How Can I Vote If I Cannot Vote in Person Because of a Medical Emergency?

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How Can I Vote If I Cannot Vote in Person Because of a Medical Emergency?

This publication explains how you can vote even if you are unable to leave home or a health care facility, such as a hospital or rehabilitation center, because of a medical emergency. Counties can vary a lot in what options they offer. If you do not have the ballot that was mailed to you, you probably will need someone to help you obtain and return your ballot.

This publication explains how you can vote even if you are unable to leave home or a health care facility, such as a hospital or rehabilitation center, because of a medical emergency. Counties can vary a lot in what options they offer. If you do not have the ballot that was mailed to you, you probably will need someone to help you obtain and return your ballot.

Can I vote using the ballot that was mailed to me?

Yes. If you have your vote-by-mail ballot, voting with it might be your best option since you are unable to vote in person.

You can mark the ballot, place it in the return envelope, sign and date the outside of the envelope, and return it in one of the following three ways:

  1. Mail it, making sure it is postmarked on or before Election Day. (Remember to check what time the post office closes or the mail gets picked up if you are mailing it on Election Day.)
  2. Put it in a ballot drop box by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. (Note that some indoor drop boxes may close before 8:00 p.m.)
  3. Return it to any voting location (polling place or vote center) or the county elections office by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

You can ask someone to return your ballot for you. There is a place on your ballot return envelope to put that person’s information.

If you cannot sign your name, you can sign instead with a mark, such as an “X,” and have a witness sign the envelope, too. Another option is to use a signature stamp that you already used at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the county elections office. See our publication “You Can Vote Even if You Can’t Sign Your Name” for more information about your signature options.

Can I get a new ballot mailed to me?

If you are registered to vote but you do not have the ballot that was mailed to you, you can ask your county elections office to mail you another one. You can get a new ballot (called a “replacement ballot”) by mail if you ask seven (7) or more days before Election Day. You might have to fill out the “California Replacement Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application” form, which is on the California Secretary of State’s “Vote by Mail” webpage.

If you need a new vote-by-mail ballot at any time beginning six (6) days before Election Day, through Election Day, you can follow the steps described in the next section.

How can I get a new vote-by-mail ballot when Election Day is less than a week away?

If you cannot vote in person or pick up another vote-by-mail ballot yourself because of your medical emergency and it is too late to have one mailed to you (because there are fewer than seven [7] days before Election Day), then you might have to give someone permission to pick it up for you. (See the sections below regarding other options that may be available in some counties.) To give someone permission (“authorization”) to pick up a new vote-by-mail ballot for you, you must fill out a form called “Application to Provide Vote-by-Mail Ballot to Representative.https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-registration/vote-mail#late The form is on the California Secretary of State’s “Vote by Mail” webpage.

The form requires your name, your date of birth, your residential address, the name of the person you authorize to pick up your ballot for you (called your “representative” on the form), and your signature. If you cannot sign your name, you can sign instead with a witnessed mark or a registered signature stamp. See our publication “You Can Vote Even if You Can’t Sign Your Name” for more information about your signature options.

The “representative” you name on the form must take the form in person to your county elections office, or, if your county has vote centers instead of polling places, to any vote center. (If you do not know whether your county has vote centers, you can ask your county elections office. You also can check the online list of Voter’s Choice Act counties. All Voter’s Choice Act counties have vote centers.) When the elections official gives your new vote-by-mail ballot to your “representative,” your “representative” will sign the form also.

After you get your ballot this way, you can treat it like any other vote-by-mail ballot. See the instructions above under the heading “Can I vote using the ballot that was mailed to me?”

These procedures changed shortly before the November 2022 general election because the law changed in August 2022. If you have a copy of one of our publications that refers to “emergency medical ballots,” you can get rid of it, because some of the information in it is outdated.

Can I get a vote-by-mail ballot electronically?

Your county’s remote accessible vote-by-mail (RAVBM) system is another way you may be able to get a vote-by-mail ballot when you are unable to leave home or a health care facility because of a medical emergency. You can use the RAVBM system as soon as voting starts for an election (during the “early-voting period”). In the six (6) days before Election Day and on Election Day itself, you might be able to get a ballot more quickly by using an RAVBM system than by having someone pick up a vote-by-mail ballot for you (as described in the section right above this one).

RAVBM is an online system that allows a voter to download their ballot to their own internet-connected device, such as a computer or smartphone, and mark the ballot on that device. The voter then must print the RAVBM ballot. The voter can return the printed RAVBM ballot any way a regular vote-by-mail ballot can be returned: by mail, in a ballot drop box, or at an in-person voting location.

If you have the required equipment and you think getting a ballot through an RAVBM system might work for you, contact your county elections office to find out how to access your county’s RAVBM system.

To learn more about RAVBM, please see our publication “Many Voters with Disabilities Can Vote by Mail Privately and Independently.

Do I have any other options?

You might have other options. We recommend contacting your county elections office to explore your options as soon as you can. The earlier you start planning, the more options you are likely to have. Here are some options that are available in some counties:

  • Delivery of a ballot to your home or health care facility by county elections staff
  • Delivery of an accessible voting machine (also called a ballot-marking device, or BMD) to your home or health care facility by county elections staff
  • Staff or volunteers at health care facilities who can help pick up and return vote-by-mail ballots

If you have any questions about your rights and options, especially if you cannot get timely answers from your county elections office, please call our Voting Hotline at (888) 569-7955. We will do what we can to help.

Who can help me vote?

You have a right to receive help with any part of the voting process described above. You can choose anyone to help you, except your employer, your union representative, or a person who is acting on behalf of either of them.

Disability Rights California operates a Voting Hotline to assist voters with disabilities. Please feel free to call for assistance: (888) 569-7955.

 

Disclaimer: This publication is legal information only and is not legal advice about your individual situation. It is current as of the date posted. We try to update our materials regularly. However, laws are regularly changing. If you want to make sure the law has not changed, contact DRC or another legal office.

 

 

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