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How To Get Ready For California's 2018 Midterm Election

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Kelly Pope walks into the North Natomas Library to drop off her ballot.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Updated Nov. 1, 2:51 p.m.

From who will be our next governor, to whether we should expand rent control — California voters will be making big decisions about the future of the state in this year’s midterm election. Here’s everything you need to know to be ready to cast your vote on November 6.

How to register

The California voter registration deadline was October 22, 2018. You can check your status and see where you’re registered on the Secretary of State’s website, which also has information about voter eligibility, when you need to re-register (for example, if you’ve changed your name), what to do if you’re away at college and more.

If you missed the deadline, you can go to your county elections office or a Vote Center and conditionally register and vote using a provisional ballot.

In some counties, including Sacramento, all registered voters receive mail-in ballots under the new California Voter’s Choice Act model. But any registered voter can go to a county elections office in person to get a vote-by-mail ballot. In addition, some counties offer early voting. You can check if yours does here.

Do your homework

You’ll want to brush up on the candidates and issues you’ll be considering before voting. Here are some of the ones we’re paying close attention to:

Governor’s Race

Termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown will be replaced by either Democrat Gavin Newsom or Republican John Cox. Newsom, the current lieutenant governor and a former mayor of San Francisco, has a large lead in the polls and fundraising over Cox, a businessman endorsed by President Donald Trump.

The two met in their only scheduled debate at KQED in early October, where they clashed on fiscal issues such as housing affordability and last year’s gas tax increase to fund transportation projects. They also discussed social issues such as gun control and same-sex marriage. PolitiFact California summarized and fact-checked their exchange.

CapRadio’s Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler also interviewed the candidates about who they are, where they came from and what they believe in. You can listen to the conversations on our podcast California’s Next Governor.

Senate Race

Twenty-five year incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is running for re-election against California state Sen. Kevin de León, who notably received the state Democratic Party’s endorsement. Still, Feinstein outpaces de León in name recognition and fundraising. She finished first in the June 5 primary with 44 percent of the vote compared to de León's 12 percent.

They shared the stage in October at an event put on by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco. It was the first time Feinstein faced off with an opponent since 2000.

Congressional Races

There are several hotly contested congressional races in California this year. Seats that were solidly Republican are suddenly up for grabs and could determine which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives. These Republican districts include those held by representatives Darrell Issa, Jeff Denham, Steve Knight, Ed Royce, Dana Rohrabacher, Mimi Walters and David Valadao.

On our podcast Keys to the House, we explore how Orange County’s growing diversity could boost Democratic efforts, and take a look at which seats are really in play.

PolitiFact California has also been fact-checking claims made in these contentious races, including jabs about whose Central Valley roots run deeper in District 10, and a claim by U.S. Rep. Mimi Walters’ campaign that Democratic challenger Katie Porter’s agenda includes abolishing ICE.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Former charter school executive Marshall Tuck and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond finished neck-and-neck in the June primary for state superintendent of public instruction. Both are Democrats and they agree on a lot, from free preschool for all children to fixing the teacher shortage. But they disagree on a heavily contested issue: the growth of charter schools in California. The race has set a record for the most expensive state superintendent election in history, with a cast of billionaires supporting Tuck who are outspending teacher unions.


Here’s our guide to the 11 propositions on the November ballot, including measures that would give cities more freedom to enact rent control and a repeal of the gas tax.

Sacramento’s Measure U

The Sacramento City Council is asking voters to weigh a sales tax increase under Measure U, which would raise the total tax to 8.75 percent. Officials say the increase would generate an estimated $100 million a year for not only police, firefighters and parks, but also affordable housing, homelessness and investment in communities of color.

You can keep up with all of our election coverage at capradio.org/elections.

Cast your vote

Depending on where you live and what voting method you prefer, you’ll either mail in your ballot, drop it off at a certified location, or head to a polling place or vote center on November 6.

Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can look up your polling place here.

Voters in Sacramento, Madera, Napa, Nevada and San Mateo counties had ballots mailed to them, which they can either drop off or mail back. Your ballot must be postmarked on or before November 6 and received within three days of Election Day. If you didn’t receive your ballot, visit your county elections office. You can also opt to vote in person at a Vote Center, which unlike polling places, are unassigned.

You can check the status of your mail-in or provisional ballot here.

Join us on Election Night

As the results roll in Tuesday, November 6, we’ll be providing live updates on air at 90.9 FM and online at capradio.org. Have questions? Reach out to us on Twitter @capradionews or on Facebook.

Happy voting!

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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