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You Voted. Then Your Candidate Dropped Out. Now What?

A voter drops their ballot in an official ballot collection box.
A voter drops their ballot in an official ballot collection box in Highland Park on October 17.
(Al Kamalizad for LAist)

Our Voter Game Plan team is answering all your questions about voting in the June 7 primary election. Below, we take on a question we’ve been getting a lot this week.

What happens to an already mailed ballot when you voted for a candidate who withdraws?

If you’re voting for L.A. mayor in the June 7 primary, you’ll see 12 names on your ballot — but only nine of them are still running. Joe Buscaino, Mike Feuer and Ramit Varma have all dropped out, but not before ballots were printed and mailed to voters. And with three more weeks till Election Day, it’s possible others could drop out, too.

So what if you already voted, and now the person you voted for is no longer in the race? That’s what several people have been asking our Voter Game Plan team.

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Your vote will still be counted. But in terms of being able to change your vote so that it goes toward an active candidate — unfortunately, there’s not much you can do.

Once your ballot has been dropped off, either at a drop box or in the mail, you’ve officially voted. And election officials are clear: You can’t vote more than once.

Between May 9 and 17 — the time between when mail-in ballots were sent out and when Buscaino and Feuer announced the end of their campaigns — 27,432 people cast their ballots in the city of Los Angeles, according to return data from Political Data Intelligence. That’s about 1% of all ballots sent out to city residents.

So what do you do if you haven’t voted yet and aren’t sure if more candidates may drop out between now and June 7?

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One strategy is to hold off as long as you can — maybe fill out your ballot now, and set a reminder to drop it in the mail closer to Election Day, when there’s less of a chance of things changing.

You can also keep an eye on polling to see if the candidate you support is mounting a strong enough campaign to keep going.

This conundrum might seem familiar to those who have voted in previous primaries. In 2020, many Californians who voted in the Democratic primary for U.S. president cast their votes on March 3, only to find out days later that their candidate of choice had dropped out of the race. And at that time, the California Secretary of State reiterated the rules.

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What if you dropped off your ballot in the mail yesterday, then found out today your candidate is no longer in the running? If your ballot hasn’t been received yet, could you go to vote in person (currently available at election headquarters in Norwalk) and use that to void your mail-in ballot?

Theoretically, it’s possible — but it’s illegal. Don’t try it.

Whichever vote is received first is the one that will be processed and counted. The L.A. County Registrar verified that fact back in 2020, adding that whenever the mail-in ballot gets received, it will get flagged as an attempt to double vote — also known as voter fraud. Intentional double-voting is both a state and federal crime, punishable by prison time between 16 months and three years.

Here’s a summary of the election code from the California Secretary of State’s website:

It is against the law to intentionally vote or try to vote both by mail and in person. If you received and mailed back a vote-by-mail ballot, but are concerned it won’t be received by your county elections official within seven days after Election Day, you may go to the polls and vote a provisional ballot. (Elections Code § 3020) If your vote-by-mail ballot does arrive at the county elections office in time, it will be counted and your provisional ballot will be voided. (Elections Code §§ 18500, 18560) Ballot reconciliation is a routine part of the official vote counting canvass that happens after the election.

If you have more questions about voting in the June 7 election, you can read through our voter guides, see our FAQs or ask us anything else below.

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Updated May 23, 2022 at 3:38 PM PDT
This story was updated to add news that Ramit Varma has dropped out of the mayoral campaign.