Planned mail-in election could be statewide model

Bay City News
Thursday, October 8, 2015

SAN MATEO COUNTY -- San Mateo County's upcoming all-mail election next month could become a model for California.

The state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown authorized the county to hold an all-mail election last year for any upcoming election that does not include a state or national office on the ballot. The county must report back to the state on the election's cost, voter turnout and demographics, the number of ballots not counted and any evidence of voter fraud.

The county will hold its first all-mail election on Nov. 3. The ballot includes elections for City Council seats in Belmont, Brisbane, Burlingame, Foster City, Millbrae, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, San Mateo, South San Francisco, as well as several local school boards.

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane is running unopposed in the election, while there are also uncontested elections for council seats in Portola Valley and Woodside. Eight ballot measures are also on the ballot around the county.

Three states - Oregon, Washington and Colorado -- currently have statewide all-mail elections in place. While California has authorized such elections only in San Mateo and Yolo counties, lawmakers are considering expanding the practice to the rest of the state.

All-mail elections could increase voter turnout, reduce costs of elections and streamline the process to make counting ballots easier and more accurate, proponents argue.

California has long mailed ballots to eligible voters and allowed voting by mail, but still provides extensive physical polling locations. While the hope is that all voters mail in their ballots prior to Election Day, the county will still be required to provide a limited number of physical polling locations on Nov. 3 -- one in each city. There will also be scattered ballot drop-off locations.

Ballots will be mailed over the next few days to the 340,000 registered voters in San Mateo County. They can be mailed back, dropped off at any of the county's 20 city halls or voters can drop by one of the 32 physical polling locations open on Election Day.

More information about the election can be found on the county's website.