Your Voting Rights When You Are Under Conservatorship
Your Voting Rights When You Are Under Conservatorship
People who have conservators can vote unless a judge says they cannot. This pub tells you how to find out if a judge took away your right to vote. It tells you how to get the right to vote back. It tells you what to do if the judge will not give your right to vote back to you.
Who has the right to vote in California?
You are eligible to vote in California1; if you are:
- A United States citizen;
- A resident of California
- 18 years of age or older on Election Day;
- Not currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony; and
- Not under a conservatorship in which a court made an order that you are disqualified from voting (in other words, an order that you are not allowed to vote).
Can I still vote if I am under conservatorship?
Yes, if you are under conservatorship, you can vote unless a court has made an order that you are not allowed to vote. When a court first made an order that you should be under conservatorship, it also made a decision about whether you would be allowed to vote.2 In addition, if you have been under conservatorship for more than one year, the court may have made additional decisions about your right to vote when it looked, from time to time, at the status of your conservatorship.
Under the law that has been in place since January 2016, the court should have taken away your right to vote only if you were unable to communicate a desire to vote.3
Can I vote if my conservatorship started before 2016?
If your conservatorship was set up before 2016, a court might have taken away your right to vote under an older rule. Starting in 2016, California changed how it decides whether people under conservatorship can vote.4
If a court said you are not allowed to vote, you might be able to get your right to vote back. This publication explains how you can try to get your right to vote back.
How do I find out if my right to vote was taken away?
Here are some ways you can try to find out if you are eligible to vote:
- Ask the lawyer who represents (or represented) you in the conservatorship case.
- Ask your conservator.
- Call your county elections office to ask if you are eligible to vote. You can find the phone number in the list at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voting-resources/county-elections-offices.
- If you are a regional center client, ask your case manager at the regional center to check for you.
- Call the court to ask for a copy of the last order that was made about your right to vote.
How can I get my right to vote back?
If a court took away your right to vote and you want to get it back, you need the court to make a new decision. You get to decide if you want to (1) wait until the court reviews the status of your conservatorship at the times required by law or (2) contact the court to request a review of your voting rights as soon as possible.
To help you decide if you want to wait, here is some information about how long the wait might be:
- Some types of conservatorships have regular reviews every one or two years. The timing can vary due to many factors. Sometimes there are delays. When the court does one of these regular reviews, it is supposed to consider again whether you should be allowed to vote, and it may schedule a hearing about your voting rights. During this review, someone from the court will interview you and you can ask to be allowed to vote again.5
- Some types of conservatorships end automatically after one year. When they end, the person under conservatorship automatically is allowed to vote again. However, if the conservator asks to be reappointed as conservator after that one year, the court must decide again whether to take away voting rights. There would be a court hearing about the reappointment, and that is when you could ask to be allowed to vote again.6
If you decide to wait, keep in mind that there may be an election while you are waiting. You could miss the chance to vote in an election if the election happens while you are waiting for the next regular court review.
Your second option (instead of waiting) is contact the court to request a review of your voting rights as soon as possible. You can use the sample letter that appears below to contact the court and tell the judge you want to vote. The judge should review your case and might decide to let you to vote. If an election is coming up soon and you want to vote in it, we recommend that you ask the court to do the review as soon as possible.
Who can help me contact the court?
You can get help from anyone you want, such as a friend or family member. Some other people who might help are:
- Your lawyer
- Your conservator
- Your case manager at your regional center (if you are a regional center client)
- Staff from Disability Rights California’s Voting Hotline (call us at 1-888-569-7955)
What do I do if the judge or court investigator asks me about voting?
All you need to tell the judge or court investigator is, “I want to vote.” If you are being asked more questions and feel nervous, confused, or intimidated, you can contact Disability Rights California’s Voting Hotline to ask if we can help you; our phone number is 1-888-569-7955.
Can I vote if I cannot speak, read, or write?
Yes. The inability to speak, read, or write is not a valid reason for taking away your right to vote. You can let the court know that you want to vote any way you are able to. You can use any method or device that helps you let people know what you want. Some voters with disabilities use assistive technology. Others get help from a person they trust. By law, there must be options for people with disabilities to vote privately and independently. You can learn more about these options from our other publications about voting, which you can find online at https://www.disabilityrightsca.org/resources/voting.
