A line of voting booths at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters
Silicon Valley racist attack ads continue to be part of the voting landscape this election cycle. File photo.

With less than a month before the March primary elections, here’s what voters need to know before casting their ballots.

This year’s primary election is filled with a slate of nationwide, statewide and local elections, including the presidential primary. California voters will be asked to whittle down the candidates who might fill the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s seat in Congress, and Silicon Valley voters will be asked to do the same for Rep. Anna Eshoo’s seat as she retires. An open seat in the state Assembly for District 26 is seeing a tight contest, along with two seats on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. San Jose has a number of district seats up for grabs, including Districts 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and the mayor’s seat.

As the March 5 primary election approaches, voters need to learn how to best make their voices heard and engage with the electoral process. Below is a collection of FAQs and their answers.

When is the last day to register to vote?

The last day to register to vote is Feb. 20.

Can I change my party affiliation before I vote?

Yes. The last day to change your party affiliation is Feb. 20.

Some parties limit the presidential primary election to only voters registered with their party. Voters registered with No Party Preference will receive a ballot with no presidential candidates listed. Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Michael Borja said No Party Preference voters will be allowed to vote in the Democratic, Libertarian or American Independence Party presidential primary if they request a crossover ballot. Voters can make their requests by calling 1-408-299-8683 (VOTE) or in person at a voting center.

No Party Preference voters will not be able to vote in the Republican, Green or Peace and Freedom Party presidential primaries unless they change their party affiliation by Feb. 20.

Borja said party affiliations will not affect other races at the state, county or city level.

When do mail-in ballots go out?

Mail ballots were sent beginning Feb. 5.

What’s the deadline for turning in my mail-in ballot?

Ballots must be postmarked by Election Day, March 5, and received at the registrar of voters by March 12.

How do I return my mail-in ballot?

A mail-in ballot can be mailed without any postage. Ballots can be dropped off at the registrar of voters office at 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2 in San Jose, at any voting center or at one of 102 official ballot drop boxes countywide. Here is a list of locations throughout the county, or you can look up your closest drop off location.

Accommodations will be made for voters with disabilities, including audio voting systems for visually impaired voters and remote accessible ballots in a screen readable format. Voters seeking more information can call the registrar of voters office or visit www.sccvote.org/RAVBM.

I want to vote in person. When can I do that?

The registrar of voters opened for early in-person voting on Feb. 5 at its office and will be open through March 5. In Santa Clara County, 23 voting centers will open on Feb. 24 and an additional 81 will open starting March 2.

All 104 voting centers will be open until 8 p.m. on March 5. Residents can vote in any voting center countywide.

Where can I find a voting center?

Look up your closest voting center here.

Does a ballot have to be completely filled out?

No. Residents can vote for one candidate or measure and leave other portions blank.

Do I have to use a specific colored pen for my ballot?

Pens or sharpies with black or blue ink are recommended. Pencils are not recommended.

I misplaced my ballot, now what?

Go to a voting center. A new ballot will be issued.

I accidentally signed the envelope that belonged to my spouse. Will my vote still be counted? 

Spouses don’t have to worry if they take each other’s ballots by accident, as signatures of the whole household are on file.

How are mismatched signatures addressed?

Voters will receive a notice in the mail if their current signatures aren’t on file.

What should voters do if they make a mistake on the ballot?

Voters can cross out their incorrect vote and circle the correct choice. If it has not been submitted yet, voters can request a new ballot.

Where can I learn more? 

Borja said the registrar of voters publishes voter information materials on its website, www.sccvote.org, and posts videos on its Youtube channel, SCCVOTE. The county also publishes in multiple languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Tagalog, Khmer, Japanese and Korean.

“We want people to know where to find the most trusted information, which is us, their county election official,” Borja told San José Spotlight. “Most people aren’t aware of the primary.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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