County of Sonoma, California
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General Voting Information

Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet

If you are registered to vote, you will be mailed a Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet approximately three weeks prior to an election. Voters who vote by mail will receive the voter information pamphlet enclosed with their official ballot. Because mailing lists are created from current registered voter lists, you should confirm you are registered by calling the Registrar of Voters Office or checking the Registered Voter Lookup to ensure you will be included in a Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet mailing. Remember: the registration deadline is 15 days before an election; do not wait to receive a Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet in the mail as a way to verify you are registered. If you wait, you could discover you are not registered and you have missed the deadline to register for an upcoming election.

Tip: mark your choices in the Sample Ballot before you go to the polls, and then use it as a guide when you vote your official ballot. If you need assistance marking your official ballot, California law permits up to two people of your choice to assist you (excluding your employer, union representative, or an agent of your employer or union). The Sample Ballot/Voter Information Pamphlet contains the following information:

  • The date of the election.
  • A copy of the ballot you will receive at the polling place (or in the mail if you are a Vote by Mail voter).
  • Information about candidates and measures.
  • The location of your polling place for that election.
  • Notification of whether or not your polling place location is accessible to the disabled.
  • A Vote by Mail ballot application.

The pamphlet produced by the Registrar of Voters Office contains information on local measures and candidates running to represent local districts. The Secretary of State publishes a Voter Information Guide that includes information on statewide ballot propositions and candidates running for statewide or nationwide office (e.g. Governor or President, respectively).

Voting Your Ballot

It is important to know how to properly mark your ballot. Card reading machines “see” the marks you make and tabulate your votes, but only if you use a Mark-A-Vote pen provided by poll workers or, if you vote by mail, a #2 pencil. Ball point and other marking pens can not be seen by the card reading machine; if you accidentally mark in pen, go over pen marks with a #2 pencil. Carefully read your ballot, as it will tell you how many votes you may cast for each contest. Marking more voting spaces than allowed is called an “overvote” and causes none of your votes for that contest to be counted. Conversely, if you mark fewer voting spaces than allowed, all “undervotes” will be counted. You are not required to vote on every contest on your ballot. Do not sign the ballot card(s). According to California law, any ballot that is “marked or signed by the voter so that it can be identified by others shall be rejected.”

Voters may decide to vote for someone who does not appear on the ballot by “writing-in” that candidate’s name in the space provided for a particular contest. There are specific requirements that a candidate must satisfy to become qualified, and thus eligible to receive votes. Votes for write-in candidates will be counted only if the person is a qualified write-in candidate, and you filled in the voting space next to where you wrote in the name on the ballot. A list of qualified write-in candidates is provided at every polling place.

Vote at a Polling Place

You may vote at the polling place listed on your Sample Ballot/Voter Information Pamphlet between the hours of 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM on Election Day. Polling place locations may change from one election to another, so always confirm the location of your assigned polling place by checking your Sample Ballot/Voter Information Pamphlet or by using our Polling Place lookup. Most polling places experience “rush” hours on Election Day in the early morning and late afternoon hours so allow plenty of time if you plan to vote at the polls during these hours.

It is important that you go to your assigned polling place to receive the correct ballot so you have an opportunity to vote on all contests for which you are eligible to vote. Polling places have unique ballots based on the various districts present in a given geographical area. Because Sonoma County has nearly 200 schools, fire, hospital, and other special districts in addition to city, state legislative and congressional districts, not all ballots contain the same contests. If you attempt to vote at a polling place other than the location listed on your Sample Ballot, your name will not appear on the roster of registered voters at the incorrect polling place, and you will be given a provisional ballot.

If you moved within Sonoma County more than 15 days before the election

Call the Registrar of Voters Office to determine if you are eligible to vote at either the Registrar of Voters Office or the assigned polling place for your new address.

If you moved within Sonoma County less than 15 days before the election

It is legal, in this situation only, to vote at the polling place assigned to your former address.

Vote by Mail

If you are not able to vote at your polling place on Election Day, or simply prefer the convenience of voting by mail, you may apply for a Vote by Mail ballot. California law also permits you to choose to become a permanent Vote by Mail voter. Official ballots are mailed to Vote by Mail voters approximately 29 days before an election; Vote by Mail ballots must be returned to the Registrar of Voters Office or any polling place in Sonoma County no later than 8:00 PM on Election Day.