Frequently Asked Questions

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

Voter Registration

  • How do I know that I am registered to vote?

    When we receive your voter registration card, we enter the information, including the image of your signature into the voter file. Then your registration is sent to the Secretary of State's Statewide Database, which compares it against the DMV or Social Security records to verify the information. If your information is verified, the State notifies us that you are eligible to vote.

    You can find out if you are registered to vote in Marin County by using our online application.

  • Who can register to vote?

    Persons who meet all of the following requirements are eligible to register to vote:

    • United States Citizen, and,
    • Resident of the California, and,
    • 18 years of age or older, and,
    • Not in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony.
  • When can I register to vote?

    You can register to vote any time, but if you want to vote in an election, your voter registration must be received by the Elections Department or postmarked by 15 days before that election. You should register as early as possible so that you receive your sample ballot and voter guide in the mail. If you register later than 29 days before an election, you may not receive this information. Fourteen days prior to an election through Election Day, you may register online or in the Elections Department; you must come to the Elections Department by 8 p.m. on Election Day to get a ballot.

  • How do I register to vote?

    You can register online at the CA Secretary of State website.


    You must fill out a paper voter registration form, sign it, and return it by mail or in person to the Marin County Elections Department.

  • Where do I get a voter registration form?

    You can register online at the CA Secretary of State website, or call (415) 473-6456 to request a voter registration form.

    You may also pick up a voter registration form at:

  • What information do I need to put on the form?

    Required Information

    • Signature — will be used to check petitions and your vote by mail ballot;
    • Mailing address if different from your residence address;
    • Birth place;
    • Birth date;
    • Party affiliation (if you do not choose a party, you will be registered as No Party Preference (non-partisan).
    • California driver's license number or California Identification Number — both available at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or, if you do not have a driver's license number, the last four (4) digits of your Social Security number.

    Optional Information

    • Language preference;
    • Telephone number;
    • E-mail address.
  • What if I forget to put all of the required information on the registration form?

    We will send you a notice and ask you to provide the missing information. After you provide the required information, you will be registered to vote.

  • What happens if there is a problem with matching my ID information?

    If there is a problem with your ID information, the Secretary of State will let us know and you will be given a chance to correct your information. In 4-5 weeks, you should receive a card that confirms that you are registered to vote. If your information has not been verified in time for Election Day, you can cast a provisional ballot when you go to the polls.

  • What if I change my address, my name, or my party affiliation?

    If you —

    Move or otherwise change your place of residence:
    You must re-register to vote with your new address.
    Change your mailing address:
    Fill out, sign and return the Change Mailing Address Form. You can also change your mailing address online (see below).
    Change your name:
    You must re-register to vote with your new name.
    Change your party preference:
    You must re-register to vote with your new party, or no party if you prefer.

    You can re-register online, or call (415) 473-6456 to request a new form.

    You may also pick up a voter registration form at:

    Election mail cannot be forwarded.

  • What happens if I do not update my information?

    Your name may not be on the roster of voters at the polls on election day. That means you may have to vote a provisional ballot, which may not have all of the candidates or measures that are on the ballot for your current address.

    In primary elections, you may not be able to vote the ballot of the political party of your choice.

    And if we do not have your current mailing address, the post office will not forward your election mail.

  • What if I am homeless?

    You can still register to vote. Write the address of a shelter or the cross streets of where you sleep on your voter registration form. Be sure to provide your mailing address.

  • Do you ever take my name off the voter registration list?

    Yes. A voter's name can be taken off the voter registration list for the following reasons:

    • Voter has died (notification must be in writing and signed);
    • Voter has moved out of the County of Marin;
    • Voter is in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony;
    • Voter has been declared incapable of voting by a judge.

    Voters who do not vote in two consecutive General Elections (which take place in even numbered years) will be moved to the inactive voter file. The voter will receive a notice that their names will be placed in the inactive voter file unless they reply to the notice.

    Voters on the inactive list are still registered in Marin County. However the voter will not receive election mail (ballot, voter information pamphlet, and sample ballot) or have their name in the roster at their polling place.

