Newsom Recall Election: Find Your Early Voting Site or Ballot Drop-Off Location

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Bei Kao holds her "I Voted" sticker after voting in Oakland on Oct. 27, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

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California voters are currently faced with a recall election to decide whether Gavin Newsom will be replaced as governor of this state.

All registered voters should already have received a ballot in the mail. And while Election Day is Tuesday, Sept. 14, you also have several options to cast your ballot early.

A reminder: If a majority of voters in this recall election says "yes" to recalling Newsom, he will be removed from office, and whichever replacement candidate gets the most votes will become governor of California for the rest of Newsom’s term, ending in January 2023.

If you're wondering where to drop off your completed mail-in ballot in the Bay Area, where you can vote early in person or how to find your polling place for Election Day, read on.

And if you're concerned you might have made a mistake when filling out your ballot, read our guide to addressing common errors on your ballot before you mail it — and find out how to get a fresh ballot or vote in person if you've really messed up.

Skip straight to:

Can I mail my ballot through the Postal Service?

Yes, you can mail your completed ballot via the U.S. Postal Service at any regular collection box. The envelope is postage paid, so it doesn't require a stamp, and it'll be counted as long as it's postmarked by Election Day (Sept. 14) and arrives at the registrar's office by Sept. 21. Depending on where your nearest Postal Service collection box is located, this could be the most convenient option for you — especially if you don't have the use of a car.

If you're planning to mail your ballot on Election Day, be very sure that you don't miss the last collection time for that specific mailbox, or that you're not dropping it off at a post office that's already closed. Doing this will mean your ballot is not postmarked on Election Day, and that your ballot won't be counted when it reaches your county's election office.

Can I drop off my ballot in a drop box or at a voting location?

Once you've completed your mail-in ballot, you can drop it off by hand at an official drop box or a voting location instead of mailing it via a U.S. Postal Service collection box. Find your nearest drop box or voting location.

A few reasons you might prefer to hand-deliver your completed ballot:

  • Peace of mind: There's a satisfaction that comes with knowing your ballot should now travel straight to your county elections office, rather than having to go through the Postal Service collection and sorting process for delivery.
  • Timing: If Election Day is drawing near, using a drop box or a voting location to drop off your ballot directly is the best way to be sure it'll reach your county elections office in time to be counted.
  • Assistance: If you drop off your ballot at a voting location during opening hours, and you have a few lingering questions about your ballot or the process, chances are good that you'll find someone there to help answer your questions in person.

Regardless of how you deliver it, you can sign up to track your ballot's progress with the "Where's My Ballot?" online tool, and be reassured that it's on its way.

Hand holding ballot drops it in red cardboard ballot box
A San Francisco resident drops off a mail-in ballot at a voting center near City Hall on Oct. 6, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

I want to vote in person. When is early voting available in the Bay Area?

Now! As of Aug. 16, in-person voting is available at every county registrar's office in the Bay Area. Find your county registrar's office and opening hours.

More early voting locations will open across the Bay Area starting Sept. 4. Find where to vote early in your county.

Remember: If you'd like to cast a ballot in person, it's a good idea to bring the blank ballot you were mailed along with you. This is because some counties are able to cancel your mail-in ballot remotely, to ensure nobody can vote twice, but other counties will require you to vote provisionally if you don't bring your blank mail-in ballot along.

Provisional votes are subject to extra checks — that you're actually registered to vote in California, or that you didn't already complete and mail your ballot —  and this extra layer of confirmation takes time. It means that your vote will eventually be counted, though it might not be tallied on Election Day itself.

The deadline to register online to vote in the recall is Aug. 30. But if you miss that deadline, don't worry: You can still register afterward at one of these early voting locations via what's called same-day voter registration (also known as conditional voter registration). You can fill out and submit your ballot then and there.

In addition to voter registration, many voting locations also offer replacement ballots, accessible voting machines and language assistance for voters.

Ophelia Williams and her brother Leopold Parker do a final check of their mail-in ballots before turning them in at the San Francisco Voting Center near City Hall on Oct. 30, 2020. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

How can I find my early voting site or ballot drop-off?

  • Visit the State of California lookup tool, where you will ...
    • Enter your county — adding your city or ZIP code will give more localized results, but it's optional.
    • Check the "Early Voting" and/or "Drop Off Location" boxes.
    • Hit "Search" to see all of the early voting and drop-off locations in that area.

If you're choosing to vote early in your county, remember that voting hours may differ by location, which may not be open every day.

Where can I vote in person on Election Day?

If you live in San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, Solano or Sonoma counties, you can only vote at your assigned polling place (or your county registrar's office, which is open now for voting).

If you live in Alameda, Napa, Santa Clara or San Mateo counties, you can vote at any voting location, including your county registrar's office.

You can find your polling place through the state's lookup tool, although please note that this information will only become available closer to Election Day.

If you're hoping to vote in person, be sure to check your mail-in ballot well before Election Day to see where you can vote, and whether you've been assigned a specific polling place. And again, remember: Even if you live in a county that assigns you a particular polling place, you can still vote any time starting now through Election Day at your county registrar's office.


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