Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How is a general election different from a primary election in California? Why are two people with the same political party preference sometimes running against each other?

    California conducts top-two primaries for constitutional, congressional, and legislative offices. In the June election, all candidates for these offices were listed on the same ballot and anyone could vote for any candidate, regardless of political party preference. Only the two candidates who received the most votes (also known as the top two vote-getters) in each constitutional, congressional, and legislative contest moved on to the November general election.

    In this November general election, like the June election, there are no party-specific ballots. For constitutional, congressional, and legislative office contests, the top two vote-getters from the primary appear on the general election ballot.

    For the nonpartisan contest of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, there may be write-in candidates in addition to the two choices on the ballot.

  2. What do party preferences mean when listed with candidates' names on the ballot? What are the qualified political parties and abbreviations of those party names?

    A candidate must indicate his or her preference or lack of preference for a qualified political party. If the candidate has a qualified political party preference, that qualified political party will be indicated by the candidate's name on the ballot. If a candidate does not have a qualified political party preference, "Party Preference: None" will be indicated by the candidate's name on the ballot.

    Similarly, voters who do not have a party preference are known as having "no party preference" or as "NPP" voters.

    The qualified political parties and their abbreviations are:

    1. DEM = Democratic Party
    2. REP = Republican Party
    3. AI = American Independent Party
    4. GRN = Green Party
    5. LIB = Libertarian Party
    6. P&F = Peace and Freedom Party
  3. Who is running for office?

    The Secretary of State's Certified List of Candidates (PDF) includes all candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, and justices of the Supreme Court and courts of appeal who are up for election. County elections officials provide certified lists of candidates for local contests such as mayor and sheriff.

    Information about candidates for United States Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Board of Equalization, and justices are available in the Secretary of State's Voter Information Guide. Information about candidates for United States House of Representatives, State Senate, and State Assembly is available through county election offices and your county's sample ballot booklet.

  4. What statewide ballot measures (also known as propositions) are on the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot? How did these measures qualify for the ballot?

    There are eleven statewide propositions on the November 6, 2018, General Election ballot. All statewide ballot measures require a simple majority of the public's vote to be enacted. Of the eleven of the statewide propositions, eight are initiatives and three were placed on the ballot by the Legislature.

    Proposition 9 has been removed from the ballot by order of the Supreme Court.

    The initiative process is the power of the people to directly place measures on the statewide ballot through signed petitions. These measures can change a California law or the California Constitution.

  5. Who writes the arguments for and against the ballot measures that are printed in the Secretary of State's official Voter Information Guide?

    The Secretary of State's office does not write ballot arguments. Arguments for and against ballot measures are provided by proponents and opponents of the ballot measures.

    If multiple arguments are submitted for or against a measure, the law requires first priority to be given to arguments written by legislators in the case of legislative measures, and arguments written by the proponents of an initiative. Subsequent priority for all measures goes to bona fide associations of citizens and then to individual voters

    According to law, ballot argument language cannot be changed in any way unless a court orders it to be changed.

  6. Who writes the arguments for and against the ballot measures that are printed in the Secretary of State's official Voter Information Guide?

    The Secretary of State's office does not write ballot arguments. Arguments for and against ballot measures are provided by proponents and opponents of the ballot measures.

    If multiple arguments are submitted for or against a measure, the law requires first priority to be given to arguments written by legislators in the case of legislative measures, and arguments written by the proponents of an initiative. Subsequent priority for all measures goes to bona fide associations of citizens and then to individual voters.

    According to law, ballot argument language cannot be changed in any way unless a court orders it to be changed.

  7. Is it required to vote on every contest or proposition on the ballot?

    No, it is not required to vote on every contest or proposition on your ballot. Your ballot will not be invalidated if you do not vote on every contest or every proposition.

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About This Election Results Website

  1. Will the unofficial election results change after Election Night? When will all of the election results be final?

    Yes, election results will change throughout the canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, and other ballots are processed. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it may take up to 30 days for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters. The frequency of updated results will vary based on the size of each county and the process each county elections office uses to tally and report votes.

