Category Archives: Vote By Mail

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.


A New Voter Registration System for San Mateo County

The County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a new Voter Registration System on November 10, which will make way to much more efficient and cost-effective registration and election management processes.

The new system, DFM’s Elections Information Management System (EIMS), supports automated data entry using intelligent character recognition and will nearly eliminate the fully manual data entry process used today.

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It’s up to the Governor now…

We’ve been supporting and tracking proposed legislation in this year’s session that,  if passed,  would make important contributions to the elections world.  Two Governor Schwarzeneggerbills were “enrolled” this week, meaning a majority of lawmakers in both houses of the State Legislature approved these bills. The only thing standing between an approved bill and law is Governor Schwarzenegger. We hope he supports and signs these two bills into law. 

AB 30 (Price) Allow registrars to pre-register 16-year olds to vote. Last year, we had 1,000 student poll workers sign up in San Mateo County. These students would definitely pre-register to vote, take this civic engagement step in school, and receive their voter information at home until they establish a permanent home of their own—after college, the military, or working. This bill could help increase the number of younger voters who participate in elections. Let’s give it a try!

AB 1228 (Yamada) Authorizes the participation of Yolo and Santa Clara Counties in a pilot program through December 31, 2016, that would allow them to fill a vacancy in a state office, the Legislature, or Congress in an ALL MAIL election if specified conditions are satisfied (it would not apply in statewide primary or general elections or special elections).

If approved, it will be an interesting test of voter participation in all mail elections as Yolo County is rural and more homogenous while Santa Clara County is diverse–in language, culture, education and socio-economic status. We wholeheartedly support this pilot.

And there was an honorable mention in this year’s list of bills that did not succeed.

AB 1121 (Davis), would have authorized a limited number of pilot jurisdictions to test the viability of rank choice voting, but it did not get through the Senate. We have supported this bill and appreciated the capable leadership of Rob Dickinson , a local Redwood City resident.  The bill failed due to opposition by the California Association of Clerks and Elected Officials (CACEO) who were concerned about adding cost and complexity to the election process at a time when registrars lack the resources (staff) and budget to take on new items. While we have been unwavering supporters of this bill, we understand that the budget crisis has all California registrars just trying to figure out how to deliver existing, mandated services.

The Governor’s Solution Sends the Budget Problem$ Downstream

You’ve probably read that one of the Governor’s budget cutting proposals is to cut the funding  that the state provides to counties in the form of a reimbursement for mailing out the Vote by Mail ballots to voters. 

State officials contend that they can save more than $28 million a year by suspending state absentee ballot requirements.

Chris Carson, the Government director for the League of Women Voters of California, said that, “For a county to stop providing ballots for everyone, it would have to conduct the time-consuming and expensive task of determining which voters would remain entitled to them under federal law because they are in the military, live overseas, or are physically unable get to the polling place.”

Dean Logan, the Los Angeles County registrar/recorder called it “odd” for the governor to suggest suspending a program that was so popular. And his county has the lowest percentage enrollment of Vote by Mail voters in the state. Los Angeles County billed the state $3.2 million for absentee ballots in the last fiscal year.

“It almost feels like it’s cornering local government into picking up the tab for something the state has previously agreed to pay for,” Logan said.

Our own elections official, Warren Slocum, called the proposed vote by mail budget cut, a “policy disaster.” “What we should be doing in California is moving to all mail elections – not debating the wisdom of eliminating state funding for county vote by mail programs,” Slocum said.

We’re looking for relief from election costs in the form of vote my mail initiatives, resizing of precincts to subtract out the vote by mail voters, and consolidation of precincts. The Governor’s remedy exacerbates the problem on a local level without providing any counter balance of local relief.

Wake Up Sacramento!

 The MAJORITY of voters who participate in elections in California do so by MAIL. The evidence continues to grow.  

In Picture 013the June 2 Redwood City Elementary School District Election, 68% of the voters voted by mail. In the May 19 Consolidated Special Statewide Election, 64.8% of the voters voted by mail.

