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Politics 101: How Do You Know Your Mail-In-Ballot Was Counted?

Voters turn in their mail-in ballots at the San Diego Registrar office, June 7, 2016.
Katie Schoolov
Voters turn in their mail-in ballots at the San Diego Registrar office, June 7, 2016.

The California gubernatorial primary this year is June 5, but that’s not the only date that’s important. There are other deadlines to keep in mind that could determine whether you get to vote, or if your vote will count.

How do we know our mail-in ballot is counted?

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said voters can look up whether their mail ballot was counted on the registrar's voter portal. "Information such as the voter’s assigned polling place, sample ballot and voter information pamphlet and status of their mail ballot can be viewed, including when it was mailed to the voter and when it was returned. We’ve had this tool for a number of years and election cycles. Several years ago, a law was passed to post whether a person’s mail ballot was counted - this information is posted after we have certified the election," Vu wrote in an email.


The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is May 29. Another important date is coming up on May 21 — that’s the deadline to register to vote in the primary. What do you need to register to vote and where do you have to go?

Mesa College Political Science Professor Carl Luna said, "The easiest way now is to just go online to the secretary of state’s office or the San Diego (County) Registrar of Voters website and it walks you through the process. If you do it online you need to have a driver’s license or a state ID that you can use. In person, you can bring other IDs in. But, it’s not that difficult of a process if you go to any post office or a government agency to get the forms. The difficulty is you’ve got to remember to do it. We’re one of the only countries in the world that puts that on the voters."

How does voter preregistration work?

Luna said, "You do it the same way that you register to vote if you are over the age of 18. (When you’re) 16, 17 you go in, either online or in person, and do the voter registration and when you turn 18 you’re ready to vote at that point."

What is the deadline to mail in your ballot?


Vu said once the polls close at 8 p.m. on election day the registrar of voters and all voting precincts cannot accept mail ballots not postmarked on or before election day. "Mail ballots that are postmarked on election day and received by the Friday, 3 days, after election day are eligible to be counted. This is known as Postmark +3," he said.

Do you have a question about local politics, local elections or why the process works the way it does? If so, ask us here: San Diego Politics 101 — the KPBS Midday Edition segment where your questions get answered

Corrected: September 29, 2023 at 10:57 AM PDT
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained inaccuracies about mail ballot procedures. The story has been updated to reflect correct information. We regret the errors.
Democracy Day is an effort that started in 2022 to draw attention to the crisis facing American democracy, provide the public with the context and information they need, and bring all types of media together to sound the alarm collectively. KPBS is a media partner in this collaborative.