County of San Benito, County Clerk & Recorder

Ballot Designation Guidelines

Ballot Designation – Legislative Requirements


The ballot designation is the word or group of words that will appear on the ballot under the candidate’s name, designating the principal profession, vocation, or occupation of the candidate.

Elections Code Section 13107, 13107.3 (Statutes of 2008) and 13107.5 governs the ballot designation that a candidate may use. All candidates (except candidates for Justice of the State Supreme Court or Court of Appeal) may choose a ballot designation to appear immediately under their name on the ballot. Each candidate who submits a ballot designation shall file, in addition to the nomination documents filed pursuant to §8020, a ballot designation worksheet that supports the use of that ballot designation by the candidate. The Ballot Designation Worksheet is obtained from the Elections Department.

The ballot designation must be chosen from one of the four categories below:

  1. Elective Office: Words designating the elective city, county, district, state, or federal office which the candidate holds at the time of filing the nomination documents to which he or she was elected by a vote of the people, or to which he or she was appointed, in the case of a superior court judge.
  2. Incumbent: The word “incumbent” may be used if the candidate is a candidate for the same office that he or she holds at the time of filing the nomination papers, and was elected to that office by a vote of the people, or, in the case of a superior court judge, was appointed to that office.
  3. 3-word Profession/Occupation/Vocation: No more than three words designating either the current principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate. If there is no current position, the candidate may use the principal professions, vocations, or occupations of the candidate during the calendar year immediately preceding the filing of nomination documents. For purposes of this section, all California geographical names shall be considered to be one word. If more than one profession, vocation or occupation is listed, it shall be separated by a slash (“/”).
  4. Appointed Incumbent: The phrase “appointed incumbent” may be used if:
    1. the candidate holds an office other than a judicial office by virtue of appointment, and the candidate is a candidate for the election to the same office, or,
    2. if the candidate is a candidate for election to the same office or to some other office, the word “appointed” and the title of the office.

In either instance, the candidate may not use the unmodified word “incumbent” or any words designating the office unmodified by the word “appointed.” However, the phrase “appointed incumbent” shall not be required of a candidate who seeks reelection to an office that he or she holds and to which he or she was appointed, as a nominated candidate, in lieu of an election.

Community Volunteer ballot designation. (Elections Code §13107.5.)

  1. A candidate’s ballot designation as “community volunteer” shall constitute a valid principal vocation or occupation for purposes of subdivision (a) of Section 13107, if not otherwise in violation of any of the restrictions set forth in that section, and subject to the following conditions:
    1. A candidate’s community volunteer activities constitute his or her principal profession, vocation, or
    2. A candidate is not engaged concurrently in another principal profession, vocation, or occupation.
    3.  A candidate may not use the designation of “community volunteer” in combination with any other principal
      profession, vocation, or occupation designation.
  2. The Secretary of State shall by regulation define what constitutes a community volunteer for purposes of
    this section.

Titles or Degrees Prohibited


No title or degree shall appear on the same line on a ballot as a candidate’s name, either before or after the candidate’s name, in the case of any election to any office. (Elections Code §13106)

Unacceptable Designations


Pursuant to Elections Code §13107(b), neither the Secretary of State nor any other election official shall accept a designation of which any of the following would be true:

  1. It would mislead the voter.
  2. It would suggest an evaluation of a candidate, such as outstanding, leading, expert, virtuous, or eminent.
  3. It abbreviates the word “retired” or places it following any word or words that it modifies.
  4. It uses a word or prefix, such as “former” or “ex”, which means a prior status. The only exception is the use of the word “retired”.
  5. It uses the name of any political party, whether or not it has qualified for the ballot.
  6. It uses a word or words referring to a racial, religious, or ethnic group.
  7. It refers to any activity that is prohibited by law.

Rejected Ballot Designations


If, upon checking the nomination documents and the ballot designation worksheet described in Section 13107.3, the elections official finds the designation to be in violation of any of the restrictions set forth in this section, the elections official shall notify the candidate by registered or certified mail return receipt requested, addressed to the mailing address provided on the candidate’s ballot designation worksheet.

The candidate shall, within three days, excluding Saturday, Sunday, and state holidays, from the date he or she receives notice by registered or certified mail, or from the date the candidate receives actual notice of the violation, whichever occurs first, appear before the elections official or, in the case of the Secretary of State, notify the Secretary of State by telephone, and provide a designation that complies with subdivision (a).

In the event the candidate fails to provide a designation that complies with subdivision (a) within the three-day period specified in paragraph (1), no designation shall appear after the candidate’s name. EC §13107(c)(2)

Ballot Designation May Not be Changed after Filing


No ballot designation given by a candidate shall be changed by the candidate after the final date for filing nomination papers, except as specifically requested by the election official.

Ballot Designation in Both Primary and General Elections


The designation shall remain the same for all purposes of both primary and general elections, unless the candidate, at least 98 days prior to the general election, requests in writing a different designation which the candidate is entitled to use at the time of the request. (EC §13107(e))

Format of Ballot Designation


In all cases, ballot designations shall be printed in 8‑point uppercase and lowercase type.

If the designation selected is so long that it would conflict with the space requirements of Elections Code §13207 and 13211, the election official shall use a type size for the designation for each candidate for office sufficiently smaller to meet these requirements.

Whenever a foreign language translation of a candidate’s designation is required under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C.A. 1971), as amended, to appear on the ballot in addition to the English version, it shall be as short as possible, as consistent as is practicable with Section 13107, and shall employ abbreviations and initials wherever possible in order to avoid undue length.

No Ballot Designation


A candidate who does not want a ballot designation should indicate this in the space provided for ballot designation on the Declaration of Candidacy by writing “NONE”, or the space may be left blank. If no designation is given, it will be assumed that none is desired.

Secretary of State – Ballot Designation Regulations are available upon request or visit


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