Voters with Disabilities

Publications
#5412.01

This publication provides an overview of voting for people with disabilities. It explains how voters with disabilities can get registered to vote and find information to make informed choices. Next, it covers the requirements that make voting accessible for people with disabilities. It will also explain temporary changes to the voting process for the November 2020 Presidential General Election to respond to health and safety concerns of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

This publication provides an overview of voting for people with disabilities. It explains how voters with disabilities can get registered to vote and find information to make informed choices. Next, it covers the requirements that make voting accessible for people with disabilities. It will also explain temporary changes to the voting process for the November 2020 Presidential General Election to respond to health and safety concerns of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

This publication will tell you about:

  • How to Register to Vote
  • Voting Materials to Help You Vote
  • How to Vote Privately and Independently
  • COVID-19 and the November 2020 Election
  • What Disability Rights California can do to Help You

Register to Vote

What is voter registration?

All voters must be registered before they will be allowed to vote. Voter registration is free and accessible. Voter registration allows election officials keep track of eligible voters and provide voters with information about voting. All registered voters receive a Voter Information Guide and a sample ballot in the mail before the election. Voter registration also gives voters the opportunity to select a language preference, request a vote-by-mail ballot, and a political party.

Who can vote?

You can register to vote if you are:

  • A U.S. citizen
  • A California resident
  • 18 years old or older on Election Day. 16 and 17 years old can pre-register to vote if they meet all the other qualifications. They will be automatically registered on their 18th birthday.
  • Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction
  • Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.  Some individuals on conservatorship may not be eligible if a court finds that the person cannot communicate a desire to participate in the voting process and the court specifically takes away the right to vote in the conservatorship papers. For more information or to get your voting rights reinstated, please see our publication on Voting and Conservatorships.

How to register to Vote

If you meet these requirements, you can register online, at many government offices like the DMV, or use a paper voter registration form. If you fill out a paper voter registration form you can mail it for free to your County Elections Office or the Secretary of State. If you have questions contact your County Elections Office.

There are many ways to register:

  • Register on-line at the Secretary of State’s website: www.sos.ca.gov/ Click on “Voter Registration.”
  • Call 1-800-345-VOTE (8683) (voice or TDD/TTY). Ask them to mail you a form.
  • Register at the DMV or state agencies that provide public assistance or services for people with disabilities
  • Pick up a paper voter registration form at the:
    • Library
    • Post Office
    • County Mental Health Agency
    • Disability Rights California office
    • County or City Clerk Offices
    • Regional Center
    • Independent Living Center

You must provide this information when you register to vote:

  • Your name.
  • A mailing address. If you are homeless, put an address where you can get mail. This address could be the post office, a friend or relative’s home, a homeless shelter or social service agency.
  • A residence address. This information is needed to assign your polling place (where you vote). You can put a street intersection if you are homeless.
  • A California driver’s license or California ID card number. If you do not have a driver’s license or ID, use the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • You must sign the form and swear all the information on it is correct.

You will receive a Voter Notification Card in the mail about 2 weeks after you register. Make sure the information is correct. Let your County Elections Office know if something on the card is wrong.

When to Register to Vote

In California, it is preferable to register to vote at least 15 days before Election Day. If you wait past this point in time, it gets a little harder but you can still register and vote in the upcoming election. From 14 days before the election, and Election Day itself, voter registrations will only be accepted in-person at your main County Election Office, designated satellite locations or vote centers. Contact your County Elections Office for details.

Do I have to register again?

You have to register again only if you:

  • Move,
  • Change your name,
  • Change your political party,
  • Got back your right to vote after getting out of prison or getting off parole for a felony, or
  • Got back your right to vote after getting off a conservatorship that suspended your right to vote or if still under a conservatorship and the court reinstated your right to vote

Unsure about your voter registration status?

You can check you voter registration on the Secretary of State’s website: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status/.   

Voting Materials to Help You Vote

Sample Ballot and Voter Information Guide

About 6 weeks before Election Day, the County Elections Office will mail all registered voters a Sample Ballot. This has information about the candidates and issues on the ballot. You will also receive a Voter Information Guide with more information.

If you registered close to the election, there may not be time to mail these materials. However, you will receive a post card in the mail that says you registered. You can get the Voter Information Guide at the library or online at:
http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

What if I have trouble seeing, reading or understanding English?

You can use an American Sign Language, large print, or audio versions, available for free at the:

You can also download an audio or large print version directly from the Secretary of State’s Office website: http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/alt-versions/. You can get an audio cassette or compact disc version of the Voter Information Guide by requesting it on the Secretary of State’s website. It is available for free at public libraries

Non-English Sample and Voter Information Guide

You can get election materials in languages other than English. Contact your County Elections Office to ask what languages are available in your County. 

