Since the 1930s, the ACLU has been intensely involved in civil rights, including voting rights. The ACLU has worked to protect the gains in political participation won by racial and language minorities since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), and has aggressively and successfully challenged efforts that dilute minority voting strength or obstruct the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choice. In this year’s national, state, and local elections, a number of civil liberties issues are at stake. It is imperative that all those who are eligible can and do vote.

The right to vote…is the primary right by which other rights are protected.”
–Thomas Paine

Election 2008
Table of Contents

I.Important Election Dates

II.Voter Eligibility and How To Register to Vote

III.Special Populations

a.Voting Assistance for the Disabled

b.On Probation or Off Parole


V.Voter Bill of Rights

VI.Frequently Asked Questions

Download our 2008 Non-Partisan Voting Guide!

Read Candidates’ Responses to Civil Liberties’ Survey!


October 6 First day to request absentee ballot from Registrar of Voters
October 6 First day to vote absentee
October 20 Last day to register to vote
October 28 Last day to request absentee ballot. Request must be received no later than 5 pm.
November 1-2 Weekend voting at the Registrar of Voters, open for voting 8 am to 5 pm Saturday and Sunday
November 4 Voting day at the polls! polls open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Absentee ballots due before 8 pm at the Registrar of Voters or any polling place in the county.

If you do not know where to vote,
call 1-800-345-VOTE
visit SDVOTE.com.


You can vote if you are:

  • A US citizen
  • Residing in California
  • At least 18 years of age on or before the next election
  • Not declared mentally incompetent by court action
  • Not incarcerated in state or federal prison or on parole. (If you are in county jail awaiting a court date or transition to state or federal prison, you may vote.

How to Register to Vote:

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Voting Assistance for the Disabled
Although new accessible voting equipment is required to enable voters with disabilities to cast a ballot privately and independently, if you want help, or if for any reason you are unable to personally mark your ballot, you may choose up to two people to help you cast your vote. However, the persons or person you choose may not be your employer or your employer’s agent, or your labor union leader or agent.

For additional information on voting rights for the disabled, please download the
California Secretary of State Guide for Voters with Disabilities.

On probation? Off parole? You can vote in California!
If you are not in state or federal prison or on parole, you are eligible to vote! If you are in county jail awaiting court or are awaiting transition to state or federal prison, you may vote. If you have any questions about your eligibility to cast a vote, contact the San Diego Registrar of Voters (858) 565-5800 or the Imperial County Registrar of Voters (760) 482-4226.

For additional voting rights information for California citizens convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, visit Voting Rights for All.

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Government Agencies:
Local Level

For San Diego issues, call the San Diego Registrar of Voters at 858-565-5800

For Imperial issues, call the Imperial County Registrar of Voters at 760-482-4226.
State Level
Call the California Secretary of State Elections at 916-657-2166 or send an email.

Federal Level

  • Federal Election Commission:
  • US Department of Justice
    Anyone who has a complaint about voting discrimination is encouraged to call toll-free at 1-800-253-3931 or send a detailed written complaint to their Civil Rights Voting Section.
  • Criminal Violations
    To file a formal voter complaint form about criminal violations of the California Election Code, go to the California Secretary of State’s website and fill out the Voter Complaint Form.
  • Theft/Vandalism of Campaign Signs
    Sign theft or vandalism is treated as any other minor property crime, and can be reported to your local police or sheriff’s office.
  • Fraud Hotlines
    For questions or reports of fraud, send the California Secretary of State an email or call:
    * English: 1-800-345-VOTE (8683)
    * Chinese: 1-800-339-2857
    * Japanese: 1-800-339-2865
    * Korean: 1-800-575-1558
    * Spanish: 1-800-232-VOTA (8682)
    * Tagalog: 1-800-339-2957
    * Vietnamese: 1-800-339-8163

Non-Governmental, Non-Partisan Organizations
Election Protection Hotline
The nation’s largest non-partisan voter protection coalition has set up a hotline where you can report problems at the polls. Call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
ACLU Voting Rights Project
Call 1-877-523-2792 or send an email detailing the voting issue.

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1. You have the right to cast a ballot if you are a valid registered voter. A valid registered voter is a United States citizen who is a resident of this state, is at least 18 years of age and not currently in prison or on parole for conviction of a felony, and is registered to vote at her/his current residence address.

2. You have the right to cast a provisional ballot if your name is not listed on the voting rolls.

3. You have the right to cast a ballot if you are present and in line at the polling place prior to the close of the polls.

4. You have the right to cast a secret ballot free from intimidation.

5. You have the right to receive a new ballot if, prior to casting your ballot, you believe you made a mistake.

If at any time before you finally cast your ballot, you feel you have made a mistake, you have the right to exchange the soiled ballot for a new ballot. Vote-by-mail voters may also request and receive a new ballot if they return their spoiled ballot to an elections official prior to the closing of the polls on election day.

6. You have the right to assistance in casting your ballot, if you are unable to vote without assistance.

7. You have the right to return a completed vote-by-mail ballot to any precinct in the county.

8. You have the right to election materials in another language if there are sufficient residents in your precinct to warrant production.

9. You have the right to ask questions about election procedures and observe the election process.

You have the right to ask questions of the precinct board and elections officials regarding election procedures and to receive an answer or be directed to the appropriate official for an answer. However, if persistent questioning disrupts the execution of their duties, the board or election officials may discontinue responding to questions.

