What you need to know to vote in San Jose
Voting booths are pictured at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose during the June 2022 primary election. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

     In less than three weeks, San Jose voters will head to the polls in a consequential election that will change the face of the city’s leadership. Here’s what you need to know to cast a vote.

    Come January, the 18th floor at  San Jose City Hall with be home to either Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez or Councilmember Matt Mahan as the city’s next mayor. Four city council seats in districts 1, 3, 5, 7 are shifting, although District 1 has already been decided with Rosemary Kamei winning outright in the June primary.

    Voting in local elections matters because policies on zoning, parks, hospital planning and even bicycle lanes begin at the local level, said Larry Gerston, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University. It’s also the easiest place for people to be heard by legislators, he added.

    “Local elections are just vital,” Gerston told San José Spotlight. “They’re critically important. When people vote locally, they see what kind of results they can get. It encourages them to vote for other issues as well and other offices.”

    Getting those results helps when voters are educated and comfortable about the voting process. Below is a FAQ to address some of the most common questions. 

    When is the last day to register to vote?

    The last day to register to vote is Oct. 24.

    Can I change my party affiliation before I vote?

    Changing your political party is like reregistering to vote. The deadline is Oct. 24.

    I never received my mail-in ballot, now what?

    Request one online at: sccvote.sccgov.org/vote-mail/request-vote-mail-ballot or call 1-408-299-8640.

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

    Ballots returned in-person must be received by 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, election day. 

    How do I return my mail-in ballot?

    You can mail in your ballot, no postage required. Ballots can be dropped off at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office at 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2 in San Jose, at any voting center or at one of 100 official ballot drop boxes countywide. A list of  locations is available at: sccvote.sccgov.org.

    Accommodations will be made for people with vision or hearing impairments and designated parking spots are provided so people can vote from their cars.

    I want to vote in person, when can I do that?

    The Registrar of Voters opened Oct. 10 for early voting and remains open through Election Day. In Santa Clara County, 25 voting centers will open on Oct. 29, and four days before the election 103 voting centers will be open.

    ROV spokesperson Michael Borja said because of the Voter Choice Act, residents can vote at any voting center countywide.

    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 need a specific colored pen for my mail-in 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 accidental 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 a ballot?

    Borja said to cross it out and circle the correct answer. If it hasn’t been submitted, voters can request a new ballot.

    “We just need to know the voter’s intent of what they’re choosing,” he told San José Spotlight “We look for errors and mistakes.”

    What questions do you have about the upcoming election? Email [email protected]

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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