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Election 2020: What Californians need to know to register, vote and watch Trump-Biden debates

We’ve all been consumed by heat waves, smoky skies, one more Zoom meeting and keeping the kids focused on their online classes. So, yes, you can be excused if you’re not completely caught up with all the deadlines, dates and debates suddenly upon us as the calendar creeps toward Election Day.

This presidential election for the ages is coming up fast, with new rules and deadlines in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your vote is counted.

When is the election? 

The election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. But you don’t necessarily need to line up to cast a ballot that day — although you can. Most Californians will receive a ballot in the mail this year.

How do I register? 

You can register online at

When’s the deadline to register? 

You can technically register to vote up to and on Election Day, but if you want to receive a ballot in the mail, you need to register by Oct. 19.

How do I know if I’m registered?  

You can check your registration status at If you’re registered but have moved, make sure you re-register by Oct. 19 to get a ballot in the mail at your new address.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 29: Voters cast early ballots, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, at the vote center inside the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

When will I get my ballot? 

Your ballot should be in the mail on or before Oct. 5, and you can vote as soon as you get it and mail it back the next day.

I got my ballot but made a mistake filling it out. What do I do?

You can request a new ballot, but you must do so by Oct. 27. You can find a vote-by-mail ballot request form on the Secretary of State’s website. (Only do this if you need a new ballot. If you’re registered, you should automatically receive one in the mail.)

How do I make sure my ballot is counted? 

You can drop your ballot in the mail (no postage required) or a ballot drop box, you can take it to a polling location or you can vote in person. If you drop it in the mail, your ballot will count as long as it is postmarked no later than Nov. 3 and received by Nov. 20. California pushed that date back two weeks this year to account for possible postal delays because most ballots will be sent through the mail because of the coronavirus.

You can also track the status of your ballot at

Former Vice President Joe Biden participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) Evan Vucci/Associated Press

I want to learn more before I vote. When are the presidential and vice presidential debates? 

There are four debates total. Each will be an hour and a half long and start at 6 p.m. Pacific time. You can watch them on all the major networks or YouTube and listen on National Public Radio stations.

There are three presidential debates scheduled:

  • Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland. Moderator: Chris Wallace of Fox News.
  • Oct. 15 at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Moderator: Steve Scully of C-SPAN.
  • Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville. Moderator: Kristen Welker of NBC.

There is one vice presidential debate scheduled:

  • Oct. 7 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Moderator: Susan Page of USA Today.

What other issues are on the California ballot? 

Voters will see 12 ballot propositions this year, ranging from proposals to overhaul the way property taxes are determined to undoing an existing ban on affirmative action. This news organization has a full breakdown online and our editorial team has put together a list of endorsements. (Reminder: The editorial team operates independently from the news team, which does not take a position one way or the other on the propositions.)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump after the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) 

Anything else? 

If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you’d like to know a little about your fellow Golden State voters. According to the Public Policy Institute of California:

  • By July 2020, 83% of eligible adults in the state had registered to vote, up from 73% in July 2016, the last presidential election year.
  • The share of registered voters who identify as Democrats has increased slightly since 2016 — from 45.1% to 46.3%. The share of independent voters also increased, from 23.3% to 24%. But the share of Republicans dropped from 27% to 24%,
  • The breakdown of likely voters is: 47% Democrat, 26% Republican, 22% independent.
  • Likely voters are disproportionately likely to be White, older, more educated, affluent, homeowners and born in the U.S. compared with the state’s overall population.

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