Early Voting for California's March 3 Primary Is Underway; Here's What SoCal Voters Need to Know

Election Guide

Early voting has kicked off in Southern California ahead of the state’s March 3 primary.

The state moved its primary up to Super Tuesday — much earlier than the June primary dates of 2012 and 2016 — in an effort to play a larger role in deciding who will be the Democratic nominee for president.

In addition, Californians will also cast their ballots for congressional and state legislative races. The top two vote-getters in those contests will appear on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 3.

Voters will also be deciding on one statewide proposition and local ballot measures.

Monday, Feb. 3, marked the first day to vote by mail. Those ballots can also be returned in person at secure county ballot boxes, polling locations and vote centers on March 3, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

The last day to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot is Feb. 25. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by March 3 and will be accepted via mail through March 6.

Early voting has also begun at county registrars’ offices.

Find your polling place and get a sample ballot here.

Meanwhile, the deadline to register to vote in the upcoming election is Feb. 18.

However,  a recent law also allows voters to conditionally register or change their registration up until 8 p.m. on the day of the election. Eligible citizens who complete the process will still be able to cast a ballot on Election Day, and their vote will be counted and processed once the voter registration verification process has been completed by the county elections office.

In the presidential election, “no party preference” voters — also known as independents or nonpartisans — can vote for a Democratic, Libertarian or American Independent Party candidate, but only through a “crossover” ballot. Those can be requested from the county registrar’s office or, for those voting in person, when checking in at the polls, according to the Secretary of State’s website.

Nonpartisan permanent vote-by-mail voters must request a crossover ballot be sent to them by their county’s deadline. In Los Angeles County, for example, nonpartisan voters who want to cast a mail-in ballot for the Democratic primary must either contact the registrar’s office directly by Feb. 25 or mail in the postcard that was sent to them.

Nonpartisan voters must re-register as Republicans in order to vote in the Republican election.

Those who will turn 18 by Election Day can pre-register to vote online or by filling out a paper application.

You can check your voter registration status here.

Significantly, this is the first election where the California’s Voter ‘s Choice Act — which was passed in 2016 and aims to modernize how the state conducts elections — will be implemented in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Thirteen other counties, all in the central and northern part of the state, are also conducting elections under the Voter’s Choice Act.

The new election model gives voters the flexibility to choose when, where and how they vote by expanding in-person early voting and giving voters the opportunity to cast a ballot at any vote centers within their county.

Voter centers will replace traditional polling centers and are geared toward making voting easier and more convenient. The centers will also have trained staff to help voters with any registration issues or register them to vote, provide general assistance, offer replacement ballots and more.

Los Angeles County

The L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk has already started mailing out nearly 5.5 million new designed sample ballots, which contain crucial information about the new voting experience — including guided directions on how to vote, according to a news release from the registrar’s office.

Additionally, the office will also mail out a book listing vote center locations, along with the date and times they’ll be open, and a postcard identifying the six closest locations to the person’s residence. However, they’ll be able to go to any vote center within the county.

There are hundreds of voter centers located throughout the area; some will be open from Feb. 29 to March 3, while others will operate from Feb. 22 to March 3.

A map of voter center locations can be found here; a full list can be found here.

In addition, the county has installed ballot drop boxes around the region for further convenience.

Polls are generally open throughout the state on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., but you should check your vote center’s hours before heading down.

In-person voting has already started at the Registrar-Recorder’s Office, in Room 3002 on the third floor of the building, which is located at 12400 Imperial Highway in Norwalk.

Those who haven’t registered to receive a vote-by-ballot can do so by following the instructions provided here.

More information can be found at LAVote.net.

Orange County

Like L.A. County, Orange County will also be utilizing vote centers on Election Day and in the days leading up to the March 3 primary.

There will be 188 fully staffed centers throughout the county; all will begin operating either three or 10 days prior to the election.

A full list of Orange County locations, including dates and hours, can be found here.

Every voter in the in the county will receive a vote-by-mail ballot, which can be returned at vote centers, by mail or into 110 secure ballot drop boxes located throughout the area, according to a news release from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

A tweet from the Orange County registrar stated that ballots would start being mailed out to all 1.6 million registered voters on Feb. 3, and should arrive at their intended destinations in the coming days.

Orange County voters can verify their registration status here and request a replacement vote-by-mail ballot here.

More information can be found at OCVote.com.

Riverside County

Information guides began going out to over 1 million voters last week, according to a news release from Riverside County’s Registrar of Voters. The guide includes the voter’s polling place location on the back cover, as well as an application to request an absentee ballot. Vote-by-mail applications are also available online.

The county registrar’s office, at 2724 Gateway Drive in Riverside, will be open for early voting through March 2.

From Feb. 21 to Feb. 23, voters can cast their ballots at the following three locations: The Galleria at Tyler in Riverside, Westfield Palm Desert and the Promenade Temecula.

Vote-by-mail applications can be turned in at participating city clerks’ offices, the registrar’s office, the registrar’s 24-hour drop boxes and at any polling place in California on Election Day.

More information, as well as all the ballot drop-off locations in Riverside County, can be found at voteinfo.net.

San Bernardino County

Early voting is already underway at the  San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters office, which is located at 777 E. Rialto Ave. in San Bernardino.

An additional five sites — in Apple Valley, Joshua Tree, Lake Arrowhead, Ontario and Victorville — will allow early voting beginning Feb. 25.

The county will also have dozens of mail ballot drop-off locations available for the primary. A map of locations can be found here.

Vote-by-mail ballots can be obtained by filling out this application and returning it by mail, fax, email or in person. If the voter received a sample ballot, they can also use the form on the back to request an absentee ballot.

More information can be found at SBCountyElections.com.

Ventura County

Sample ballots have gone out to the more than 450,000 registered voters in Ventura County, and vote-by-mail ballots are set to go out this week, according to a news release from the county recorder’s office.

Those who haven’t applied for a mail-in ballot yet can fill out this application and follow these instructions to turn it in.

Starting Feb. 3, voters will be able to drop off their mail-in ballots at one of nine outside city drop boxes that will be available 24/7 through 8 p.m. election night. Two are located in Ventura, and Oxnard, Camarillo, Ojai, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Fillmore and Thousand Oaks will each have one.

Indoor drop boxes will be available during business hours at the city clerks’ offices in Port Hueneme and Santa Paula through 5 p.m. Election Day.

Early voting is also available to those who’d rather cast their ballot in person by going to the Election Division, located in the Hall of Administration, Lower Plaza at 800 S. Victoria Ave. in Ventura. Absentee ballots can also be returned there.

More information can be found at recorder.countyofventura.org/elections.

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