Have you voted yet? Yes, we know the election is still three weeks away, but then again, it's not. Voting is underway.
Mail-in ballots went out last week, which means some of you have already accomplished your civic duty. If your ballot is still sitting on the kitchen table, yet to be tended to, however, just know that it must be postmarked by March 3 and received by March 6.
Many vote-by-mail voters may be waiting for their sample ballots to arrive. The Kern County Elections Division will start mailing out copies of that voting tool Tuesday, according to Kern County Assistant Registrar of Voters Jackie St. George, and most households should have received them by the end of this week.
Some important deadlines are still ahead. If, for example, you would like to register as a Republican to vote in the closed primary, you must do so by Feb. 18. That date is also the deadline to register to vote — but fear not if, despite this timely reminder, you forget anyway: California now allows same-day voter registration. Just show up at a polling place on March 3, fill out the registration form and then cast your vote. The registrar will figure out later if you're legit before formally tabulating your votes.
Don't expect to know the outcome of the election the morning of March 4.
The Secretary of State says it may take a few days to complete the tabulation, in part because of voter accommodations such as same-day registration and ever-more-popular vote by mail. The majority of California’s 20 million registered voters are expected to vote by mail, rendering the term "Election Day" all but meaningless.
We saw that asterisk in action two years ago when the results of some congressional races were up in the air for a week or more — including, most noteworthy, the 21st Congressional District race between incumbent David Valadao, a Republican, and challenger TJ Cox, a Democrat. Cox, trailing throughout election night and for several days afterward, pulled out a narrow victory with the last several hundred ballots.
California will have a major impact on the outcome of the race for Democratic Party's presidential nominee. The state's 415 Democratic delegates will be distributed according to the results of the March 3 balloting. Four other states will have already held their primaries (or in the case of embarrassed Iowa, a caucus).
California will be one of 13 states voting on Super Tuesday, March 3.
This state's voters will select legislative and congressional candidates in the so-called "jungle primary" with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advancing to showdowns in November.
No-party-preference voters may vote in the Democratic presidential primary, but they must ask for a Democratic presidential ballot at their assigned polling station. Voters registered in other parties may not vote in the Democratic presidential primary. The Republican Party allows only registered Republicans to participate in its presidential primary.
Voters registered with No Party Preference who plan to vote by mail should have received a postcard from the Elections Office that will allow them to request a ballot for one of the parties that allows independent voters to vote in their primary. Those who do not request a party ballot will be mailed a ballot without any presidential candidates listed.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
Where can I register to vote?
Visit registertovote.ca.gov to register online. That's the quickest and easiest way.
You can also pick up a form in person at local fire stations, U.S. Post Offices, DMV offices, public libraries or at the Kern County Elections Division office, 1115 Truxtun Avenue, 1st floor, in Bakersfield.
Or you can call the Kern County Elections Division and ask that a registration form be sent by mail: 868-3590 or 1-800-452-VOTE (8683).
By which date must I be registered?
The deadline to register to vote for any election is 15 days before Election Day, or Feb. 18 this year. You can still register to vote in the 14 days before and through Election Day. This is called Conditional Voter Registration, but the process can be lengthy.
What happens after I have registered to vote?
You will receive a Voter Notification Card in a few weeks from the Elections Office. Confirm that the information on the registration card is correct. The Elections Office will send you a voter pamphlet a few weeks before the election. Take it into the voting booth at your polling place on Election Day to save time.
This story was updated to clarify that voters registered in other parties may not vote in the Democratic presidential primary. No-party-preference voters may vote in the Democratic presidential primary, but they must ask for a Democratic presidential ballot at their assigned polling station.