Once you’ve submitted your completed voter registration form, you’ll receive a confirmation postcard that means you are now officially registered to vote! If you don’t receive one or have questions, contact the Secretary of State at (800) 345-VOTE (8683). [Leer en español aquí.]

Then, as each election approaches, you’ll receive a sample ballot and voter pamphlet describing the candidates, initiatives, and issues to be voted on.

A lot of other people—usually candidates and political parties—will also be sending you materials for Election Day. The information can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s helpful, but sometimes it’s just confusing or even misleading. To prepare to vote, talk to people you trust about the candidates and ballot measures. Maybe you trust an elder or a close friend, an organization, or a political party you identify with.

A great source of nonpartisan information is You can also look up your ballot, polling place, and other important election-related information.

District Attorney

The DA decides which criminal cases to prosecute and guides sentencing. The DA reviews complaints against police officers and decides whether or not to prosecute them. This person can have an enormous impact on your life.


The sheriff runs the county jails, and is also in charge of enforcing the law throughout the county, just like a chief of police. Deputies arrest and detain suspects and patrol the county.

City Council

Your representative makes important decisions about the future of your neighborhood, including how to spend local tax dollars. They distribute funds for road repair, parks, and development, and oversee police.


Your governor signs bills into law (and can veto bills as well). They make important appointments to state agencies, including the state’s school superintendent, and can grant commutations and pardons to prisoners.

School Board

School board members hire/fire the superintendent (who sets overall district policies, including disciplinary rules), set the budget, approve contracts for teachers, and decide where to open or close schools.

U.S. Congress/Senate

Members of Congress and the Senate write laws—any of which can have a profound impact on you. Your representatives can help if you’re experiencing a problem with a federal agency, like the IRS, Social Security, or veterans issues.


Judges have enormous authority over our lives by interpreting the law, deciding what evidence is heard in a case, and deciding how long to sentence someone convicted of a crime. Since so few vote for judges, those who do have a lot of clout.


The president is Commander in Chief of the armed forces and plays a huge role in shaping responses to international crises. They symbolize the goals and beliefs of the country and make sure the government does its job.

Local & State Initiatives and Bonds

Initiatives can have a dramatic impact on our lives. Citizens or the state legislature can put a measure on the ballot for people to vote on. If they’re passed, they become law. They can change the tax system or the criminal justice system, for instance, including upholding or ending the death penalty or sentencing guidelines. Bonds ask voters to decide how public money will be spent and can have a positive or negative impact on your community.