc.)?

We recommend a black sharpie marker, but any non-smearing, dark ink pen will do. Do no use pencil or red ink.

If I make a mistake marking my ballot, can I correct the mistake on my existing ballot, or do I need to request a new ballot?

It depends on what makes you comfortable. You can always request a new ballot or pick one up in our office, but you can also correct your ballot. To correct the ballot, mark 1 straight line through the selection you made in error and write “no” next to it. Write “yes” next to the candidate/choice you do want to make as well as fill in the oval to the left. Please do not initial your correction or identify yourself in any way so we can maintain your ballot’s secrecy.

What is the deadline to return my ballot?

If you want to drop your ballot off at a Polling Place, Drop Box or our office you must do so by 8pm on November 3, 2020. If you mail your ballot to our office, it must be postmarked by November 3, 2020. We can accept mailed ballots postmarked by Election Day for tallying until November 20, 2020.

What is a postmark and how do I get one?

A postmark indicates the location and date the Postal Service accepted custody of a mail piece. If you need to obtain a postmark on Election Day you will need to visit a post office in person before they close.

Do I need to pay postage to return my voted ballot?

You do not need to pay postage to mail your voted ballot to our office or use one of our drop boxes.

Is my signature required on my vote by mail ballot envelope or ballot package?

Yes, we do require that you sign your ballot return envelope before sealing it. If you forget to sign your ballot envelope before sealing it, you can sign anywhere on the envelope, though your signature will no longer be hidden.

Circumstances have altered my signature. Can someone witness my signature so that my ballot will count?

Yes, there is a spot for a witness to sign below where you will sign or make your mark. You can also print the signature update form on our website, sign it and mail it in.

 Can I track my ballot through the mail?

Yes and we highly recommend it! Visit ShastaVotes.com to sign up for ballot tracking through the CA Secretary of State and learn more.

Where can I return my ballot if I do not mail it?

Starting October 5, 2020 you can return your ballot by visiting our office at 1643 Market Street, and tally it in the voting machine yourself, or drop it into any of our drop box locations throughout the county. You can also drop your voted ballot off at any Polling Place in the County from 7am to 8pm on November 3, 2020. Check your County Voter Information Guide for a list of Polling Place and drop box locations.

Can someone else return my voted ballot for me ?

Yes. If you are unable to return the ballot yourself, you may designate any person to return the ballot to our office during office hours, or your Polling Place on Election Day before 8pm. Make sure you and the person returning your ballot complete the authorized person section on the back on the return envelope.

What is a ballot drop box?

Ballot Drop boxes are secure containers placed throughout the county that are maintained and operated by the Shasta County Elections office. We have teams of trained staff who travel throughout the county on a scheduled basis, gathering ballots from drop boxes and returning them to our office. The teams track and document the number of ballots received in the boxes, when they were picked up, and by whom.

How often are ballots collected from ballot drop boxes?

At the beginning of the vote by mail period ballots are retrieved from every drop box at least every 72 hours. Starting 15 days prior to the election, October 19, 2020, ballots are retrieved at least every 24 hours.

How are ballot drop boxes secured?

When staff retrieve the ballots from a drop box, they use a security seal with a serial number to secure the box closed again. The serial number of the seal that is broken to open the box when retrieving ballots is documented, and the serial number of the seal that is used to re-secure the box is also documented.

How can I find locations to drop my ballot off?

Your County Voter Information Guide will have this information, but you can also click here  for a list of all Ballot Drop Box locations.

Polling Place Questions

How can I find locations to vote in person?

The back cover of your County Voter Information Guide will list your assigned Polling Place. You can also utilize our interactive Polling Place Map.

Why did my Polling Place Change or Close?

Organizations that serve as Polling Places do so on a volunteer basis and are not compensated. There are many reasons why a facility may not be able to serve as a Polling Place, but usually it is because of a scheduling issue or a disability accessibility issue. Our office always strive to keep Polling Place locations as consistent as possible, for as long as possible.

Why don’t I have a Polling Place assigned to me?

