Voting Rights for People Detained in Jail or Prison

You are eligible to register and vote if you are:

  • Detained in county jail serving a misdemeanor sentence. 
  • Detained in county jail because jail time is a condition of probation. 

You are not eligible to register and vote if you are:

  • Imprisoned in state prison. 
  • Imprisoned in county jail serving a state prison sentence. 

If you have questions, or, if you are not currently eligible to vote, learn when you will regain your voting rights at Voting Rights for People with Criminal Convictions.

How to register to vote

  1. To register to vote, you must complete and submit a Voter Registration Card. To obtain a Voter Registration Card, contact Prisoner Legal Services at (415) 558-2472. 
  2. When filling out the Voter Registration Card:
    • You may not use the address of the detention facility as a residence address. Rather, you must use your most recent address in your county of residence. 
    • If you no longer maintain a residence, you must indicate the previous location of your residence by using cross-streets, and supplying a valid mailing address. 
    • Provide any prior registration information on the Voter Registration Card to help the Department of Elections with locating your prior registration record. 
  3. Mail the completed Voter Registration Card directly to the Department of Elections OR to Prisoner Legal Services: 

Department of Elections
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
City Hall, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102

Prisoner Legal Services
555 7th Street, #201
San Francisco, CA 94103

Important! You can register to vote at any time. However, you MUST be registered at least 15 days before an election to vote in that election.

How to request a ballot 

  1. If you are already registered to vote, you may request a ballot. To request a ballot, complete and submit a Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application. To obtain the Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application, contact Prisoner Legal Services at (415) 558-2472.
  2. Mail the completed Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application directly to the Department of Elections OR to Prisoner Legal Services. 

Important! Your Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application must be received by the Department of Elections at least seven days before an election to vote in that election.

When you receive your ballot

  1. Follow the instructions included with the ballot. 
  2. Return your voted ballot to the Department of Elections by mail (postage- paid return envelope is included with the ballot) OR via a Prisoner Legal Services liaison. 

Important! Your ballot return envelope must be dated and postmarked or time-stamped no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day and received at the Department of Elections by the Friday after Election Day.

If you need voting assistance

Voting assistance for people detained in jail is available through Prisoner Legal Services by calling (415) 558-2472. Prisoner Legal Services San Francisco will act as the intermediary between inmates and the Department of Elections. You may also contact Prisoner Legal Services by mail:

Prisoner Legal Services
555 7th Street #201
San Francisco, CA 94103

If you are released from custody before receiving your ballot

If you submitted a Vote-by-Mail Ballot Application, but are released before you receive your ballot, you CAN still vote!

Just go to your polling place and a poll worker will assist you to vote provisionally. 

If you don't know the location of your polling place, call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375.

When do you need to re-register?

You need to re-register if you:
  • Changed your permanent address. 
  • Changed your name. 
  • Changed your political party. 
  • Completed a felony sentence and are not on parole. 
  • Completed parole.