Early Voting Center to Open on Monday for San Bruno Fire Victims

As many county departments and local agencies have responded to the needs of the San Bruno fire victims, so, too, has the Elections Division. Beginning Monday, Oct. 25, we will open an Early Voting Center at San Bruno City Hall in coordination with the San Bruno City Clerk, the Honorable Carol Bonner.  This voting center will be open through Friday, Oct. 29 to better serve local voters displaced by the recent fire.

For the past six weeks we have worked closely with the San Bruno City Clerk and her staff to make this early voting center possible. We’ve met to coordinate the logistics of the voting machine set-up, established a secure remote access to information required to issue electronic ballots before Election Day and trained City Clerk Bonner and her Deputy, Vicky Hasha, how to manage an early voting center. Everything will be ready for voters on Monday morning.

Next week, voters in the fire damaged area can visit San Bruno City Hall at 567 El Camino Real to vote just as they would on Election Day or to obtain a paper ballot which they can mail in or drop off at the polls on Election Day.

We hope that this special early voting center will serve useful to those displaced by the fire as well as those within the community who continue to respond with assistance in the aftermath. We want to make sure that the displaced San Bruno residents have no trouble exercising their right to vote.

Legislative Update

Two terrific new laws and a bill awaiting the fate of the Governor’s pen will affect election officers, voters and the way we conduct elections in California. And in our humble opinion–for the better.

Signed into LAW. AB 1342 (Simitian) Will allow registrars to redraw the precinct boundary lines subtracting out the vote by mail voters from the total universe of 1000 voters served by a single precinct. Today, nearly half of our voters vote by mail. In low turnout elections, this makes an already long day (15 hours) into an incredibly long and slow day. Thank you, Senator Simitian! This law will save money and create more vibrant, active polling places on Election Day which in turn will make serving at the polls an interesting day! Our election officers deserve that.

Signed into LAW. AB 1717 (deLeon) Assemblyman deLeon‘s legislation will allow voters to “opt out” of receiving a paper copy of the Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet and “opt in” to receiving it electronically, instead. This law will offer people a choice and let those who prefer to read, save and retrieve their information online to do so. It will also help reduce our carbon footprint, save resources, and money. And, although it was recently blogged about, it was worth mentioning again as we think this is a really good step forward.

UNDER CONSIDERATION by the Governor. AB 2616 (Hill) If signed into law, Assemblyman Hill‘s bill will make it possible for vote by mail voters to confirm their votes were counted by checking the county web site or calling the Elections Office. If a ballot isn’t counted, the voter will be told why. (signature doesn’t match, ballot arrives late, etc.) I would note that it is our current practice (and has been for a long time) to contact a vote by mail voter prior to the election (if time allows) when a signature doesn’t match the voter registration card we have on file. We give the voter a chance to come into the office and resign to validate their signature. If their signature has completely changed, we ask them to reregister in order to update their signature. Signatures can change for a number of reasons – like a broken wrist, a stroke or when people are in a big hurry.

This is a good bill – it won’t cost much as we already provide this service for provisional voters.

About Those Missing Voter Pamphlets . . .

Were you one of the voters in San Mateo County that never got your voter pamphlet?  I was.  In fact, most everyone that I informally asked never got theirs either.  But that’s water under the bridge.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill received a response from Secretary of State Debra Bowen last week in answer to his question, “What happened to the Voter Guides for San Mateo County voters?”   By law, the state Voter Guides were supposed to be in the hands of voters not later than May 18.

After extensive research, it turns out, that Admail West, the mailhouse vendor hired by the Secretary of State’s Office to get out the 11 million guides statewide, goofed.  In some counties, they sent out duplicate and triplicate mailings while in other counties, like San Mateo County, they failed to mail a single state voter guide.

So, now you know. It wasn’t just you. It wasn’t your postal carrier.

According to the Secretary’s letter, “No one at Admail West has ever been able to fully explain the extent of the mailing problem, or why the company did not have better quality-assurance procedures in place…” And, one of the managers explained that an employee at Admail who handled the mailing data passed away in June.

The good news – the Secretary provided the Voter Guide information on her website.  To that we say, “Amen.”  It provides a great example of why distributing voter guides online makes sense. They are always available, even if you lose (or in this case, never receive) your voter guide.  We’re hoping lots of people agree and sign up to receive their voter pamphlet electronically in 2011.

AB 1717 – Supporting the ecoVoter

Kudos to Assembly Member de León and Assembly Member Jerry Hill from San Mateo County on the successful passage of AB 1717!  With the stroke of a pen , the Governor signed into law a bill that will allow voters to choose to receive their Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet in an electronic format beginning in 2011.

