California Resources for Voters with Disabilities

What are my rights as a voter with a disability in California?

In California, you have the right to the following as protected by federal law. Election staff must be trained on and respect these rights:

  • Accessible voter registration
  • Accessible polling places
  • Policies and procedures that do not discriminate against you based on your disability
  • Accessible, available, and operational voting systems, features
  • Your service animal to accompany you inside the polling place
  • The right to vote privately and independently or with assistance, if needed
  • Assistance from a person of your choice, who can be a friend, family member, or poll worker (but not your boss, union agent, or a candidate unless this person is your family member)

California has a Voter Bill of Rights, also available in 26 languages, as well as ASL. These rights include:

  • The right to vote if you are a registered voter
  • The right to vote if you are a registered voter, even if your name is not on the list
    • You will vote using a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted if elections officials determine that you are eligible to vote
  • The right to vote if you are still in line when the polls close
  • The right to cast a secret ballot
  • The right to get a new ballot if you have made a mistake, if you have not already cast your ballot. To do so, you can:
    • Ask an elections official at a polling place for a new ballot
    • Exchange your vote-by-mail ballot for a new one at an elections' office, or at your polling place
    • Vote using a provisional ballot
  • The right to get help with casting your ballot from anyone you choose, except from your employer or union representative
  • The right to drop off your completed vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place in California
  • The right to get election materials in a language other than English if enough people in your voting precinct speak that language
  • The right to ask questions to elections officials about election procedures and watch the election process.  If the person you ask cannot answer your questions, they must send you to the right person for an answer.  If you are disruptive, they can stop answering you
  • The right to report any illegal or fraudulent election activity to an elections official or the Secretary of State’s office
Who can register to vote in California?

To register to vote in California, you must be:

  • A citizen of the United States of America
  • 18 years of older on Election Day
  • A resident of California

If you are a student, unhoused, a survivor of intimate partner violence with related concerns, or living with a mental or physical impairment, you may still register and vote.

In California, you may not register or vote if:

  • a judge has ordered that you cannot vote (learn more about your voting rights if you are subject to conservatorship
  • you are currently serving a state or federal prison term for the conviction of a felony

Register to vote now if you are eligible!
 

What are my rights when registering to vote in California?

Federal law requires assistance in registering to vote from offices that provide public assistance or state-funded programs serving people with disabilities. Responsibilities of these offices include:

  • Providing voter registration forms
  • Assisting voters in completing the forms
  • Vote by mail, transmitting completed forms to the appropriate election official

All aspects of voter registration must be accessible 
 

What are the different ways to vote in California?
  • Early Voting
    • To locate an early voting location near you, visit CAEarlyVoting.sos.ca.gov or contact your county elections office.
       
  • In person on Election Day
    • If you are in a Voter’s Choice Act county, you can vote at any vote center, either 3 or 10 days before an election, depending on the vote center
    • You can use Curbside Voting if it is available at your polling location
       
  • Vote by mail using California’s Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system. You may return your voted ballot by
    • mailing it to your county elections office
    • returning it in person to any polling place or vote center within the county, or your county elections office
    • dropping your ballot off at a drop-off location or into a ballot drop box within the state
    • authorizing someone to return the ballot on your behalf.
       
  • Emergency Ballot - for people who do not have their VBM ballot and are in a facility or cannot leave their home because of a medical emergency
    • every county has slightly different procedures
    • usually a voter will need to have someone pick up and drop off the ballot 
    • the voter will use this application to give the helper permission
    • the ballot should be returned by 8pm on Election Day or postmarked by Election Day
       
  • A provisional ballot at a polling place that is counted after officials confirm your eligibility
What are the ways to request a Vote by Mail (VBM) Ballot in California?

California allows all voters to Vote by Mail if they choose, including an option to use California’s Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail (RAVBM) system.  