California Voter Information Guides are available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese on the Secretary of State’s website. You can get these ballots online at:  http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/.

Easy Voter Guide

You can also get an Easy Voter Guide. This booklet gives you clear and easy-to-read information about your California ballot and voting. It is available in English, other languages, on tape and in large print.

The Easy Voter Guide has:

  • Statements from each political party
  • Statements and pictures of candidates
  • Explanations of ballot measures (Propositions)
  • Information about registering and voting

To get the Easy Voter Guide:

  • Download the Guide at www.easyvoter.org. It is screen reader-friendly.
  • Pick up a free copy at the library.
  • The Guide is available on audiotape or in large print.
  • If you have questions, contact the League of Women Voters of California: Email: lwvc@lwvc.org or Tel: 916-442-7215 (voice only, no TDD/TTY).

Voter’s Edge California Voter Guide

You can also sign up for the Voter’s Edge California Voter Guide. You can enter your address and zip code at: https://votersedge.org/ca to receive personalized election information for your county. This resource gives you clear and easy-to-read information about your specific California county ballot, with information on candidates, measures, and who supports them, as well as where, when, and how to vote. It is available in English, other languages and in large print.

How to Vote

Where do I vote?

You vote at your polling place. It is open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Check your Sample Ballot or the postcard confirming your voter registration. This will tell you where to vote.

If you are in a Voter’s Choice Act county you can vote at any vote center. The following 15 counties implemented the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) for either the 2018 or 2020 Elections: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Mateo, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne. If you live in one of the VCA counties listed above, you may visit any vote center in your county to cast your vote in person. Vote centers are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Vote Centers are also open between 4-10 days before Election Day as well. Check your Sample Ballot and your County Election Website for more information.

Is my polling place accessible?

Maybe. Look for the blue wheelchair symbol on the back page of your Sample Ballot. If there is a blue wheelchair symbol, then your polling place should be accessible.

Accessible polling places have:

  • Marked accessible parking near the entrance
  • A clear path from the parking area to the polling place
  • Doors that are wide and easy to open
  • Election materials and signs in large print
  • Poll workers to help you and answer your questions

If your polling place is not accessible or you cannot get to the polling place, you can:

  • Ask to vote at an accessible polling place near you.
  • Use “Curbside Voting”. If you cannot come into the polling place, a poll worker will bring a ballot to you at the curb or in your car.
  • Call your County Elections Office or Disability Rights California if you have questions.
  • Vote by Mail before 8PM on Election Day. 

Is my vote center accessible?

Yes! All vote centers are required to be accessible.

In the Voting Booth

You have the right to a secret and easy-to-use way to vote. Voters can vote using a paper ballot or an accessible voting machine. Every polling place must have at least one accessible voting machine. Vote centers must have at least three accessible voting machines.

Accessible voting machines allow voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently. They have a tablet style touchscreen, audio, and a tactile keypad. The Election workers are available to answer questions and the equipment will be set up and turned on beforehand. If you have issues with the accessible voting machine please contact our Voting Hotline: 1-888-569-7955.

Polling places and vote centers will have these items to help you:

  • A tabletop voting booth (for wheelchair access)
  • Braille and large print instructions
  • A magnifying sheet
  • Pictures to help explain the voting system

May other people help me vote?

Yes. You can:

  • Choose 1 or 2 people to help you in the voting booth. But, you cannot choose your employer or union official.
  • Ask an election worker to help you. But, they must not influence you, and they cannot tell anyone how you voted.
  • Ask a sign language interpreter to help you. You can bring your own interpreter or call the County Elections Office before the election to request an ASL interpreter.

You can also take your service animal to the polling place and into the voting booth.

Vote-By-Mail Ballot

A Vote-By-Mail Ballot lets you complete you ballot at home. Your County Elections Office will mail you a ballot and a return envelope. Every registered active voter in California will receive a Vote-By-Mail ballot automatically for the upcoming election. Your Sample Ballot pamphlet has an application. Or you can contact your County Elections Office

Mail your completed Vote-By-Mail ballot or drop it off at the County Elections Office, polling place or vote center in the county where you are registered to vote. If you live in a Voter’s Choice Act county, you will be able to place your completed Vote-by-Mail ballot in any of the secured drop boxes located throughout the county.

If mailed, it must be postmarked on Election Day and arrive no later than seventeen (17) days after the election. If it is late, it cannot be counted. Vote-by-Mail ballots may be dropped off in person until 8 p.m. on Election Day. You may also authorize someone to return the ballot on your behalf. Anyone may return your ballot for you, as long as they do not get paid on a per ballot basis. In order for your ballot to be counted, you must fill out the authorization section found on the outside of your ballot envelope.

Do I have to apply for a Vote-By-Mail ballot before every election?

