Category Archives: Web Stuff We Like

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.


Rebooting Democracy with Smart Phones

If there is one thing technological trend that we believe in it is this – mobile technology. The iTunes App Store has over 100,000 mobile applications, new smart phones like the recent Google phone will saturate the market and as all of that happens more and more business, personal productivity and lifestyle applications will get deployed.

The democracy space is not immune from the impacts of this confluence.

A new Silicon Valley company launched a smart phone app yesterday – called Verafirma – that will allow signature gatherers to collect your signature on a cell phone app!

California may become the first state in the nation to apply this kind of technology to the collection of signatures for initiatives, referendums and recalls headed for the ballot.

The new technology is catching some serious buzz, “I think it’s transformative,” said Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer. “I’ve seen it – and from everything I know about it – it’s secure, has the necessary audit trail and provides controls that should give voters and election professionals confidence.”

Slocum cautions, however, that “Depending of the outcome in the courts, we could take a giant step toward the idea of an e-voter who is empowered to support legislation using today’s technology. Assuming it survives a legal test(s) in the courts, which is an inevitable result of the introduction of this new technology, we will know if registrars can take advantage of the efficiencies of the technology or not.”

Check out the video to see how it works!

According to Jude Barry, a San Jose political strategist and co-founder of the firm, the technology also works on an iPod Touch and the Verizon Droid and should soon work on other smart phones.

Slocum added that, “Gov. Hiram Johnson, the California governor who added initiative, referendum and recall to the practice of democracy in the state would be proud. Submitting signatures electronically could make it a lot less expensive for county registrars to verify the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify measures. This innovation is a good thing for the whole movement toward green voting because it reduces the carbon footprint and doesn’t involve having a piece of paper shoved at you in front of a supermarket.”

San Mateo County on Twitter

Hopefully you’ve already started following the Elections Office on Twitter at @smcvote. Did you know that a number of other government organizations and cities within San Mateo County have explored social media outreach?

Twitter utilizes hashtags (#) to mark tweets with a distinguishable phrase that allows users to search and easily find a string of conversations relating to the topic. A popular hashtag is #followfriday, where people recommend others for following. Often, the recommendation is supported by a reason for suggested follow.

Here’s our list of local entities to check out on Twitter in honor of #followfriday. And if we missed you, make sure to add yourself in our comments section!

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San Mateo County Through Your Eyes

Do you love to take photography?  Do you have some pictures laying around in box somewhere?  We’re looking for some great images that showcase San Mateo County — they can be of landscapes, homes, picturesque views, golf courses, businesses, urban imagery…pretty much anything.  Our only requirement is that the photos be of San Mateo County.

Here’s some samples of what we have now (taken by our own Greta McElroy-White of the Elections Office):

Some legal stuff:

By submitting a photo, you acknowledge that we have permission to post it on our blog and our website.  You would retain full copyright privileges…just make sure that you have the copyright privileges to begin with!  We want your personal photos, not copies of someone else’s please!  We do have the right to refuse photos.

To submit your images, email  Make sure to include your name, contact information, and a short description of your included images.  Any questions?  Just send it to!

We look forward to seeing San Mateo County through your eyes!

Social Media Networking for Elections

Elections News Now Twitter ImageAs I’m sure most of our readers have noticed, the San Mateo County Elections Office has been making strides towards becoming more transparent through the use of “Web 2.0.”

Our latest effort was becoming a part of the Twitter world.

On it’s home page, Twitter is self-described as a “service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”  Updates are limited to 140 characters.

But one look inside the Twitter world, and its plainly evident that Twitter has grown from a simple tool for staying connected with family, friends, and co-workers, to an all-out social networking tool for people to connect with others around the globe to share tips, information, news, and general niceties. It’s truly become a marketing tool.

At the Elections Office, it’s been a great way for us to obtain and pass on quick bits of information pertaining to Elections or general government.  Even California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen has office accounts for the SOS Department to release Advisories to County Elections Officials (also known as CCROVs), as well as her own account for more personal and direct communication.

More than several of our election officers are on our “Followers” list, as are voters registered in the County.  Using this service, they can ask us direct questions and we can (usually) immediately reply.

Overall, the social media networking world has been a positive experience for the Elections office, and we hope to continue to make greater strides towards transparency and openness.

By the way — If you haven’t seen our Twitter feed, you can visit it at

Meet Our Filing Officer

Lupe Sanchez, our filing officer, is the go-to person for all things filing related.

Persons interested in running as candidates for open seats, jurisdictions interested in holding elections, and officials and committees continuing in active status would contact Lupe to submit required paperwork and gather information about pending deadlines.

Lupe can be reached at 650-312-5293 or

Lately, our office has been the recipient of visits from various committees who are all trying to meet the deadline to submit their semi-annual 460s (Campaign Finance Statement Disclosures).  Lupe’s been busy ensuring that their paperwork is fully complete, signed by the correct persons, date stamped, and filed by our office.

She’s also been getting calls from various jurisdictions inquiring about possible upcoming election dates and costs.  Elections Code 1500 states that the first Tuesday following the first Monday in May of all years is a designated date for all-mail ballot elections.  The deadline to submit a resolution to conduct an election in May is Feb. 6 at 5 p.m.

Unless the state calls for a special election for the budget, May 5 is the earliest possible date for an election this year.

Right now, the only confirmed election is scheduled for Nov. 3.  For more information about the election in November, read our previous post.

Want more information about the Elections Code, which outlines our procedures listed above?  Visit the online Elections Code reference site at

2008 Wrap Up

What a year — 2008 was truly an “election year” with five elections held in our County.  The elections brought a flurry of activity both in our physical offices and our virtual office at

According to our latest stats, had over 8.8 million page views and almost 500,000 visits during 2008.  Our most active date?  November 5, 2008 – the day after the historic presidential election.

We’ve worked really hard to develop content that you care about.  Between this blog, Warren’s blog, twittering, Anatomy of Election ’08, and the RaceTracker, this office has made a strong effort to increase communication and transparency of operations.  By the looks of it, you’re responding to these efforts!

Here’s a quick summary of our website statistics:

Visitors –  287,283
Visitors Who Visited Once – 232,040
Visitors Who Visited More Than Once – 55,243
Average Visits per Visitor – 1.63

Visits – 468,425
Average per Day – 1,279

Most Active Date – 11/5/08
Least Active Date – 3/9/08

Top 4 entry pages
1. – 93,411 visits
2. – 15,270 visits
3. – 13,961 visits
4. – 12,620 visits

Top 4 exit pages
1. – 46,516 visits
2. – 12,488 visits
3. – 10,594 visits
4. – 10,245 visits