  • You may return your voted ballot by
    • mailing it to your county elections office
    • returning it in person to any polling place within the county, or your county elections office
    • dropping your ballot off at a drop-off location or into a ballot drop box within the state
    • authorizing someone to return the ballot on your behalf
How is the California VBM process made accessible for voters with print disabilities?

Voters with disabilities can vote independently from home using Remote Accessible Vote by Mail Ballot (RAVBM) systems.

  • RAVBM systems allow voters to receive their ballots electronically and mark them independently and privately before printing the completed ballots and mailing them back to elections officials
     
  • RAVBM ballots can also be dropped at any ballot drop box location or county elections office
     
  • Contact your county elections office for more information
     
What accommodations are available for voters with disabilities at polling locations in California?

All voting locations provide:

  • Designated accessible parking as close to the voting area as possible 
     
  • Curbside voting
    • Curbside voting allows voters with disabilities to park their vehicle close to the voting area and vote from their vehicle. 
    • Election workers will bring out a roster to sign, a ballot, and any other voting materials needed. 
    • Look for a posted number at your polling location to contact election workers to let them know you require assistance, or contact your county elections office
       
  • Accessible Voting Machines and items are available. These include:
    • Tablet style touchscreen
    • Audio
    • Tactile keyboard 
    • A tabletop voting booth (for wheelchair access)
    • Braille and large print instructions
    • A magnifying sheet
    • Pictures to help explain the voting system
    • 19” full-color LCD screen 
    • Accessible ballot marking interface (both audio and visual)
    • Assertive input devices for accessible ballot navigation and voting, including an ATI (Audio-Tactile Interface), sip & puff, and paddles
    • ATI has raised keys that are identifiable tactilely (i.e. raised buttons of different shapes and colors, large or Braille numbers and letters)
    • The display can be adjusted using the zoom and contrast buttons. 
    • The contrast button allows the voter to display the screen image in high contrast
    • Audio voting process using the ATI controller and headphones; a marked paper ballot is produced which serves as the official ballot record. 
    • Voters are able to review, verify and correct their selections prior to casting their ballot by audio and/or visual means.
       
  • You may have other people assist you:
    • Choose 1 or 2 people to help you in the voting booth if they are not your employer or union official.
    • Ask an election worker to help you. They may not tell you how to vote or influence your vote.
    • Asking a sign language interpreter to help you. You can bring your own interpreter, or call the County Elections Office before the election to request an ASL interpreter.
What are the rules of assistance for disabled voters in California?
  • You may request assistance from a poll worker or receive assistance from a person of your choice with the following exceptions:  
    • your employer or an agent of your employer
    • an officer or agent of your union
       
  • A poll worker cannot force you to accept assistance.
     
  • You have the right to ask questions to elections officials about election procedures and watch the election process. If the person asked cannot answer the questions, they must send the voter to the right person for an answer.
     
  • Ask an election worker to help you. They may not tell you how to vote or influence your vote.
     
  • Asking a sign language interpreter to help you. You can bring your own interpreter, or call the County Elections Office before the election to request an ASL interpreter.
     
  • You may bring your service animal with you.

California has more information available on their website, including official voter information guides available in ASL, audio, large print, or other formats.

How can I prepare to use accessible voting equipment in California prior to Election Day?
Who do I contact if I have problems when voting in California?
  • To notify the state of election fraud or a criminal violation of the California Elections Code you may have witnessed, use the HAVA Elections Complaint Form and follow the procedure listed to report the violation. You can also call the Secretary of State's confidential toll-free voter hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).
     
  • You can also fill out a Violation of Civil Rights Complaint Form and submit it to the US Department of Justice by one of the following methods:
    • Online, through the form’s submission process - this is the fastest method.
       
    • By fax at (202) 616-9881. You MUST include “ATTN: Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaints" at the top of your fax submission for it to be processed correctly.
       
    • By mailing your form to: 

                 U.S. Department of Justice
                 Office of the Inspector General Investigations Division
                 ATTN: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints
                 950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
                 Washington, DC 20530