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What your fellow humans want to know about voting in the primary election

FILE: Maryjane Medina walks up to a voting booth to cast her vote at a polling station in Los Angeles.

Updated 5/30/18

California's statewide primary election will take place June 5. To help you get ready, we're back with our question-and-answer series for voters.

The Human Voter Guide answers your questions on KPCC's newsmagazine radio showTake Two and online. This page will be updated weekly leading up to election day.

Ask us a question or see our responses to previous questions below.

Click a question to see the answer: 

Q: What's on the ballot?

A lot!

Among the long list of contests facing voters in June: the governor’s race, California’s U.S. Senate race and the race for attorney general. Los Angeles and Orange counties also have several county supervisorial seats on the ballot.

If you're registered to vote, there are two separate guides that have arrived or will be arriving in the mail to help you navigate the election: the statewide voter information guide and a sample ballot from the county that you're registered to vote in. 

The statewide guide can be accessed online. If you live in L.A. County, you can access your sample ballot here. If you live in Orange County, you can find your sample ballot here.

If you live in a different county, check this list on where to contact elections officials. 

KPCC has also partnered with MapLight, a nonprofit that researches the influence of money on politics, and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund to provide a customized online voter guide based on your address. Candidates information, including campaign contributions and endorsements, are available in the guide.

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Q: What if my name was left off of L.A. County's voter rolls?

A printing error left 118,522 voters' names off the rosters at Los Angeles County polling places, according to a statement from the L.A. County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk's Office. If that happened to you, stay in line and request a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted once your registration is verified, which takes up to 30 days. 

In previous elections, an average of 85 to 90 percent of provisional ballots were found to be valid and counted, according to the statement.

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Q: I'd like to vote by mail. How do I do that? 

You can request a vote by mail ballot until May 29. The fastest way to request a vote by mail ballot is online. 

If you live in L.A. County, visit the county website for all the information you need. If you live in Orange County, check the instructions here

Once you've completed your ballot, the amount of recommended postage to mail it in varies by county. In L.A. County, use one first-class stamp for the primary election. In Orange County, you'll need 71 cents in postage. Two first-class stamps will more than cover the postage. 

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Q: When are vote by mail ballots counted?

Vote by mail ballots are tallied after the polls close on primary election day. Ballots that arrive prior to election day are processed and voter signatures are verified in advance, but the count itself does not take place until after 8 p.m. when polls close.

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Q: Will my vote by mail ballot actually be counted?

If you’re voting by mail, don’t worry. Your ballot counts just as much as someone voting in person. In California, all eligible mail ballots are tallied regardless of whether the races are close contests or not. California has some of the most voter-friendly laws in the country and each eligible ballot is counted, even though it sometimes takes weeks for election officials to count them all.

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Q: My ballot says there are 27 candidates running for governor and 32 for U.S. Senate. What's going on?

There are in fact 27 candidates running for governor and 32 candidates running for California’s U.S. Senate seat.

In the race to replace Gov. Jerry Brown, most of the debates and news coverage leading up to the primary election only includes six of the major candidates (two Republicans and four Democrats): Travis Allen, John Chiang, John Cox, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom and Antonio Villaraigosa.

In the Senate race, incumbent Dianne Feinstein and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, both Democrats, have received most of the attention. The California GOP did not endorse or hold a vote on who to back for the race.

California’s primary election rules allow you to vote for any gubernatorial or U.S. Senate candidate you choose, regardless of your political party affiliation or lack of one. Once the primary election votes are counted, the top two candidates advance to the run-off election on Nov. 6, regardless of their political party.

One important note: Vote by mail voters should be careful not to “overvote.” If you select more than one candidate per race, your vote for that contest will not count. If you make this mistake, you can contact your county election officials and ask them to suspend your ballot and reissue a new one. Do this as soon as possible to increase your likelihood of casting a valid ballot.

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Q: Why are some of the candidates for governor missing from the voter information guide that arrives in the mail?

Candidate statements from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, state Treasurer John Chiang and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are absent in the Official Voter Information Guide sent to registered voters.

This is not a mistake. Those three candidates did not accept the state's voluntary campaign spending limit, which means they’re not eligible to be included in the guide. To purchase a candidate statement (which costs $25 per word for the governor’s race), a candidate for state office must accept the voluntary campaign spending limit. This does not apply to candidates running for federal office, such as the U.S. Senate.

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Q: What about voter registration? How much time do I have left to register to vote?

The online voter registration deadline for the June 5 primary was May 21. However, if you missed the deadline, you still have options. Conditional voter registration is now in effect in California. That means you can register and cast a provisional ballot on election day if you go to your county's election headquarters. This is a great new option for anyone who missed the deadline to register.

In Los Angeles County, the county headquarters' address is 12400 Imperial Hwy., Norwalk, CA 90650. You can check the office hours here. Other counties’ election offices can be reached here.

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Q: I need help figuring out the state ballot measures. What should I do?

 There are five statewide ballot measures on the June 5 ballot. KPCC has an overview guide available online. You can also read the pro and con arguments for the measures in the statewide voter information guide.

Also helpful are the campaign finance numbers. Looking at the spending for and against the ballot measures can help you decide whether a yes or no vote makes the most sense for you. The Secretary of State has a tool available online that explains the numbers.  

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Q: My vote by mail ballot has an error on it. How do I get it fixed?

Contact your local elections office and ask for a ballot replacement if you notice problems. If you live in L.A. County, call 1-800-815-2666. If you live in Orange County, the phone number to call is 714-567-7600. Both offices are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday leading up to the election. Orange County’s number is staffed during the weekend, and LA County will offer extending hours on election day. Orange County voters can alsorequest a replacement ballot online. Take action as soon as possible to avoid problems on election day.

 You can also show up on June 5 and cast a provisional ballot at any polling location in the county in which you’re registered. Provisional ballots will be counted by election officials after they are verified.  

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Q: Is it possible to vote early?

Yes. Both L.A. County and Orange County will offer early voting this weekend. If you missed the May 21 deadline to register to vote online, you can still do so at the early voting locations. You’ll conditionally register but your ballot will be counted once your information is verified. Remember to bring your ID.

Still have questions? For more election information, visit L.A. County’s website or Orange County’s website.

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Q: How do I contact my county elections office?

The California Secretary of State’s website hasa helpful list of county elections offices

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This story has been updated.


KPCC's Senior Political Reporter Mary Plummer launched the Human Voter Guide project in May 2016 in the runup to the 2016 presidential elections. The project seeks to help local residents navigate elections and voting in Southern California by researching sometimes complicated questions and helping troubleshoot their voting issues. 

Since its launch, the project has helped hundreds of voters clear the personal hurdles in elections and resolve voter problems, including registering to cast ballots, getting vote by mail ballots and overcoming obstacles to voting while out of state. Plummer's reporting also uncovered extensive problems at California polling places during the 2016 elections.

The project is edited by Sandra Oshiro. The project archive is available online. You can reach Plummer at and Oshiro at

Ready for Election Day? Get up to speed on what you need to know with KPCC’s Voter Game Plan. Read up on the candidates and ballot measures, find out about registration deadlines and ask us your questions.