Vote by Mail
Any registered California voter may choose to receive a vote by mail ballot and vote by mail instead of casting their ballot at their polling place on Election Day. The Elections Office cannot mail a vote by mail ballot without a request on file from the voter. Ballots may be mailed anywhere in the world. To have one-time vote by mail status, the voter must apply by mail or phone at least 7 days prior to an election or in person by 8 p.m. Election Day.
Beginning in 2002, California Elections Code Section 3201 allowed any voter to apply for permanent vote by mail status. The status previously had been available only to voters with certain disabilities. Permanent vote by mail voters receive a mail ballot for each election rather than having to request one each time. California voters can apply for permanent vote by mail status through the Elections Office at any time.
Voted vote by mail ballots arrive in two ways. If they are dropped off at a poll or at the Elections Office, vote by mail ballots must arrive by 8 p.m. on Election Day. If they are mailed, they must be postmarked by Election Day.
Voters must sign the vote by mail envelope for a ballot to count. All signatures are verified against the voter registration file.
To request a vote by mail ballot, do one of the following:
- At any time, call the Elections Office to request a vote by mail application be sent to you. For English, call 209-525-5200. For assistance in the Spanish language, call 209-525-5230.
- About four to five weeks before an election, the sample ballot pamphlet arrives at each voter’s home. An application is on the back cover. Complete the form and mail it to the Elections Office. This will be a one-time change unless you check the box that says “Permanent Vote by Mail” voter.
- Send a written request to the Elections Office. It must contain the following information: Election ballot is requested for, voter’s full name, voter’s residence address, address where ballot should be sent, voter’s signature and the date. Telephone number is helpful but optional.
- Go online and re-register as a permanent vote by mail voter. Go to stanvote.com and click on the yellow Register to Vote box.
- If an election is 29 days to 7 days away, you may make a one-time request for a vote by mail ballot by calling the Elections Office. Only the voter himself or herself may request this by phone.
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A voter may return the voted vote by mail ballot by mail to the Stanislaus County Elections Office, 1021 I Street, Suite 101, Modesto, CA 95354, or by bringing it into the Elections Office or, by dropping it off at any Stanislaus County polling place on Election Day. If the voter is unable to return the ballot personally, the voter may have a relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother or sister) or person living in the same household deliver the ballot.
The voter must remember to sign the ballot envelope or the Elections Office cannot count the ballot.
The Elections Office begins mailing out requested vote by mail ballots 29 days before the election and continues until the 7th day prior to the election. A voter may come into the office and pick up his or her ballot starting on the 29th day. The Elections Office will accept voted ballots beginning on the same day.
Because of the mail time to get the ballot to the voter and for the voter to mail the voted ballot back by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, requests received after the 7th day before an election will not be mailed out. Voters may come into the Elections Office and pick up their ballots over the counter. If this is not possible, and may prohibit the voter from voting, the Elections Office will mail the ballot to the voter with the understanding that the voter is responsible for returning it on time to the Elections Office or to a Stanislaus County polling place in order to be counted.
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Contact the Elections Office for instructions on how to obtain a second ballot at 209-525-5200 or 209-525-5230 for assistance in the Spanish language if a vote by mail ballot is lost, destroyed or a mistake is made that requires a second ballot.
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If a ballot is mailed prior to Election Day, but the voter has concerns that it may not have been received at the Elections Office on or before 8 p.m. Election Day, the voter may do the following:
- Cast a ballot "provisionally" that will be kept separate from the rest of the ballots in a sealed envelope until the status of the vote by mail ballot can be determined, or
- Contact the Elections Office for more details.
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Voters may request a vote by mail ballot every time they want to vote by mail or apply for permanent vote by mail ballot status. Call the Elections Office for more details.
Sign your ballot envelope or we cannot count your ballot.
The Elections Office will begin mailing out requested vote by mail ballots 29 days before an election and continue until the 7th day prior to the election. A voter may come into the office and pick up his or her ballot starting on this 29th day. We will accept voted ballots beginning on the same day.
Because of the mail time to get the ballot to the voter and for the voter to return the voted ballot back by 8:00 p.m. on Election Night, requests received after the 7th day before an election will not be mailed out. Voters may come into the Elections Office and pick up their ballots over the counter. If this is not possible, and may prohibit a voter from voting, the Elections Office will mail a ballot with the understanding that you are responsible for returning it on time to the Elections Office or to a Stanislaus County polling place in order to be counted.
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If you are in the military or live overseas you may qualify as a "Special Vote by Mail Voter." Your County elections official will process these special vote by mail ballot applications as many as 60 days prior to the election. (Elections Code Section 3103)
To apply for a "Special Vote by Mail Ballot" you may need to complete a "Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request Federal Post Card Application,” also known as an FPCA. To download an FPCA, go to http://www.fvap.gov/ and look for the Quick Links box. Click on “Download your FPCA Today.”
Complete the application and send it to our office via postal service at:
Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters
1021 "I" Street, Suite 101
Modesto, CA 95354
Or fax your completed application to us at 209-525-5803.
If you need further assistance or have any questions you can call us at 209-525-5200 or 209-525-5230 for assistance in the Spanish language. You can also email the Elections Office at moc.ytnuocnats@ofnietov.
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It was not until the Civil War that anyone thought of "absentee voting." Although the new concept was not very successful during that period, it did enable soldiers and sailors to vote for the first time while away on duty.
In 1896, Vermont passed the first statute extending the privilege of absentee voting to civilians and military personnel. Most legislation pertaining to absentee voting has been introduced during wartime, when large numbers of eligible voters have been serving their country in the Armed Forces. Consequently, during World War II, Congress created a War Ballot Commission to help service members exercise their right to vote in the 1944 general election.
There have been several amendments to the Constitution of the United States to protect the right of citizens to vote, as well as acts of Congress such as the Federal Voting Assistance Act in 1955 and the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act in 1975. These laws were replaced by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Vote by Mail Voting Act (Public Law 99-410), which requires states to allow certain groups of citizens a reasonable opportunity to register and vote in presidential and congressional elections. Individuals covered under this law include members of the U.S. Armed Forces or Merchant Marine and their dependents, and citizens residing outside the United States. Additionally, states have passed laws which allow these citizens to register and vote via the mail in federal and state elections.
Beginning in 2002, California Elections Code Section 3201 allowed any voter to apply for permanent absentee status and changed the term to vote by mail. The status previously had been available only to voters with certain disabilities. Permanent vote by mail voters receive a mail ballot for each election rather than having to request one each time. California voters can apply for permanent vote by mail status through county elections offices at any time. As a protection against fraud, any permanent vote by mail voter who fails to cast a ballot in a statewide primary or general election will be removed from the list of permanent vote by mail voters but retains active voter status. Voters may re-apply for permanent vote by mail status at any time.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in these pages was valid at the time of publication. The County Clerk / Recorder / Registrar of Voters reserves the right to modify, update, change or make improvements at any time, without notice, and assumes no liability for damages incurred directly or indirectly as a result of errors, omissions or discrepancies.