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How to report problems at the polls

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

If you plan to cast your ballot in person on Election Day, it's important to know your rights and who to contact for help if you experience trouble voting.

The nonpartisan Election Protection coalition can answer questions, provide assistance and document problems to ensure your vote counts.

Call or text the hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).

Other options for reporting problems:

— Alert election officials at the polls, if possible — Submit a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division by phone at 800-253-3931 or online

— Contact your state board of elections or local elections office

Most voters will not need to provide identification or proof of residency when they vote.  Usually, the ONLY time a voter in California is required to show any type of document before voting is if you:

  • Registered by mail or online;

  • Did not provide your driver’s license number, state identification number or last four digits of your social security number on your registration form; and

  • It is your first time voting on a federal election in this county.

In that instance, you may be asked for one of over 30 acceptable forms of identification or proof of residency, such as a driver’s license, utility bill or a check from the government.  If you are voting for the first time and voting by mail, you should include a copy of this identification or proof of residency with your ballot.  This does NOT have to be a photo ID.  If you do not have any of these documents to prove your identity or proof of residency, you can vote by provisional ballot, which will be counted if the signature on your ballot matches the signature on your registration form. Be sure to ask an election official the deadline for providing your identification to the county elections office.

Here are some common misconceptions about voting you should know:


If I leave something blank on my ballot, my ballot won’t be counted.


If a voter doesn’t make a choice for a particular contest, no vote is recorded for that contest only. The rest of the ballot still counts. You can vote for as many or as few contests on your ballot as you choose.


Provisional ballots are only counted if there is a close race.


In California, provisional ballots serve as a fail-safe method of ensuring all voters who show up to the polls can cast a ballot. ALL eligible provisional ballots are counted. County elections officials carefully check every provisional ballot to ensure the voter was registered and did not cast a second ballot elsewhere. Due to the additional human review and verification needed for provisional ballots, they are typically counted after Election Day and vote-by-mail ballots.


Vote-by-mail ballots are thrown out if they arrive after Election Day.


County elections officials will process and count all valid vote-by-mail ballots that are postmarked on or before Election Day and arrive no later than 17 days after the election.

Some counties are offering a new tool called “Where MY Ballot?” that allows voters to track the status of their vote-by-mail ballots. To see if your county is participating, visit:


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