    County elections officials must report their final results to the Secretary of State by December 7, 2018. Then the Secretary of State will certify the results by December 14, 2018.

  2. What qualifies as a "close contest" for purposes of the Secretary of State's election results website?

    For people interested in watching contests with particularly tight margins, the Secretary of State website includes a "close contest" feature. As election results come in, this page will list all contests in which there is less than a two percent difference between first and second place for candidates or between "yes" and "no" votes for ballot measures. Election results will change throughout the 30-day canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots, and other ballots are tallied.

  3. On Election Night: Why have some counties not reported any results immediately after the polls close?

    Each of the 58 county elections offices processes ballots differently, and the distances poll workers must travel from polling places to county offices vary greatly. State law requires county elections officials to send their first batch of results to the Secretary of State's office no more than two hours after they begin tallying votes after polls close on Election Day. County elections officials continue to report results periodically on Election Night until all precinct vote totals have been reported. County elections officials will continue to count ballots up to 30 days after Election Day.

  4. On Election Night: Why do some counties show no precincts have reported, yet some votes have been counted?

    The first election results are typically ballots received before Election Day. Military and overseas voters may cast ballots up to 60 days before Election Day and vote-by-mail voters may begin voting 29 days before Election Day. County elections officials may begin opening vote-by-mail ballot envelopes up to ten business days before Election Day, but those results cannot be accessed or shared with the public until all polls close on Election Day.

    Many county elections officials choose to tally and report these early voted ballots before results come in from precincts, which are sometimes far away from county headquarters. Early voted ballots simply appear as raw vote totals because, in this initial stage, the ballots are not attributed to individual precincts.

  5. On Election Night: Why do some contests show a high percentage of precincts reporting, yet the number of votes continues to change?

    Some counties will show an entire precinct as having reported even if only one ballot from that precinct has been counted. This is why the website specifically notes the data is from precincts "partially reporting."

    Election results will change throughout the 30-day canvass period as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional ballots (including conditional voter registration provisional ballots), and other ballots are tallied.

  6. When are vote-by-mail ballots counted?

    Vote-by-mail ballots that are received by county elections officials before Election Day are typically counted on Election Day. Many more vote-by-mail ballots are dropped off at polling places, drop box locations, or arrive at county elections offices on Election Day. A vote-by-mail ballot is to be counted if received in the county elections office no later than three days after the election and postmarked on or before Election Day. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it takes up to 30 days for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters. The frequency of updated results will vary based on the size of each county and the process each local elections office uses to tally and report votes.

    All vote-by-mail ballots that county elections officials determine to be valid and cast by eligible voters are counted and included in the official election results, which will be published by the Secretary of State by December 14, 2018.

  7. When are provisional ballots counted?

    All provisional ballots, including conditional voter registration opens new window provisional ballots, that county elections officials determine to be valid and cast by eligible voters are counted and included in the official election results, which will be published by the Secretary of State by December 14, 2018. Depending on the volume of these types of ballots, it takes up to 30 days for county elections officials to verify voter records and determine if ballots have been cast by eligible voters.

  8. When are write-in ballots counted?

    County elections officials must report write-in candidate vote results to the Secretary of State by December 7, 2018. The Secretary of State will certify the results of the election by December 14, 2018.

  9. What is the number of registered voters based on?

    The number of registered voters is based on the quantity of voter registrations deemed effective and received by the county elections official on or before the 15th day before the election.

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About the California Voter's Choice Act

  1. What is the California Voter's Choice Act?

    The California Voter's Choice Act is a law passed in 2016 that is modernizing elections in California by allowing counties to conduct elections under a new model which provides greater flexibility and convenience for voters.

    This new election model allows voters to choose how, when, and where to cast their ballot by: mailing every voter a ballot, expanding in-person early voting, and allowing voters to cast a ballot at any vote center within their county.

    For the 2018 elections, five counties are participating in the Voter's Choice Act: Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo.

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