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Voter Game Plan: What Should I Do With Someone Else's Ballot? Or An Extra Ballot?

An official mail-in ballot drop box is posted outside of an L.A. subway station. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Throughout the 2020 campaign, our Voter Game Plan team is answering your questions to help you navigate the voting process during what can be charitably described as...interesting times.

This week, we heard from Angelenos who received multiple ballots addressed to them. Others opened up their mailboxes to find ballots for people who no longer live at their residence -- former roommates, the previous tenants of their apartments, or relatives who have died.

What do you do with an extra ballot, or a ballot that's not yours? Here's the guidance for some Southern California counties.


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"If residents receive ballots that are not addressed to them, they are urged to immediately contact our office at (800) 815-2666 or" Registrar spokesman Mike Sanchez said in an email. If you get an extra ballot with your name on it, discard it and contact the registrar. It is illegal to vote more than once -- but beyond that, any additional ballot you cast will be voided. ""All Vote by Mail ballots are counted only once, and in addition, our office checks to see if a voter has cast a ballot from elsewhere," Sanchez said. "Vote by Mail ballots are also subject to signature verification as an additional safe guard against voter fraud or impersonation."For ballots of people who are deceased, you may write, "deaceased/return to sender" and drop them in in a mailbox. There is a form online to request the cancellation of a deceased voter in L.A. County, but we recommend contacting the registrar by phone or email.


"Voters should return those ballots to the post office ('Not at this address - Return to sender')," said Miranda Nobriga with the Ventura County Registrar's office.


"Because ballots are not forwardable (and some carriers may not handle the return correctly) the best action to take is to discard the ballots," Orange County Registrar Neil Kelley said in an email. "However, we kindly request that they notify our office. They can do so here."

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We've reached out to Riverside and San Bernardino counties for their guidance, too. And are waiting to hear back from those election officials.


Election officials review and update their voter files using death records from the Department of Public Health and change-of-address forms from the DMV and unemployment offices. But this system misses people, and registrars need the public's help to get the most current information.

In June 2019, L.A. County notified 1.5 million inactive voters to alert them to the fact that they faced removal from the voter rolls, but those people have two federal elections to update their status or vote before they are officially 'purged.' That was part of a settlement with the conservative group Judicial Watch, that had sued to force the county to "clean up" its rolls.

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Important fact check: The settlement did not include any mention of voter fraud -- and the county does not send inactive voters any voting materials.

At our Voter Game Plan you can find:

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