Frequently Asked Questions

Webinar recording – Just the Facts – About Elections


Recorded 10/3/2022. A moderated discussion with Professor Justin Grimmer, Cathy Darling Allen, Ryan Ronco and Jeannette Logue


General Questions

What is a vote by mail ballot?

A vote by mail ballot is a paper ballot, identical to the ballots issued at you polling place on Election Day, that is mailed to all voters with instructions on how to properly mark and return it.

Can I vote in person?

Yes, Shasta County will continue to have physical polling locations. If you’d like to cast your ballot in person, you can do so at your polling place on Election Day, or the Election Office beginning 29 days before an election.

Receiving a ballot

How can I verify/update my voter registration information?

You can search up your most current registration information on our Register to Vote page (under “Are you registered in Shasta County?”). Alternatively, you can visit to verify or update voter registration information.

Do I need to request a vote by mail ballot?

Vote by mail ballots are now permanent. All eligible voters in California will be mailed a ballot for each election.

I won’t be home during the elections, can I use a temporary address?

Yes you can. Please complete the Seasonal Voter Form if you are/will be out of town during an election. We will mail your ballot to your temporary address.

When will ballots be mailed to voters?

Generally, ballots are mailed out a month before election day. 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?

This depends on your local USPS service. If you are concerned that your ballot was not mailed or it has been longer than a week since it was mailed, please call our office.

My ballot did not arrive in the mail, can I get a replacement ballot?

Yes. If you have not received a ballot in the mail and it has been at least a week since they were mailed, call our office. If it is 7 or more days before election day, we can mail you a replacement ballot. If is less than 7 days before election day, you can pick up a replacement ballot in our office located on 1643 Market Street.

Voting and Returning a ballot

How do I fill out the ballot?

Fill out the oval of your choice on the ballot. Make sure you fill it out completely. Be mindful of the headings of each contest, these will tell you how many choices you can make. Some contests will ask you to choose more than one option. 

What type of pen do I use to fill out my ballot?

We recommend a black sharpie, however, any non-smearing, dark ink pen will do. Do not 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?

This 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 current ballot. To correct the ballot, mark ONE straight line through the selection you made in error and write “no” next to it. Fill in the oval next to the candidate or choice you do want and write “yes” next to that selection. Please DO NOT write your initials next to the correction or identify yourself in any way. This is 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 Election Day. If you mail your ballot to our office, it must be postmarked by Election Day.

What is a postmark and how do I get one?

A postmark indicates the date and location the Postal Service accepted custody of a piece of mail. If you need to obtain a postmark on Election Day, you must visit a post office in person during their operating hours.

Does it cost money to return my voted ballot?

No. Postage is not required to return your ballot envelope. Simply drop it into any USPS outgoing mailbox. You can also bring the envelope to our office or a drop box location.

Do I have to sign my vote by mail ballot envelope?

Yes, you must 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, however your signature will no longer be hidden.

My signature has changed. 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 after it’s been mailed?

Yes you can! Visit to sign up for ballot tracking.

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

You can return your ballot in person, starting 29 days before an election, by visiting our office at 1643 Market Street. You can 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 Election Day. Use the Poll Place finder toll in our Polling and Ballots page (under “Where is my polling place?”).

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 gather ballots from drop boxes throughout the county and return them to our office on a scheduled basis. These teams track and document the number of ballots received, 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. Once it is within 15 days of the election, 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 to secure the box used to carry the ballots back to the elections office. Each security seal has a serial number that is documented when the seal is broken to retrieve the ballots. When the ballots are re-secured, another seal is used and a second serial number is 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 24 Hour Ballot Drop Box locations or click here for a current list of Staffed Drop Box Locations.

Polling Place Questions

How can I find in-person voting locations?

The back cover of your County Voter Information Guide will list your assigned Polling Place. These are typically mailed out 29 days before the election day. You can also utilize the interactive Polling Place Map or use the Poll Place finder tool in our Polling and Ballot page.

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 an accessibility issue. Our office will 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.

Voting accessibility

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

All voting machines in our office and at the polling places have various accessibility features to assist voters with a range of needs. Voters are also welcome to bring a friend or family member to assist them at the polls. More information can be found on our Accessible Voting for All Voters page.

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

Spanish sample ballots are available in our office and at our Polling Places on Election Day. For more detailed information, please visit our Language Assistance page.

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 mailed ballot is linked to a voter and tracked for when and where it is sent. When the ballot is returned to our office, we track the date it was received and how it was returned to us (i.e. drop boxes, election office, post office, etc.).

How do you verify that a ballot is coming from its authorized voter?

Every vote by mail ballot envelope that is returned to us must be signed by the voter in order for the ballot to be tabulated. Our office verifies that the signature on the return envelope matches the signature from the voter’s registration record. The signature on the voter registration record is either a scan of the voter’s original registration paper 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 you provided one in your voter registration). You then have the choice to either 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 an election’s staff member thinks your ballot envelope signature does not match your voter record, the signature will be sent to a supervisor for review. If the supervisor agrees with the initial review, we will contact you by mail, phone and email (if you provided one in your voter registration). You then have the choice to either 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! We will count every single eligible ballot.

How and when is my ballot processed and counted?

If you vote by mail, your ballot begins processing as soon as we receive it. First, it will be sorted into precinct order. There are over 80 precincts in an election. Then, the signature on the outside of your envelope is then compared to the one on your voter registration using human eyes. If the signatures don’t match you will be notified, and your ballot will be set aside until we hear back from you. Once the signature has been verified your ballot is stored until it is time for it be extracted from the envelope and tabulated. Results are released for the first time at 8pm on Election Day.

If you voted early in our office or at a poll, 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. These votes then update the totals throughout election night.

How are secret ballots maintained?

Ballot envelopes have a special seal to ensure your ballot is not revealed when an election worker is verifying your signature and voter record. The worker will pull the tab covering your signature without viewing the ballot itself. Ballots are then pulled and prepared for the tabulation machines by a different group of election staff. These stacks of ballots are reshuffled and recounted by multiple staff members and cannot 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. We are consistently reviewing and updating our processes in preparation for vote by mail ballots and do not expect to be overwhelmed even if there is an increase. 

Will election results be available before Election Day if voters 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 any results before 8pm on Election Day. The first results we release on Election Night are from early return vote by mail ballots. We will provide preliminary results from the ballots tallied on the voting machines and early votes cast in the election office throughout the election night.