Yes, unless you apply for Permanent Vote-By-Mail Status. Permanent Status means a Vote-By-Mail ballot will automatically be sent to you before every election. But if you do not vote in an election, you will be taken off the permanent list. To get back on the list, you must apply again.

To apply for Permanent Status, check the box on your voter registration, use the application in your Sample Ballot, or call your County Elections Office.

In Voter’s Choice Act counties you will automatically receive a Vote-by-Mail ballot.

What if I lose my Vote-By-Mail ballot?

If you lose your Vote-By-Mail ballot, you can vote by Provisional Ballot on Election Day at your polling place. Or request a new one on Election Day, by calling the County Elections Office.

Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail

Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail (RABVM) allows voter with disabilities to complete their vote by mail ballots privately and independently using their home computer.  The completed ballot is printed and mailed back in the provided envelope to their County Elections Office.  RAVBM allows the use of accessible technologies like screen readers. RAVBM is available in all counties and is only for voters with disabilities and military and overseas voters. Contact your County Elections Office to request to become an RAVBM voter.

Covid-19 and the November 2020 Election

Vote-by-Mail and Ballot Drop-Off

The California Legislature has mandated that every eligible active voter in the state of California will receive a mail-in ballot. Every registered voter in California must be issued a mail-in ballot for the November 2020 election. You may return your completed ballot by mailing it to your county elections official. Vote-by-mail ballots that are mailed must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received by your county elections office no later than 17 days after Election Day.  You may also drop off your completed ballot at any polling place in the county. As long as voters use the return envelope provided, it is postage free by mail.

You may also return your completed mail-in ballot by dropping your ballot off into one of your county’s secure ballot drop boxes or by returning it in person to a polling place or to the office of your county elections official. Mail-in ballot drop-off opportunities will be made available for 28 days before the November 3, 2020 election from 9 a.m. through regular business hours. Ballot drop-off will at minimum be made available during those hours starting October 6, 2020. Vote-by-mail ballots that are personally delivered must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Any person can use the remote accessible vote-by-mail system.

In-person voting

In-person voting has been extended for many counties. At a minimum, your county will allow for in-person voting at designated polling locations Saturday, October 31, 2020 through Monday, November 2, 2020 for at least eight (8) hours. Polling locations must be available for in-person voting on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The following 15 counties implemented the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) for either the 2018 or 2020 Elections: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, San Mateo, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne. If you live in one of the VCA counties listed above, you may visit any vote center in your county to cast your vote in person.

If you choose to vote in person and do not live in a VCA county, you must go to your designated polling location. Some counties have opted for “Super Consolidated Polling Places,” while others have opted for “Super Consolidated Polling Places with Vote Center-like Features.” What is important to understand from that is that your designated polling location may be farther away than it usually is because those counties that have opted for either of these two options can choose to combine polling places as long as there is at least one polling location for every 10,000 registered voters. Some counties have opted to use traditional polling places and have one polling place for every 1,000 registered voters.

You can determine what style election will be conducted in your county as well as the location of your designated polling location by reviewing a voter information guide or your local county election website.

Three counties (Alpine, Plumas, and Sierra) will have no in-person voting options. Instead, these counties have opted for an all vote-by-mail election this November. Review the above vote-by-mail section if you live in one of these three counties.

County election officials have been encouraged to make every in-person vote center and polling location fully accessible to people with disabilities. Contact your local county election office for more information.

Common Questions

Can Disability Rights California help me?

Yes. If you feel discriminated against while voting because of your disability, or if you think any of the voting laws were broken, contact Disability Rights California. Please contact our Voting Hotline: 1-888-569-7955.

What is Provisional Voting?

If an election worker cannot determine you are properly registered, they will ask you to fill out a “provisional” ballot. Your provisional ballot will be put in a special envelope in the ballot box. Later, the County Elections Office will check your registration and make sure you are eligible to vote. If you are, then your vote will be counted.

The poll worker will give you a receipt. You can call the phone number on the receipt to see if your vote was counted.

What if I am put in the hospital on or just before Election Day?

You can still vote. Ask for an Emergency Medical Ballot. Call your County Elections Office for an application or you can download an application at: https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/vote-by-mail/pdf/late-vote-by-mail-application.pdf. The application is also available in many non-english options on the website. You will designate someone to bring the completed application to County Elections Office to pick up your Emergency Medical Ballot. This person is known as your “authorized representative.”  You or your authorized representative must return the completed ballot to a polling place, vote center or the County Elections Office before the polls close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. You cannot return this type of ballot by mail. For more information, see Disability Rights California’s publication about emergency medical ballots at: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/publications/how-can-i-vote-if-i-cannot-vote-in-person-due-to-a-medical-emergency.

What if I make a mistake on my ballot?