What if the court still says I cannot vote after I asked to be allowed to vote?
If you told the judge or the court investigator you want to vote, the court should hold a hearing to decide if you are allowed to vote. If the court decides you are not allowed to vote, you can contact Disability Rights California’s Voting Hotline to ask if we can help you; our phone number is 1-888-569-7955.
What do I do if someone is telling me I should not vote or trying to stop me from voting?
As discussed above, if you are eligible to vote, then you have a right to vote, and no one should be trying to stop you from voting. If you think someone is wrongly discouraging you from voting or is discriminating against you when you are trying to register to vote or vote, please contact Disability Rights California’s Voting Hotline to see if we can help you; our phone number is 1-888-569-7955.
SAMPLE LETTER STATING YOUR DESIRE TO VOTE
Here is the type of letter you can send to the court to tell the court you want to vote. You can copy and paste the text below into a word processing program to make your own letter, or you can write a letter using the text below as a guide. You need to complete the letter with information about you and your court case, as the instructions below explain. If you can, you also should send a copy of the letter to your lawyer and your conservator.
_______________ _____, 202__ (Insert today’s month, date, and year.)
Judge _________________ (Insert the judge’s first and last names if you have them. If not, you can put the words “Clerk of the Court” here instead.)
Superior Court for the County of ______ (Insert the name of the county.)
_________________ (Insert the court’s address. See the list of courthouse
_________________ addresses in the next section of this publication,
below this sample letter.)
Re: _________________ (Insert the name and number of your court case. You can find this information on any of the documents filed in your case.)
Dear Judge _________: (Insert the judge’s name or address the letter to “Clerk of the Court.”)
I would like to vote. Please restore my right to vote pursuant to California Elections Code section 2208 et seq. as soon as possible. I would like to vote in the next election, so I ask that the Court restore my right to vote at least 30 days before the next election so that I can register to vote in time.
Once an order restoring my right to vote is made, please send me a copy of that order.
____________________ (Insert your signature, mark, or signature stamp.)
____________________ (Insert your name.)
____________________ (Insert your address.)
____________________ (Insert your phone number, if you have one.)
cc: ____________________ (Insert your lawyer’s name.)
____________________ (Insert your conservator’s name.)
Mailing Addresses for Probate Division Courthouses
Superior Court of Alameda County
2120 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
Superior Court of Alpine County
P.O. Box 518
Markleeville, CA 96120
Superior Court of Amador County
500 Argonaut Lane
Jackson, CA 95642
Superior Court of Butte County
1775 Concord Avenue
Chico, CA 95928
Superior Court of Calaveras County
400 Government Center Drive
San Andreas, CA 95249-9794
Superior Court of Colusa County
532 Oak Street
Colusa, CA 95932
Superior Court of Contra Costa County
725 Court Street
Martinez, CA 94553
Superior Court of Del Norte County
450 H Street
Crescent City, CA 95531
Superior Court of El Dorado County
Placerville Fair Lane Branch
295 Fair Lane
Placerville, CA 95667
South Lake Tahoe Branch
1354 Johnson Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
Superior Court of Fresno County
1130 O Street
Fresno, CA 93721
Superior Court of Glenn County
526 West Sycamore Street
Willows, CA 95988
Superior Court of Humboldt County
825 - 5th Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Superior Court of Imperial County
