California's Primary Election: 7 questions answered

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California's primary election will take place much earlier in 2020 than in previous years and there are some new rules when it comes to voter registration. ABC7 News has answers to seven frequently asked questions.

When is California's primary?
California's primary will take place on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. This makes California part of Super Tuesday when 14 states hold primaries.

Why did it change?
Historically, California's primary was held in June, next-to-last in the schedule, followed only by Washington, D.C. In Sept. 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to move the primary. "We are the most populous state in the nation, the most diverse state in the nation, we represent the largest economy of any state in the nation -- we deserve to have a real say and a more influential role in the nominating process," explains California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

When do I need to register to vote?
For the first time, California will allow voters to register, as well as re-register with a different political party, up to and including on Election Day at all polling places. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Oct. 8, 2019 to make it happen.

The official deadline to register to vote is two weeks before an election. For the March 2020 primary, that deadline falls on Feb. 18. After the deadline, voters can register conditionally and vote provisionally. Their ballots will be counted after their registration has been confirmed. You can check the status of your ballot through the Secretary of State's office.

RELATED: New California law allows voters to register at all polling places on Election Day

How can I vote?
You can either vote in person or by mail. There is no online voting.

IN-PERSON:
Polling places are open across the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. You are not required to show identification to vote, although first-time voters may be asked to verify some information. If your name is not on the voter list at a polling place, you are still allowed to vote with a provisional ballot. Those are counted after your registration is confirmed and the elections office verifies that you did not already vote somewhere else or by mail.

BY MAIL:
Vote-by-mail ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day. They can be dropped off at any polling place, elections office, or specially designated ballot box. If you choose to mail your ballot, it must be postmarked no later than Election Day and must be received within 3 days in order for your vote to count.

Three Bay Area counties - Napa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara - participate in California's Voters Choice Act. Every voter is mailed a ballot, regardless of whether one is requested. There are more places to vote in-person before election day, and polling places are replaced by vote centers.

What happens if I vote early and my candidate drops out?
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Early voting in California opened on Feb. 3, weeks before some democratic presidential candidates suspended their campaigns. If you voted for someone who left the race, your vote still counts. If you have filled in a vote-by-mail ballot but haven't mailed it and want a new ballot, you can request one from your county's election office. After your ballot is submitted you cannot change it.


Early voting in California opened on Feb. 3, weeks before some democratic presidential candidates suspended their campaigns. "All candidates listed on the ballot are eligible to receive votes even if a candidate states a withdrawal from the contest for a particular office," explains John Arntz, Director of the San Francisco Department of Elections. Ballots are only printed once and are not updated to reflect current candidates. If you voted for someone who left the race, your vote still counts. If you have filled in a vote-by-mail ballot but haven't mailed it and want a new ballot, you can request one from your county's election office. After your ballot is submitted you cannot change it.

Do I need to register with a political party?
No, but an unaffiliated voter's ballot will not have the same choices as a ballot for a voter who is registered with a party. Unaffiliated voters will not see party candidates on their ballot. That means the section for presidential and other candidates will be blank. However, unaffiliated voters can request a party's ballot.

Unaffiliated voters who want to vote in the Democratic, American Independent or Libertarian parties need to request that party's ballot. They can either return a post-card sent in the mail or contact their local registrar of voters.

Unaffiliated voters who want to vote in the Republican, Green or Peace and Freedom parties will be required by those parties to re-register as a member of those parties. The deadline is February 18 if you want to register by mail.

Unaffiliated voters are those who registered as "No Party Preference." This is different from independent voters who registered with the American Independent Party. There are roughly 5.4 million NPP voters registered in California.

Voters can also request a ballot or re-register at their local polling place on Election Day, March 3.

RELATED: Here's how unaffiliated voters could influence outcome of primary -- Chasing California 2020

RELATED: Here's how the 2020 presidential primary works in CA

How do I decide how to vote?
There are a lot of available resources so here is a short list of options:
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