California Presidential Primary 101

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9 mins read

Deadline: Now and ongoing –

2020’s here at last, and our clear vision is to sweep out the corrupt, lawless GOP with a Blue Tsunami! The Presidential Election is Tuesday, November 3, 2020 – getcher countdown clock here. But this is no spectator sport, fellow politics fans. When’s the last time you checked your voter registration – are you sure it’s accurate? Are all your eligible family and friends registered? Are you sure you’ll be able to vote for the candidate of your choice in the primary? Find the deadlines and facts below, because it’s go time!

Let’s start with …

Critical info about voting in California’s Presidential Primary:

For all info, including step-by-step instructions on how to vote in the 2020 Primary, visit HowToVoteForPresident.SoS.CA.gov. Here are some important specifics:

  • California timing: the primary and other important dates
    • The California Presidential Primary is Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
    • Voter registration for the primaryTuesday, February 18, 2020 is the deadline by which you must either register online or get your paper registration form postmarked. 
      • If you miss that deadline to register, you can use Same Day Voter Registration (in state law known as Conditional Voter Registration) at your county elections office, polling place, or vote center; you can also register to vote online. For more info, including the specific procedures and requirements for each of these, contact your county elections office.
    • Vote-by-mail ballot request for the primary: your application must be received by your county elections official by Tuesday, February 25, 2020. If your application is incomplete or inaccurate they won’t send a ballot.
  • Your party registration makes a difference – Read this!
    • If you’re registered to vote with a political party, you can only vote for that party’s presidential candidates in California’s primary election. If you’re a registered Democrat, for example, you’ll only see Democratic presidential candidates on your ballot.
    • You can change your party affiliation or update your voter registration anytime by re-registering to vote at registertovote.ca.gov.
    • If you’re registered to vote with No Party Preference (NPP), you must make a request to vote for presidential candidates, otherwise your default ballot will be “nonpartisan” and will contain no candidates for president. But there are many ways to make that request:
      • NPP voters who vote by mail will get a postcard from their county elections official, before the vote-by-mail ballots are sent out, offering the option to receive a Democratic, American Independent, or Libertarian Party ballot. (Each Party – not the Secretary of State or elections officials – decides whether to allow NPP voters to participate in their primary.) An NPP voter can simply select which party’s ballot they’d like to vote for and return that postcard by mail.
      • NPP vote-by-mail voters who don’t respond to that postcard will be mailed a ballot without any presidential candidates listed. If this happens, they’re still able to request a “crossover ballot” from their county elections official, which will allow them to vote for presidential candidates of one of the parties listed above.
      • NPP voters who don’t request a crossover ballot can still vote for a party candidate, by taking their non-partisan vote-by-mail ballot to their polling place, exchanging it for a ballot with presidential candidates from the Democratic, American Independent, or Libertarian Party, and voting in person.

Yes, I want to register to vote:

  • Eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find paper applications at lots of places, including:
  • Want to register online?
    • You’ll need:
      • your California driver license or ID card number
      • the last four digits of your social security number, and
      • your date of birth.
    • Your info will be provided to the CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. 
    • Don’t have one of those IDs, or have other questions? Check the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.  
  • Is your registration accurate? Check! Many voter registrations have errors – check yours.
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, make sure to re-register now. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
  • Know any 16- or 17-year olds? They may be eligible to pre-register if they’ll be 18 by election time. Check their eligibility and help them pre-register (either online or using the paper form) so they can vote once they turn 18.

Learn more:

Pass on to your family & friends in other states:

  • Vote.org has lots of info, and the url is easy to remember.
  • When We All Vote’s goal is to make sure all eligible voters are registered and ready to vote in every election. They work with Rock The Vote to give specific info about local elections and more.
  • Indivisible has joined with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, etc.
  • The League of Women Voters’ Education Fund 411.org provides personalized voter information, voting guides, and more.
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote.

“Primary Election March 3, 2020” graphic copyright California Secretary of State  

Originally posted at Indivisible East Bay. Re-posted with permission.


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Heidi Rand fights the evil empire with skills honed as a Ninth Circuit staff attorney and civil rights lawyer, using words to resist, and to inform and inspire others to take action. She also wields a mean camera and knitting needles, though not at the same time.

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