California Elections Code section 3005 provides that people who live in precincts with fewer than 250 voters may be sent vote by mail ballots. Our office may have had difficulty finding an accessible location in or near your precinct, or enough staff for a Polling Place. You can still return your ballot in person by taking it to a drop box, our office or any Polling Place on Election Day.

Independent and Accessible Voting

What if I have a disability that makes it difficult or impossible to hand-mark a paper ballot?

We will have multiple voting machines available for voters in our office beginning on October 5, 2020. There is also a voting machine at every Polling Place on Election Day, November 3, 2020. These machines have various accessibility features to assist voters with a range of needs.

What if I have limited English proficiency or other challenges with reading a paper ballot?

We have Spanish sample ballots available in our office and at our Polling Places on Election Day.

Processing and Tabulating Vote by Mail ballots

How is the vote by mail ballot process secured?

The vote by mail process is kept secure as the result of multiple, ever improving procedures, policies and laws. Every ballot mailed out is linked to a voter and we track where it is sent and well as when. When the ballot is returned to our office we track the date it was received and well as how it was returned to us (in one of our drop boxes, in the office, the post office, etc.)

 How do you verify the ballot is coming from the voter authorized to vote it?

Every vote by mail ballot that is returned to us must be signed by the voter in order to be tabulated. Our office verifies that the signature on the return envelope matches the character of the signature from the voter’s registration record. The signature on the voter registration record is either scanned from the voters original paper voter registration, or provided by the DMV.

What happens if I forget to sign my ballot?

If we receive a voted ballot in an unsigned envelope we will contact you by mail, phone and email (if the information is available in your voter record.) You will be asked to visit our office and provide a signature or sign and return the letter we mail to you, before your ballot can be tabulated.

What happens if my ballot is challenged due to an alleged signature mismatch?

If during the review process, the reviewer thinks your ballot envelope signature does not match you voter record, the signature will be sent for supervisor review. If the supervisor agrees with the initial assessment we will contact you by mail, phone and email (if the information is available in your voter record.) You will be asked to visit our office or sign and return the Signature Verification Statement, before your ballot can be tabulated.

 Are all vote by mail ballots counted?

Yes. Our office puts a lot of time and effort into counting every single eligible ballot we are able to count. Our job is to help citizens exercise their right to vote and that’s what we do.

 How and when is my ballot processed and counted?

If you vote by mail, your ballot begins processing as soon as we receive it. It must first be sorted into precinct order. There are over 80 precincts in an election. The signature on the outside of your envelope is then manually compared to the one on your voter registration. If the signatures don’t match you will be notified, and your ballot can not be counted until we hear back from you. Once the signature has been verified your ballot is stored until 10 days prior to the election. At this time the law allows for your ballot to be extracted from the envelope and tabulated. Results are run for the first time at 8pm on Election Day. Your vote is in these totals!

If you vote at the polls, your ballot is tabulated as soon as you run it through the voting machine. When the polls close at 8pm on Election Day, the results from the tabulator are brought to the elections office and uploaded. It is these votes that update the totals throughout election night.

 How do you maintain a secret ballot if someone is opening the envelope with my name on it?

The space for the voter signature on the return envelope is hidden, if the envelope is sealed correctly. This special way of sealing the envelope also allows us to pull open the tab covering the signature without opening the ballot return envelope itself. Because of this, the person verifying your voter record and signature doesn’t have access to your ballot.

Ballots are then processed by a different set of staff, who pull all ballots and prepare them for the tabulation machines. These stacks of ballots are reshuffled and recounted by multiple team members and are not able to be paired back with their envelope. Ballots themselves have no identifying information.

 How does an increase in vote by mail ballots affect the counting of ballots and results reporting?

Currently, 80% of Shasta County voters choose to vote by mail. So while there is an increase in mail in ballots, we do not expect to be overwhelmed. We are reviewing and updating our processes in preparation for the increase in vote by mail voters.

 Will some election results be available before Election Day if people return their ballots early?

State law allow us to process and prepare vote by mail ballots for tabulation, prior to Election Day. We cannot view or share the results prior to 8pm on Election Day. The first results we release on Election Night are from early return vote by mail ballots. Throughout election night we provide preliminary precinct results from the ballots tallied on the voting machine at the polling place.