  • Can I cancel my registration?

    Yes. You can cancel your registration in Marin County by filling out and mailing in this online Registration Cancellation Form.

  • How do I get my voting rights back when I am out of prison or off parole for the conviction of a felony?

    Under the California Election Laws you must re-register to vote.

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Voter Registration Drives

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Voting at the Polls

  • How do I find my polling place?

    Look for the address on the back cover of the County Voter Information Guide, or for each election on the Election Schedule in the Polling Information section.

  • How does voting at the polls work?

    Voting at the polls is easy! Here’s how it works:

    • A poll worker will ask you to sign the Roster of Voters, and give you a ballot and a secrecy folder.
    • You will take your ballot and secrecy folder to a voting booth to vote.
    • You will put your voted ballot in the secrecy folder, and take it to the ballot box.
  • What if I need help?

    Just let a poll worker know what kind of help you need.

    They can:

    • Show you how to mark your ballot, using a demonstration ballot, and
    • Tell you about other kinds of support for voters with special needs.
  • Do I need to show my ID?

    You must show ID if:

    • You registered to vote by mail, but did not list a driver’s license or ID number on your voter registration form, and
    • This is your first time voting in a federal election in Marin County.
  • What if the poll worker cannot find my name on the Roster?

    You can still vote. The poll worker will give you a provisional ballot. Your ballot will be counted if we confirm you are properly registered, and you only voted once in this election.

  • Why would my name not be on the Roster?

    The most common reasons are:

    • You are in the wrong polling place.
    • You changed your name, but did not fill out a new registration form.
    • You moved to Marin County or moved to a new address in Marin County, but did not fill out a new registration form.
    • You registered after the deadline.
    • You did not register.
  • How can I know if my provisional ballot was counted?

    Contact the Elections Department twenty-eight (28) days after the election.

  • What if I can't get to the polls on Election Day?

    Starting 29 days before the election, you may vote at the Elections Office or give your written permission to a spouse, parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, or a person living in your household to pick up and return your ballot.

    Starting 7 days before the election you may vote in person at the Elections Office or give any representative your written permission to pick up and return your ballot.

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Voting by Mail

  • Why do most Marin County voters vote by mail?

    Because it’s safe, accurate, fast, and easy.

    Here’s why:

    • Safe. The U.S. Post Office delivers your ballot to the Elections Department. We keep all vote-by-mail ballots in a locked room with an alarm and video cameras.
    • Accurate. You can study your ballot at home. Take your time to make informed choices and mark your ballot correctly.
    • Fast. Vote at home when you want. Then put your ballot in the mailbox. No standing in line on election day!
    • Easy. We mail your ballot to you. And you can mail it back to us.
  • Is voting by mail the same as Absentee Voting?

    Yes. In 2007, the law changed the name to "voting by mail."

  • How do I sign up to vote by mail?

    Fill out an application. (You must be registered to vote in Marin County.)

    To get an application:

    • Call: (415) 473-6456.
    • Fill out the form online.
    • Fax: (415) 473-6447.
    • Fill out the application on the back cover of your County Voter Information Guide, or mail your request to:
      • 3501 Civic Center Dr., Room 121
      • San Rafael, CA 94903
      • P.O. Box E, San Rafael, CA 94913
  • Is there a deadline to apply?

    Yes! We must receive your application by mail or fax at least seven (7) days before the election.

  • What if I miss the deadline?

    You must apply in person at the Elections Department office. If you are unable to get to our office, you may authorize someone to take your application for you. We will give you or that person your vote-by-mail ballot.

  • Can I vote by mail for this election only?

    Yes! Fill out and return the vote-by-mail application on the back cover of your County Voter Information Guide, or fill out our online vote-by-mail application. If you want to vote by mail for all elections, just check the box on the application.

  • Can I vote at the polls if I am a vote-by-mail voter?

    Yes. Take your vote-by-mail ballot and the return envelope to the polling place, and ask for a polling place ballot. Even if you do not have your vote-by-mail ballot and the return envelope, you can vote a provisional ballot.

  • If I sign up to vote by mail will I always have to vote by mail?

