Justice Department to monitor San Mateo County elections

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- Polls open in California at 7 a.m. Tuesday, but that's a moot point for many who have already voted - or who "must" vote by mail. That's the case in San Mateo County where there are no precinct polling places on Election Day for its more than 400,000 registered voters. Still, federal monitors have selected San Mateo County to watch for irregularities.

Election workers are already immersed in the opening of mail-in ballots and verifying the signatures. When tabulation begins Tuesday, federal election monitors will be on hand to insure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

A Justice Department attorney told elections officers they're looking for compliance that ballots and information materials must be available in Chinese and Spanish in addition to English.

"All information that is produced on an English speaking ballot or voter outreach material is also produced in those languages," said Jim Irizarry, assistant chief elections officer. "They're going to be looking to insure that we do exactly that."

This is the first time San Mateo County will be visited by federal monitors. There's no suspicion of any irregularities. Access will be granted with the approval of local elections officers.

San Mateo County has early voting centers and places for people to drop off their ballots. But on Election Day, there are no precinct polling places. It's a 100 percent vote by mail process. The one potential for fraud is someone casting more than one ballot. In that case, only the first ballot counts. And signatures go through a verification process.
"All of the signatures that are on the voter registration card are then verified with all the ballots that are sent in by mail, and they're looked at on a computer screen both by human eyes and even computers to make sure that they're accurate," said Irizarry.

San Mateo County elections officials point out they get input from three citizen committees who advise them on outreach and compliance. They also have a special program to allow voters with visual impairments to vote. The feds want people with disabilities to be able to vote, too.

Full coverage on the 2018 election at abc7news.com/election.

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