Category Archives: Ballots

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.

New process helps make Election Day a success

We’re now in the midst of the Official Canvass, a process that takes place immediately following an election. This process is our time to update voting history in the voter registration database and audit and certify the election results, and must be complete within 28 calendar days.

Until the official results are published in our Statement of the Vote, semi-official results will be regularly posted on our website at

During the Canvass, we also take an opportunity to reflect on Election Day and the days leading up to it. Narda Barrientos, Elections Supervisor, once said, “The Elections Office is all about change. We’ve been in a constant state of change, and we will continue to change as long as it makes our processes stronger.”

The biggest change this election? We did away with Receiving Stations. Was it successful? As Mattel’s Magic 8 Ball would say, “all signs point to yes.”

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Election Day morning

November 3 is upon us, and polls open at 7 a.m. for voters who wish to cast a ballot in favor of or against measures and/or candidates in the Consolidated Municipal, School & Special District Election.

No county measures exist on the ballot, meaning not all cities are participating in the election. To find out whether or not you are able to vote in this election and to find your polling place, visit

What’s happening right now? Almost the entire staff is already in and at work, supporting Election Officers as they prepare for the opening of the polls. The Election Day Call Center, a phone bank that we set up specifically for Election Officers to call throughout the day if support is needed, is staffed with a team of people ready to assist.

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Review period ends 09/04

September 4 marks the end of the review period for rebuttals to arguments in favor of and against measures on the November 3 ballot.

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Final Documents due for November Election

filing2Five p.m. today marks the deadline for rebuttal arguments and impartial analysis statements for measures included in the November 3, 2009 ballot.

Twenty measures were submitted to the Elections Office for inclusion in November’s election, all of which are City measures. There are no county measures, nor any school district measures, up for voter consideration.

Since all are city measures, the main contact for document filing is the City Clerk of each respective jurisdiction. City clerks are election officials for local elections, and can choose to use the County to execute the actual election. Once documents are filed at the City level, the City Clerk transmits the hard (paper) and soft (electronic) copies of the filing to the County’s filing officer, Lupe Sanchez.

Upon each submission deadline is a public review period. The public review period, which allows the general public to review the accuracy and validity of arguments, for the rebuttal arguments and impartial analysis statements begins at 5 p.m. today and ends September 3 at 5 p.m.

“Any review of the documents need to be conducted through the cities directly,” said Sanchez.

This means that all measure documents filed thus far can be viewed on each city’s website as appropriate. A full roster of measures can be viewed on the County Elections website at The cities with measures on the ballot are:

The State and Local Budget Woes Affecting the Delivery of Democracy

Just yesterday, the Sacramento Bee ran and article quoting Jill LaVine, the Sacramento County registrar of voters, whose department is proposing to lay off 10 of its 38 employees.

Imagine - thousands and thousands of vote by mail voters swinging by to pick up their ballots!

Imagine - thousands and thousands of vote by mail voters swinging by to pick up their ballots!

While the cuts, as proposed, would not affect the May 19 Statewide Special Election—she noted that they will affect the Gubernatorial Primary in 2010. In summary, there will be no money to publish the Sample Ballots & Official Voter Information Pamphlets, no money to mail out the Vote by Mail ballots – you’d have to pick up your own from the Elections Office (so much for the convenience factor), no money to provide Spanish translations of election materials (this would be illegal in San Mateo County), and no money to conduct voter outreach programs.

She predicts there would be fewer polling places, longer lines, delayed returns and other related problems.  She’s probably right.

I don’t know about Sacramento County’s obligations under the federal Voting Rights Act with regard to language accessibility. What I do know is that compliance with this law is monitored by the Department of Justice. San Mateo County was advised in 2001 after the 2000 Census was completed that our election materials needed to be provided in English, Spanish and Chinese.  The language accessibility question is determined for each county after the census is completed.

In La Vine’s own words, “I can see lawsuits. I can see disenfranchisement of voters. With the numbers (budget cuts) they’ve given us, it has to be that bad.”

Sacramento County is not in a unique position as counties in California go. It will be interesting to watch and see how different counties conduct elections in this difficult budget environment.

San Mateo County has a permanent staff of 11; one position will be cut during the next fiscal year. Our office will have to hire temporary, extra help staff and make other cuts as necessary to make ends meet.

Steve Weir, registrar for Contra Costa County, said that in his 20 years as registrar, he’s seen the average cost per voter rise from $1.50 to $7.50. Some of that is cost of living, but much of that comes from complying with state and federal laws and administrative requirements issued by the secretary of state’s office.

Now that budgets are readying for the adoption process in June, we’ll begin to see the magnitude of the cuts as they affect voters and the administration of democracy.