Public Invited to Observe
February 23, 2011

Contact: Mark Church, Chief Elections Officer & Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder

Alternate: David Tom, Elections Manager

Redwood City, CA –With the March 8 Brisbane School District Special Election just days away, the San Mateo County Elections Office will begin the opening and processing of returned vote by mail ballots on Feb. 25 and continue on a daily basis through Election Day. The public is invited to observe this process.

“This is the time to visit the Elections Office. Right now, nearly every area of the operation is in an active mode. We are processing incoming ballots, continuing to fill requests from people who want to vote by mail, packing the supplies and equipment for the polling places, processing new voter registrations with postmarks dated Feb. 22, and we’ve begun work on the Sample Ballot for the May 3 Local Consolidated Special Election,” Mark Church, Chief Elections Officer for San Mateo County explained.

The processing of Vote by Mail ballots is allowed by law to begin seven (7) business days prior to an election. Two steps are permitted:  1) Vote by Mail ballot envelopes can be opened and separated from the return envelopes and 2) Vote by Mail ballots can be scanned and prepared for tabulation. Votes cannot be counted or reported until 8 p.m. on Election Day. Ballots scanned during this period are reported in the first bulletin that is released at 8:05 p.m. on Election night.

Observers who wish to see the process begin should plan to be at the Elections Office no later than 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 25 when the opening and processing of returned Vote by Mail ballots will begin. This process will continue in the days following until every eligible Vote by Mail ballot received before Election Day is processed. Vote by mail ballots dropped off at the polls on Election Day will be counted during the Official Canvass which begins after the polls close and continues for 28 days while the election results are audited before certification.

“By opening the Vote by Mail ballot envelopes and readying them for the tally, we are able to provide early and accurate returns on Election Night,” explained San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church. “ To date, 492 voted ballots have been returned to the Elections Office. There are a total of 4,065 registered voters in the Brisbane School District; the district includes all of Brisbane and parts of Daly City.  Forty-six percent (46%) of the school district’s voters are Vote by Mail voters.  

During the initial period of processing ballots that began on Feb. 7, envelopeprocessing occurs.  The exterior security flap on the envelope is removed and the voter’s signature and address hidden underneath are compared with the signature and address on the voter registration file. If the information matches,  the voted ballots are accepted and set aside for processing. If the information does not match or is incomplete (e.g., the voter forgot to sign the envelope), the voter is contacted. The Elections Office is usually able to resolve these issues before Election Day and count the ballots once everything is complete and verified.

All ballots remain unopened until seven (7) business days prior to an election (or Friday, Feb. 25 for this election) when the voted ballots are scanned into the tally system in preparation for the reporting of results on Election night.

Voters have until Tuesday, March 1 to request a Vote by Mail ballot delivered by mail. After that, voters can obtain a Vote a Mail ballot in person at the Elections Office at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo during regular business hours. This cutoff date is mandatory to ensure that voters, the Post Office and the Elections Office have enough time to deliver and return a mail ballot.

Anyone who would like to observe the opening and counting of voted Vote by Mail ballots should contact Elections Supervisor Narda Barrientos at (650) 312-5365 or to arrange a visit. Staff will be assigned to those visiting to make sure that a full understanding of the process is provided and all questions are answered.

The press release is displayed in its original format. San Mateo County Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Elections website now resides at

Related Contacts

Mark Church

Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder and Chief Elections Officer
555 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1665Get Directions

Jim Irizarry

Asst. Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Asst. Chief Elections Officer
555 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1665Get Directions