Student Voter Guide for California’s 2020 Presidential Primary Election

This guide will help you participate in California’s March 3 presidential primary, in which you can help choose America’s presidential nominees and nominees for other positions.

In the California presidential primary, you can vote in the Democratic Party either as a registered Democrat or if you’re registered as No Party Preference. To vote in the Republican Party primary you need to register as a Republican. See How to Vote for U.S. President for rules, including if you’re registered as “No Party Preference” or for third party primaries. In addition to voting at polling places, some California counties permit vote-by-mail, voting at voting centers, and voting at ballot drop-off locations. 

Important Deadlines

  • Primary election date: March 3, 2020, 7 AM to 8 PM
  • First date to vote by mail: February 3
  • Deadline for personally delivered ballots: by close of polls, March 3
  • Deadline for mailed ballots: must be postmarked on or before March 3 and received by your county elections office no later than March 6
  • Last day to register to vote (or mail application postmarked): February 18

(If you miss the deadline, you can “conditionally” register and vote at your county elections office through Election Day.)

  • Last day for application to be received for a vote-by-mail ballot: February 25


Why this primary matters

You have a chance to determine the Presidential nominees for the two major political parties. As part of Super Tuesday, the California primary plays an important role. Democratic Party delegates are allotted proportionately to those candidates who reach a 15% threshold, while Republican Party delegates are allotted proportionately to those candidates who reach a 20% threshold, with Winner Take All where a candidate exceeds 50%.


Candidate information

For Republican and Democratic presidential candidate websites, CNN has a complete list. Politico also has a quick guide to Democratic candidate positions.



You are eligible to vote if you are:

  • a U.S. citizen living in California
  • at least 18 years old on Election Day
  • registered where you currently live
  • not currently in state or federal prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony
  • not currently found mentally incompetent

(To pre-register, you must be 16 to 17 years old. You will be automatically registered to vote on your 18th birthday.)


How to register

You can register online or obtain a paper voter registration application. See the California Voter Registration page for instructions, as well as pre-registration instructions, and for conditional voter registration after the February 18 deadline.


ID Requirements for registering

To register online, you will need:

  • Your California driver license or California identification card number
  • The last four digits of your social security number 
  • Your date of birth


ID Requirements for voting

In most cases, California voters are not required to show identification at their polling place. If you’re voting for the first time or failed to provide ID when you registered, you can bring your student ID card, driver’s license, official California ID card, passport, or a copy of a recent utility bill showing your current address. See Where and How to Vote for more information.


Address to use for registering and voting

Per federal election law, college students can register and vote at either their campus address or their permanent home address, which may be out of state. However, voters can only be registered at one address. If you are not going to physically be in the state where you plan to vote, you will need to request an absentee ballot.

It’s your choice where to register. Since registering at your campus address will not:

  • Affect your federal financial aid
  • Prevent your parents from claiming you as a dependent on their taxes
  • Cost you any scholarships, unless they’re tied to specific residency requirements
  • Affect your tuition status as an in-state or out-of-state student.


Key Resources