Voter Registration FAQs


Who can register to vote?

You can register to vote if you are:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • A resident of California
  • At least 18 years of age on or before the next election
  • Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction
  • Not declared mentally incompetent by court action

How do I register to vote?

You can fill out a voter registration form available at all post offices, city halls, most public libraries, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices and most governmental agencies. Once you sign the form, just drop it in the mail. Postage is prepaid.

The Secretary of State’s website enables you to fill out a voter registration form online. The online form uses your signature on file with the DMV. If you have no DMV signature, you can print out the form and mail it in.

When must I re-register to vote?

If you move, change your name, or wish to change your political party affiliation, you must re-register to vote.

The deadline to register to vote for any election is 15 days prior to Election Day. After the deadline, you can still register conditionally at the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division, 40 Tower Road, San Mateo. Your vote will be counted once you’re confirmed as an eligible voter. Other satellite locations may be designated.

I just moved to California, when can I register to vote?

You can register (or re-register) at any time, but you must be registered 15 days prior to an election to be eligible to vote in that election. However, in presidential elections, special rules apply to new residents.

Can I register to vote at my business address or can I use my P.O. Box number?

You are only eligible to register to vote using your place of residence. You are only eligible to vote in the contests in the jurisdictions where you live (e.g., congressional, state assembly, state senate, municipal, judicial, county, school and/or special district offices). However, Safe at Home participants can use a free P.O. Box instead of a home address.

You may use a business address or a P.O. Box as a mailing address to receive voter information materials.

I registered at a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office. Why does the County say I’m not registered?

A number of citizens who thought they had registered at DMV offices are not actually registered. Although they checked the box on the DMV form indicating they wanted to register to vote, many forgot to complete the attached voter registration form. A voter registration form must be completed, signed and received by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division in order to become a registered voter.

Must I register with a specific party?

No. California law states that an individual may select “No Party Preference” when registering to vote.

What are the qualified political parties?

The qualified political parties in California are: the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party and the Republican Party. California law permits you to register and select the “No Party Preference” option indicating that you are not affiliated with any party. This is the same thing as a nonpartisan voter, an independent voter, or a “Decline to State” voter.

Can I change my political party affiliation?

Yes. If you wish to change your political party affiliation you must re-register at least 15 days prior to an election.

If I didn’t vote in the last election, do I have to re-register?

No. Generally, you are registered to vote as long as you live at the same address.

How can I find out if I am registered to vote?

Go to the “Check My Registration/Access My Election Materials/View My Sample Ballot Pamphlet” page. You will be asked to type in your house number, zip code and birth date to check the status of your voter registration and find other important information. You can also call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at 650.312.5222 and ask one of the staff to check and see if you are registered.

Can I obtain registration information about another individual?

Yes. However, access to this information is restricted. The Elections Code has very strict guidelines as to the permissible uses of voter information.

I became a new citizen after the registration deadline. Can I still register and vote?

Yes. Persons who become citizens after the close of registration can only vote at the Elections Office up to the seventh day prior to an election. New citizens must present a Certificate of Naturalization and declare that they have established residency in San Mateo County.

Can an ex-felon register to vote and be eligible to vote?

Yes. An ex-felon can register to vote and is eligible to vote in elections if he/she is not currently in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

What is Conditional Voter Registration?

During the period of 14 days up to and including Election Day, an individual may go to the office of their county Elections Official or designated satellite location to conditionally register to vote and vote a provisional ballot. This process is called Conditional Voter Registration (CVR).

In order to conditionally register, the individual must first complete an affidavit of registration (also known as a voter registration card). The voter is then given a CVR provisional ballot to vote.

Once the county Elections Official processes the affidavit of registration, determines the individual’s eligibility to register and validates the individual’s information, the registration becomes permanent and the CVR provisional ballot will be counted.  This process occurs before or during the canvass period.