10. You have the right to report any illegal or fradulent activity to a local elections official or to the Secretary of State’s office.

If you believe you have been denied any of these rights, or you are aware of election fraud or misconduct, visit our Complaints section above or call the Secretary of State’s confidential toll-free Voter Hotline at 1-800-345-VOTE (8683) and email our national ACLU Voting Rights Project or call them at 1-877-523-2792.
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When is the last day to register to vote in the November election?
Monday, October 20, 2008.

Am I eligible to register to vote?

If you are a U.S. citizen who will be at least 18 years old by Election Day, you reside in California, you are not on parole or in prison for a felony conviction, and you have not been judged to be mentally incompetent, then you are eligible to vote in California. You do not need to know how to read or write in English or any other language. No tests are given when you register to vote.

I am a student. May I use my university’s address to register to vote?

Yes. You have the right to register to vote at your school address, this includes a dorm room. If you receive mail in a Post Office box you can sign an affidavit (or, in some cases, get a letter from your college’s Residential Life office) asserting that you live at your dorm address. A student should bring proof of residence to the polling booth, like College or University Fee Card or Student Identification in case a problem arises.

I have been charged or convicted of a crime. Can I still vote?

In California, you have the right to vote, even if you’ve been charged or convicted of a crime as long as you are not currently serving out a sentence in a state prison for a felony conviction and you are not on parole following a felony conviction.

You CAN VOTE if you have not been convicted (even if you have been charged and are in jail awaiting court). You CAN VOTE if your parole for a felony conviction has ended and you are only on probation. If you are unsure of whether you are eligible to vote, call the Registrar of Voters in your county.

I think I registered already. How can I find out if I am registered to vote?

You can call the Registrar of Voters Office to find out if you are properly registered to vote based on your current residence. In San Diego, call 858.565.5800. In Imperial, call 760.482.4266.

Do I need to re-register if I moved?
Yes. You will need to complete a new registration form.

I registered to vote a long time ago. Is my registration still valid?

Sometimes the Registrar of Voters removes “inactive” voters from the voter rolls, such as voters who have not voted in the last four elections, if the Registrar believes the voter has moved or is deceased. If you can’t remember the last time you voted, you may need to re-register.

I changed my legal name. How do I change my name on my voter registration?

On every voter registration form there is a place to fill in your previous registration information. You will fill out the form as if it were your first time doing so, and where it asks you to put in your old information, you would put in your previous name, (for example, your maiden name).

How do I become a permanent absentee voter?

You must re-register to vote and on the form check the box to become a permanent absentee voter. As a permanent absentee voter, you will retain this status as long as you vote in all statewide primary and general elections.

What if I change my mind about being an absentee voter and would like to vote at my regular polling place?

You can still vote at your regular polling place. You must bring your non-voted absentee ballot and give it to the polling place worker before voting a regular ballot. If you are unable to bring your vote-by-mail ballot to the poll, you may still cast a “provisional” ballot at your polling place which will not be counted until the county elections official can determine that you have not also submitted your absentee ballot.

I am in the armed forces. How do I register to vote?

You should contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Their website is www.fvap.gov. They specialize in getting people in the armed forces and people living abroad registered to vote. The rules for people in the armed forces or abroad are different than people living in the United States. The FVAP can also be reached by phone at (800) 438-VOTE.

I am a U.S. citizen living abroad. How do I vote?

You must request an absentee ballot. Contact a U.S. Embassy, consulate, designated military personnel or your state election authority. For additional information contact the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Where can I learn what’s on the ballot?

If you are a voter in San Diego County, you can view a sample ballot for your district online by going to your County Registrar of Voters [www2.sdcounty.ca/gpv/rov/Eng/Eballot_query.asp]. For a list of candidates and measures on the ballot in Imperial County, go to [www.imperialcounty.net/Election/].

Where can I get information about the candidates and propositions on the ballot?

For non-partisan election information, go to Smart Voter [www.smartvoter.org/ca/].

Do I need identification when I go to vote?
NO if you have voted before and your name is on the roster of voters.YES if this is your first time voting and you registered by mail without giving your California drivers’ license or state identification number or the last four digits of your social security number. As a precaution, take a photo ID with you to the polls.

What if I go to the polls and they tell me I am not registered to vote or I’m not on the voter roll?

If for some reason your name is not on the registration list you will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted once election officials determine if you are eligible to vote in that jurisdiction.

Am I allowed to post a candidate’s poster on my window if I do not own my home?

If you are a renter, you must follow the rules set by the property owner.

If you own your home, but belong to a housing association then they cannot prohibit signs and posters smaller than 9 square feet and flags or banners smaller than 15 square feet.

May I wear a button or t-shirt or anything else with the name of a candidate into the polling place?

No. This constitutes electioneering and any electioneering must be conducted a minimum of 100 feet from the place where people are voting.

May churches or other houses of worship post signs in favor of or opposing a ballot measure?

Yes. Nonprofits, including churches synagogues, temples, mosques and all other houses of worship may take positions on ballot measures, but they cannot endorse or post a sign for a candidate.

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California Election Code


ACLU Non-Partisan Voter Guide

2008 non-partisan guide.pdf

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs VR nov 08.pdf

Clip-Out Guide: Take to Polls with You

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