939 West Main Street
El Centro, CA 92243
Superior Court of Inyo County
168 North Edwards
Independence, CA 93526
301 West Line St.
Bishop, CA 93514
Superior Court of Kern County
1215 Truxtun Ave.
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Superior Court of Kings County
1640 Kings County Drive
Hanford, CA 93230
Superior Court of Lake County
255 North Forbes Street, 4th Floor, Room 417
Lakeport, CA 95453
Superior Court of Lassen County
2610 Riverside Drive
Susanville, CA 96130-2610
Superior Court of Los Angeles County
Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse
42011 - 4th Street West
Lancaster, CA 93534
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
111 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Superior Court of Madera County
200 South "G" Street
Madera, CA 93637
Superior Court of Marin County
P.O. Box 4988
San Rafael, CA 94913
Superior Court of Mariposa County
5088 Bullion Street
Mariposa, CA 95338
Superior Court of Mendocino County
100 North State Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
700 South Franklin Street
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Superior Court of Merced County
627 W. 21st Street
Merced, CA 95340
1159 G Street
Los Banos, CA 93635
Superior Court of Modoc County
205 South East Street
Alturas, CA 96101
Superior Court of Mono County
P.O. Box 1037
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Superior Court of Monterey County
1200 Aguajito Road
Monterey, CA 93940
Superior Court of Napa County
825 Brown Street
Napa, CA 94559
Superior Court of Nevada County
201 Church Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
10075 Levon Avenue
Truckee, CA 96161
Superior Court of Orange County
Central Justice Center
700 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Superior Court of Placer County
P.O. Box 619072
Roseville, CA 95661-9072
Superior Court of Plumas County
520 Main Street, Room 104
Quincy, CA 95971
Superior Court of Riverside County
4050 Main St.
Riverside, CA 92501
3255 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs, CA 92262
41002 County Center Drive #100
Temecula, CA 92591
Superior Court of Sacramento County
3341 Power Inn Road
Sacramento, CA 95826
Superior Court of San Benito County
450 Fourth Street
Hollister, CA 95023
Superior Court of San Bernardino County
247 West Third Street
San Bernardino, CA 92415
Superior Court of San Diego County
1100 Union Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Superior Court of San Francisco County
400 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4514
Superior Court of San Joaquin County
180 E. Weber Avenue
Stockton, CA 95202
Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County
1035 Palm Street, Room 385
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
Superior Court of San Mateo County
Hall of Justice
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063
Superior Court of Santa Barbara County
312-C East Cook Street
Santa Maria, CA 93454
P.O. Box 21107
Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107
Superior Court of Santa Clara County
191 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95113
Superior Court of Santa Cruz
701 Ocean Street, Room 110
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Superior Court of Shasta County
1500 Court Street, Room 319
Redding, CA 96001
Superior Court of Sierra County
100 Courthouse Square
Downieville, CA 95936
Superior Court of Siskiyou County
411 Fourth Street
Yreka, CA 96097
Superior Court of Solano County
Hall of Justice
600 Union Avenue
Fairfield, CA 94533
Superior Court of Sonoma County
Hall of Justice
600 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Superior Court of Stanislaus County
801 - 10th Street
Modesto, CA 95354
Superior Court of Sutter County
1175 Civic Center Blvd.
Yuba City, CA 95993
Superior Court of Tehama County
1740 Walnut Street
Red Bluff, CA 96080
Superior Court of Trinity County
11 Court Street
Weaverville, CA 96093
Superior Court of Tulare County
221 South Mooney Blvd., Room 201
Visalia, CA 93291
300 East Olive
Porterville, CA 93257
Superior Court of Tuolumne County
12855 Justice Center Drive
Sonora, CA 95370
Superior Court of Ventura County
4353 E. Vineyard Avenue
Oxnard, CA 93036
Superior Court Yolo County
1000 Main Street
Woodland, CA 95695
Superior Court of Yuba County
215 Fifth Street, Suite 200
Marysville, CA 95901
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.
- 1. The California Secretary of State lists the eligibility requirements at https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voting-resources/voting-california/who-can-vote-california.
- 2. If you are reading this publication before a conservator has been appointed, and you want to try to stop the court from taking away your right to vote, we recommend that you tell everyone who talks to you about the court case that you want to vote. People you can tell include your lawyer, the person who is trying to become your conservator, the court investigator, your case manager at the regional center (if you are a regional center client), and the judge.
- 3. When establishing the conservatorship, if a court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person cannot communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, a desire to participate in the voting process, they shall be deemed "mentally incompetent" and thus disqualified from voting. For the exact language of the test the court is supposed to use when deciding whether to take away a person’s voting rights, see California Elections Code sections 2208 and 2209 https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=ELEC&division=2.&title=&part=&chapter=3.&article=1 . These laws say how much evidence the court needs before it can take away the right to vote. They also talk about “reasonable accommodations,” which are changes to the ways things are done in order to help people with disabilities.
- 4. The law changed because of a bill numbered SB 589 https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB589 that passed in 2015.
- 5. For more information, see California Elections Code section 2209. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=ELEC§ionNum=2209.
- 6. For more information, see California Elections Code section 2210. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=ELEC§ionNum=2210.