    No, not unless you want to. You can apply to vote by mail for just one election. Or you can apply to be a permanent vote-by-mail voter and get your ballot in the mail automatically before every election. Notify the Marin County Elections Department in writing to cancel your permanent vote by mail status.

  • When will I get my vote-by-mail ballot and when can I vote?

    Vote-by-mail ballots are mailed starting 29 days before the election. If you do not receive your ballot around that time, call us. We will send you a replacement ballot. If there is not enough time to mail it, you can pick one up at our office.

    You can vote as soon as you receive your ballot. And you can also vote at the Elections Department office.

  • How will I get my ballot?

    We mail election materials to all vote-by-mail voters starting twenty-nine (29) days before the election. You will receive a:

    • Ballot,
    • Return envelope, and
    • Instructions.
  • If I am traveling, can I get my vote-by-mail ballot at a different address?

    Yes. Contact us and give us your temporary out-of-town address. Or if you prefer, you can vote early at the Elections Department office starting 29 days before the election.

  • Will the Post Office forward my vote-by-mail ballot to my new address?

    No! Vote-by-mail ballots cannot be forwarded. Fill out a new voter registration card with your updated information at least 15 days before the election.

  • What if I don’t get my ballot?

    Call us at (415) 473-6456, and we will send you a replacement ballot.

  • What if I lose my ballot?

    Call us. If it is too late to mail you a replacement ballot, you may pick one up at the Elections Office or vote at the polls.

  • What if I make a mistake on my ballot?

    Contact our office, (415) 473-6456, to ask for a replacement ballot. Or draw a line through the incorrect vote and the oval. Then fill in the oval for the correct vote, and write "correct" next to the correct vote.

  • How do I turn in my vote-by-mail ballot?

    Place your ballot in the envelope provided in the packet. Sign the envelope. Then, return your ballot.

    You can —

    • Mail your ballot;
    • Drop it off at the Elections Department office, during business hours; or
    • Take it in person to any polling place in Marin County on election day between 7 AM and 8 PM.


    Sign your return envelope!

    If you do not, your ballot will not be counted.

  • What is the deadline to turn in my ballot?

    Your ballot must be post marked on or before election day and received within three days after the election. If you do not mail your ballot, it must be returned by 8:00 p.m. on Election Day to a polling place or the Elections Office.

  • What if I forgot to sign my return envelope?

    Your ballot will not be counted. But if we receive your unsigned ballot envelope at least two weeks before the election, we will try to contact you.

  • Can I confirm that you received my vote-by-mail ballot?

    Yes. Track your ballot online with our Voter Information Portal (VIP) or use our automated phone system, available 24/7, that can check if your ballot was received. Call (415) 473-6456.

    If the Elections Office receives your vote-by-mail ballot the Friday before election day, it will be counted by 8 PM on election day. If the Elections Office receives your vote-by-mail ballot after the Friday before election day or you drop your vote-by-mail ballot off at the polls, it will be counted within 10 days after election day.

  • How are vote-by-mail ballots processed?

    We follow these steps:

    1. We record your ballot when it is received.
    2. We compare your signature on the envelope to your registration card.
      • If it does not match, your ballot will not be counted.
      • If you forgot to sign your envelope, we will notify you.
    3. We sort the countable ballots by precinct.
    4. Ten business days before the election, we get the ballots ready to count.
  • How are vote-by-mail ballots counted?


    1. Open all ballots one precinct at a time, with the address face down.
    2. Take the ballots out of their envelopes and set the envelopes aside.
    3. Unfold and inspect each ballot for damage. We divide ballots into 2 groups: damaged and ready for counting.
    4. Damaged ballots are repaired so they can be counted.
    5. Ballots that are ready for counting are counted using optical scanners.
  • When will I know the vote-by-mail ballot results?

    We count all ballots turned in before election day by 8 PM on election day. (In Marin County, 76% of vote-by-mail voters turn in their ballots before the election.)

    We count ballots that are turned in or received on election day within a week of the election.

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Voters With Specific Needs

  • Is my polling place accessible?

    We work hard at getting polling places that are accessible for all people. But sometimes this is not possible.