We have a hunch that a group of “early adopters” will sign up to “opt-out” of getting their Sample Ballot & Official Voter Pamphlet in the mail. For many people,  using a computer is the most natural place to get information.  It’s easier  than looking for the Sample Ballot pamphlet that you put someplace…and it won’t matter if someone else in the household tossed it out. The beauty of an online Sample Ballot that can be viewed or downloaded and printed from a website is that it is always available whenever you need it, where ever you are. It does more than reduce our carbon footprint and save trees (and money); it’s really convenient.

And, for those voters who try it and find that it’s not for them – they can change their mind at any time and resume the practice of getting it delivered in the mail. We hope people will “opt out”!  Right now, we’re working out the options. If you’re somebody who prefers to access information electronically, would you rather get the pamphlet from a website or have it emailed to you? Would you like a text message that says when it’s available?  Let us know.

Celebrating 20 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Today, the Commission on Disabilities hosted a very special 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Celebration at the County Government Plaza in

Redwood City with organizations, demonstrations, food, lawmakers, news media, friends and fun.

This prospective new voter gives the eSlate a "road test' as he votes the Famous Names Ballot.

San Mateo County Elections Office was there with our accessible voting equipment, voter registration forms, vote-by-mail forms, be a poll-worker forms, our grins and some helpful giveaways. We were joined by a SamTrans, the Hearing Loss Association, Hearing Dogs, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Lions Club who sold barbeque and are famous for the work they do with the blind, and countless other organizations. The weather was beautiful, the mood festive, and the spirits were high. Every member of the Commission on Disabilities was there. We had a videographer on hand to capture some “B” roll for videos we’re working on. It was a fine day!

Here’s a little background. The ADA, signed by George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990, is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It was then and is today,  landmark legislation that is making a difference in the lives of Americans. It’s impact is akin to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal. Disability is defined by the ADA as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.”  It has changed our country for the better and made us a more inclusive place to live, to work, to play.  Today is a day to celebrate! Today is a day to be proud of the way our country reinvents itself to improve the lives of all citizens.

Election technology has the power to be “Transformative”

The proponents of the Marijuana Initiative to change California law to legalize marijuana turned in their signatures at election offices throughout the state in their bid to qualify for the November 2010 ballot.  So what!  It’s one of many initiatives in circulation. 

What’s different?  This is the first time in California history that an electronic signature has been submitted to qualify an initiative petition. The signature was turned in on a jump drive.

Chief Elections Officer Warren Slocum rejected the electronic signature on the basis that the signature failed to meet code requirements.  It won’t  invalidate the initiative’s other signatures, but it does open the door to a whole new ballgame.

Will the courts will allow this kind of technology to be applied in the world of elections? 

Slocum, a believer in technology, looks forward to bringing the world of Elections into the 21st century– if the court allows it.  He went on to explain, “Election law did not anticipate this method of signature gathering and it does not offer guidance in this area,” Slocum continued.  Different code sections and regulations offer divergent approaches to the use and acceptance of electronic signatures. 

“This form of signature gathering could be transformative,” said Slocum.

It will take less time and money to verify signatures – not to mention the mountains of paper petitions and energy used to make that paper and print the petitions.  And, this technology makes it possible for signature gatherers to widely distribute petitions at little or no cost – making the political process that much more accessible.  

We shall see.

Warren Slocum Will Not Seek Re-election

Warren Slocum, Chief Elections Officer & Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder

Today, Warren Slocum advised the staff in our office, San Mateo County leaders and the public at large of his intention not to seek re-election. 

In his own words…

I am announcing today that I will not seek re-election as San Mateo County’s Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder. It has been an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure to serve the people of this great county.

I was first elected in 1986 and have served in government since 1976 – over thirty years. I am ready to consider doing other things – making other contributions to our community.

During my terms of office, I have had the good fortune to work with some of the best and brightest elected officials and the finest men and woman in government. The residents of San Mateo County are blessed with a stable, well-run county government.

My father always taught me that one person can make a difference. I believe this to be true. This belief is shared among the people that have worked for me and together we have created a legacy of excellence and innovation. While I will miss these outstanding men and women, I will find new opportunities and continue to make a difference in the community.

 My current term of office will end in January 2011. I will use the remaining months of my term to complete some of my initiatives. I have talked with the County Manager and the President of the Board of Supervisors and made my plans known.

 The election for all elected county positions will be on June 8; the filing period for these offices will open on February 16 and close on March 12.  However, as in my case, if an incumbent does not file by March 12, the filing period is extended to March 17.