Although it is a part of our on-going effort to maintain the most accurate voter information possible, we’ve stepped up the clean up of our voter registration records to ensure that all updates are made before the upcoming May 5, May 19 and June 2 elections. There are two main projects that we intend to complete before election materials for the May 19 election start going out.
The first is the validation of returned election mailings. Our last countywide mailing of the November 2008 Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet resulted in 21,807 pieces of returned mail. Since the Elections Code allows us to use National Change of Address (NCOA) data from the U.S. Postal Service to verify voter addresses, we are able to send “Residency Confirmation” postcards to voters who show up on the USPS data. The NCOA data is obtained from forms that people fill out when applying for mail forwarding or address changes through the post office.
We carefully analyze the USPS data to make sure that the name and former address match the voter record exactly. If the address change is within San Mateo County, the residential address is updated. If the address is located outside of the County, the voter record is inactivated. If the USPS data contains a family name and does not exactly match the voter record, we send a voter cancellation request or new voter registration card to the new NCOA address data. To date, our office has processed about 17,000 records (including thousands of inactivations) from this current Address Confirmation effort.
Once a voter record is updated, a“Residency Confirmation” notice is sent to the voter’s new address. The notice, which is forwarded by the USPS to a correct address if needed, has a detachable postage-paid postcard that can be sent back if we’ve made a mistake.
The other part of our voter record clean up has to do with Elections Code §2224. Voters who have not voted in the past four years, or have had no election-related activity within that time, receive a different version of the “Residency Confirmation” postcards. These postcards also have a detachable postage-paid portion, but it must be returned within 15 days of receipt to verify residency. If we don’t receive a response within that time, the voter will be inactivated.
But don’t confuse inactivation with deactivation or cancellation. Inactive voters are still eligible to vote, but they don’t receive election materials in the mail nor are they included in our active registered voter numbers. Inactivation is a way for us to keep our voter registration records clean without affecting voter eligibility. These code-driven processes save taxpayer money on election material mailing and help us to properly allocate resources for running the polling places on Election Day.
While we aren’t required to complete these projects immediately, we’re doing our best to do as much as we can before the May 4 voter registration deadline for the May 19 Consolidated Special Statewide Election. Completion of these projects before the special election and our upcoming November 2009 election will result in two countywide mailings that will experience significant savings in election material production and material costs. Then we will start all over again right after the November election!