In California, 64.5% of the voters cast their ballot by mail in the May 19th special election.

It’s time for change. Registrars should be given the flexibility to conduct elections by mail if their local Board of Supervisors approves the approach.

San Mateo County would save about 30% in election costs. And elections are costly to conduct. At a time when the state is slashing programs, shutting parks and according to the Controller, will be out of money by July 29, this idea is a no-brainer.

Let counties save real money by choosing opting to conduct elections by mail – as long as the locals support it.

A Two to One Margin

It was lonely at the polls on May 19

It was lonely at the polls on May 19

While the results aren’t completely tallied, most of them are. By a two to one margin the turnout came from voters who voted by mail – 62% of them and that number is still climbing.

In San Mateo County, we have 360,782 registered voters – and not quite 25 30.67% of them voted in the May 19th Consolidated Special Statewide Election (just updated results at 4:30 p.m.). When you look hard at the polling place turnout, you must remember, we consolidated precincts – so some precincts were designed to serve as many as 1,400 voters, not just the usual 1,000 voters.  That means that our precinct boards served about 82  92 voters at each precinct over the course of a 13-hour day. That’s a little over 6  7 voters per hour. That’s tedium. Even with a slightly higher turnout.  The two-to-one margin didn’t move with this update.

A few years ago, I worked in a San Carlos Special Election as an election official. Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer, thought it would be a good thing for me to experience working at the polls firsthand. I loved it, but I wanted more action. We had a total of 99 voters that day in our precinct—and it was painfully slow.

According to the Secretary of State’s preliminary county by county data – there are 33 counties that had 50% or more of their voter roll voting by mail in this election. With the state budget in shambles, tons of money could be saved if counties were given permission to decide locally if they wanted to conduct elections by mail.  It’s not unheard of –counties decide in the state of Washington.

It’s Election Day!

The polls just opened at 7 a.m.  and if you haven’t already done so, make sure and vote today.  Stop by and make your poll worker’s day. They’ve been hard at work since 6 a.m. and will be there until about 9:30 p.m. tonight.

The polls will be open until 8 p.m. so you have plenty of time, but why wait?  Do yourself a favor – double check the location of your polling place before you go vote – every election there are a few that change locations. Use the “Find My Polling Place link” on the homepage of – it’s on the left side– scroll down to the Voter Tool Kit and click the link and fill in the 3 required bits of information about yourself.  It will present the name and location of your precinct. Double-checking will save you time and aggravation–both good things to avoid.

Yesterday’s statistics showed that the turnout of San Mateo County Vote by Mail voters (so far) had reached 14.43%.  Just got new information…the percentage has edged up to 16.64 percent with addition of the morning mail. Even more reason to make sure and vote today…with the record-breaking LOW turnout that’s expected, it may seem like you’re vote represents not only you, but the vote of your neighbor, friend and co-worker that didn’t bother to vote.  It really does matter.

Tonight, you can find all the results online here at Look for the Results Link at the top of the homepage.

The first returns will be reported at 8:05 p.m. and will represent those ballots cast by the Vote by Mail voters who returned them to our office prior to Election Day.  Ballots from this group that are received today or dropped off at the polls will be counted during the Canvass that technically (under law) begins as soon as the polls close.  We won’t start counting these ballots until the day after. Remember, we still have to signature verify before we can add these votes to the vote totals.

The 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. returns represent votes counted from  the Vote by Mail precinct voters and the Early Voters (those who came in person and voted in one of our offices in the 29 days prior to the election).

At 9:30 p.m. we’ll post live returns from ballots cast by precinct voters and continue to issue these every half-hour until all the precinct votes are counted.

Join us at the Rotunda at 555 County Center in Redwood City. between 7:30 p.m.  and 10:30 p.m. We’ll be issuing the returns, visiting with voters and others interested in this election and serving light refreshments. All are welcome!