Give your ballot back to the election worker. They will give you a new one. You can get up to three ballots. But you cannot get a new ballot if you put the ballot in the ballot box. If you have trouble with the voting equipment, ask an election worker to help you.

Elections Officials, by County

Alameda
(510) 208-9770
www.acgov.org/

Alpine
(530) 694-2281
www.alpinecountyca.gov

Amador
(209) 223-6465
www.amadorgov.org/government/elections

Butte
(800) 538-7761 (Butte only)
(530) 538-6366
http://clerk-recorder.buttecounty.net

Calaveras
(209) 754-6376
www.elections.calaverasgov.us/

Colusa
(530) 458-0500
www.countyofcolusa.org/index.aspx?nid=197

Contra Costa
(925) 335-7800
www.cocovote.us

Del Norte
(707) 464-7216
(707) 465-0383
www.co.del-norte.ca.us

El Dorado
(530) 621-7480
https://www.edcgov.us/Government/Elections/Pages/elections_main_info.aspx

Fresno
(559) 600-8683
www.co.fresno.ca.us

Glenn
(530) 934-6414
(530) 934-6571
www.countyofglenn.net/dept/elections/welcome

Humboldt
(707) 445-7481
https://humboldtgov.org/890/Elections-Voter-Registration

Imperial
(442) 265-1060
https://elections.imperialcounty.org

Inyo
(760) 878-0224
https://www.inyocounty.us/services/elections

Kern
(661) 868-3590
www.kernvote.com/

Kings
(559) 852-4401
www.countyofkings.com/departments/administration/elections

Lake
(707) 263-2372
www.lakecountyca.gov/

Lassen
(530) 251-8217
www.lassencounty.org/dept/county-clerk-recorder/elections/

Los Angeles
1-800-815-2666
(562) 466-1310 (LA only)
www.lavote.net

Madera
(559) 675-7721
www.votemadera.com

Marin
(415) 473-6456
www.marincounty.org/

Mariposa
(209) 966-2007
www.mariposacounty.org

Mendocino
(707) 234-6819
www.mendocinocounty.org/

Merced
(209) 385-7541
www.co.merced.ca.us/2379/Elections

Modoc
(530) 233-6205
www.co.modoc.ca.us/departments/elections

Mono
(760) 932-5537
www.monocounty.ca.gov

Monterey
(831) 796-1499
http://montereycountyelections.us

Napa
(707) 253-4321
www.countyofnapa.org/396/Elections

Nevada
(530) 265-1298
www.mynevadacounty.com/695/Registrar-of-Voters

Orange
(714) 567-7600
www.ocvote.com

Placer
(530) 886-5650
www.placer.ca.gov/3822/Voting

Plumas
(530) 283-6256
www.plumascounty.us/142/Elections-Division-Home

Riverside
(951) 486-7200
www.voteinfo.net

Sacramento
(916) 875-6451
www.elections.saccounty.net

San Benito
(831) 636-4016
http://sbcvote.us/registrar-of-voters/

San Bernardino
(909) 387-8300
https://www.sbcountyelections.com/Elections.aspx

San Diego
(800) 696-0136
(858) 565-5800
www.sdvote.com

San Francisco
(415) 554-4375
https://sfelections.sfgov.org/

San Joaquin
(209) 468-5683
www.sjgov.org/department/rov/

San Luis Obispo
(805) 781-5080
https://www.slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Clerk-Recorder.aspx

San Mateo
(650) 312-5222
https://www.smcacre.org

Santa Barbara
South County: (805) 722-8683
North County: (805) 346-8374
https://countyofsb.org/care

Santa Clara
(408) 299-8683
https://www.sccgov.org/sites/rov/Pages/Registrar-of-Voters.aspx

Santa Cruz
(831) 454-2060
https://www.votescount.us

Shasta
(530) 225-5730
www.elections.co.shasta.ca.us/

Sierra
(530) 289-3295
http://www.sierracounty.ca.gov/214/Elections

Siskiyou
(530) 842-8084
https://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/elections

Solano
(707) 784-6675
http://www.solanocounty.com/depts/rov/

Sonoma
(707) 565-6800
http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/CRA/Registrar-of-Voters/

Stanislaus
(209) 525-5200
http://stanvote.com

Sutter
(530) 822-7122
www.suttercounty.org/doc/government/depts/cr/elections/cr_elections_home

Tehama
(530) 527-8190
www.co.tehama.ca.us

Trinity
(530) 623-1220
www.trinitycounty.org/elections

Tulare
(559) 624-7300
https://tularecoelections.org/elections/

Tuolumne
(209) 533-5570
https://www.tuolumnecounty.ca.gov

Ventura
(805) 654-2664
https://recorder.countyofventura.org/elections/

Yolo
(530) 666-8133
https://www.yoloelections.org

Yuba
(530) 749-7855
https://www.yuba.org/departments/elections/