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If I Have A Vote-By-Mail Ballot, Can I Choose To Vote In Person Instead?

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The primary election is officially underway in California.

Some voting centers opened on Feb. 22, and many more will open Feb. 29 all the way through Election Day, March 3. Our Voter Game Plan team is answering your questions about all the changes in the way we're voting this year.

Here's one question we've been getting: "If I received a vote-by-mail ballot, can I still choose to vote in person instead?"

You definitely can. And if you live in L.A. or Orange counties, you don't even have to turn in your vote-by-mail ballot when you go to the voting center (although you can, if you want).

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That’s because these counties now use an electronic pollbook to check in voters, and this system can see if you've already submitted a vote-by-mail ballot. So all you have to do is walk into a voting center, check in, and cast your vote. Adoption of the electronic pollbook is part of the Voter's Choice Act that several counties are implementing starting this election cycle.

So theoretically, if you tried to submit a vote-by-mail ballot and vote in person, whichever vote was processed first would count, and the other would be invalidated.

If you have a vote-by-mail ballot and decide instead to vote in person, and you live in a non-Voter's Choice Act county — such as Ventura, Riverside or San Bernardino counties — you should try to bring your vote-by-mail ballot to turn in so that you can avoid any potential issues.

But if you forget to bring it, that’s okay. You can still cast a provisional ballot that will count once election workers can verify you haven't already voted.

Check out our extensive FAQ, along with guides to a bunch of local races, at our Voter Game Plan page. And if you have more questions, ask us below.