    To know if your polling place is accessible:

    • Find the access symbol on the back cover of your County Voter Information Guide.
    • Look for the word YES or NO near the symbol.
      • YES means your polling place is fully accessible.
      • NO means your polling place does not meet all current accessibility requirements. However, alternative facilitation may make it accessible to you.
    • If your current polling place is not accessible, and you want to vote at an accessible polling place, call us at least 2 weeks before the election: (415) 473-6439.
  • Can I vote by mail?

    Yes. See the Vote-by-Mail application on the back cover of the County Voter Information Guide. Or call for an application: (415) 473-6456.

  • What other ways can I cast my ballot if my polling place is not accessible?

    Request an Alternative Accessible Polling Place

    A voter who is unable to enter his/her polling place because it is inaccessible may request assignment to an accessible polling place by calling (415) 473-6439 no later than 2 weeks before the election.

    Curbside Voting

    You may request that a paper ballot be brought to you outside the polling place. The poll worker will bring you a ballot and deposit it in the ballot box after you have voted.

  • Can I get a ride to my polling place?

    Marin Access was designed and is sponsored by Marin Transit to coordinate transportation resources for Marin’s older adults, persons with disabilities and low-income residents, along with others who cannot or choose not to drive.

  • What kinds of support can voters get?

    Each polling place has:

    • A wheelchair accessible voting booth,
    • Magnifiers,
    • Pens with grips that are easy to hold,
    • An AUTOMARK, an accessible ballot marking device to help you vote your ballot independently and privately. A Sip and Puff device for use with the AUTOMARK is available on Election Day by calling (415) 473-6447.
    • Curbside voting for voters who cannot get into the polling place. A poll worker can bring a ballot to you. After you vote, the poll worker will put your voted ballot in the ballot box.

    The Secretary of State has a TDD hotline: TDD 1-800-833-8683.

    All state propositions are available on audio tape. Call us if you want one: (415) 473-6456.

  • What if I don't speak English well?

    We will point out the instructions in the voting booth, and show you how to mark your ballot using demonstration ballots. Some precincts have bilingual poll workers. Let us know if your precinct needs bilingual poll workers.

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Open Primary - Presidential Election

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Open Primary - Gubernatorial Election

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Provisional Ballots

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Candidate Information

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Independent Expenditure Ordinance

  • What is the purpose of the ordinance?

    The Marin County Independent Expenditure Ordinance (Ordinance 3519) which was approved by the Marin County Board of Supervisors on June 2, 2009 requires that independent expenditures of up to $1000.00 which are made to support or oppose candidates for county elective office or county measures be reported to the Registrar of Voters within 24 hours.

    The purpose of the ordinance is to ensure transparency of independent expenditures so that voters are provided information on contributors, contributions and expenditures in a timely manner.

  • Who must report?

    Any individual or committee that makes independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates for Marin County elective offices or County measures.

  • What do I report?
    • Independent expenditures that combine to $1,000 or more that are made or incurred in support of or in opposition to candidates for Marin County elective offices or County measures.
    • All contributions of $100 or more must be itemized on the report.
    • Each candidate or measure supported or opposed by the independent expenditure.
  • How do I report?

    Independent expenditure committees are required to file forms specified by the Elections Department office. A copy of the mailing or advertisement, script or recording of phone call, transmission, or advertisement is also required.

  • When is the report due?

    Within 24 hours after the expenditure is made.

  • Where do I send the report?

    Send the forms to the Marin County Elections Department either by:

    • Personal delivery to the Marin Civic Center, Room 121, San Rafael, CA 94903;
    • Via fax to (415) 473-6447;
    • Via certified mail to the Marin County Elections Department, ATTN: Dan Miller, PO Box E, San Rafael, CA 94913.
  • What happens if I don’t report an independent expenditure within 24 hours?

    Anyone who intentionally or negligently violates any section of this chapter shall be subject to fines of $5000 for each violation, or up to 3 times the amount of the communication, whichever is greater.

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Recalls — Notice of Intention

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Recalls — Petition

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Recalls — Election

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