Public Welcome to Observe Opening & Processing of Vote by Mail Ballots for the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election
Public Invited to Observe New Voting Systems in Action

New Site Press Release

Contact: Mark Church, Chief Elections Officer & Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder
Alternate: Jim Irizarry, Assistant Chief Elections Officer & Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder

(Redwood City, CA) On Tuesday, February 18, the authorized staff of the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division will begin opening and processing returned Vote by Mail ballots for the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election using a new Central Scanning system.

Election officials may open the return envelopes containing voted mail ballots beginning 10 business days before Election Day. Operating hours for opening and processing continues daily thereafter from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or until all ballots are processed for the day until the Official Canvass is complete.

For each ballot, an election official will compare the voter’s signature on the outside of the envelope to the signature on the voter’s original registration application or other updated signatures on file.

The ballot is separated from the envelope to preserve secrecy. The envelope is saved for the mandatory retention period, and the ballot is digitally scanned. The scanned ballots will not be counted or reported until the close of voting at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Those interested in observing the process may come to the Registration & Elections Division office at 40 Tower Road, San Mateo at any time, or make prior arrangements by contacting Elections Supervisor Michael Lui at 650.312.5238 or Observers will receive a copy of the Election Observer Program Guidelines, which specifies observer rights, responsibilities and limitations, and a copy of the Vote by Mail Processing Procedures.

Registered voters may use the “My Election Info” link at to verify when ballot materials were mailed and when their voted ballot was received by the Registration & Elections Division.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020, is the last day for registered voters to request a ballot to be mailed to them for the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election. Voted mail ballots can be returned in one of the following ways:

  • Mail your ballot in the POSTAGE-PAID ENVELOPE.
    • Ballots must be postmarked by March 3 and received by the Registration & Elections Division no later than March 6.
  • Drop off your ballot at any Official Ballot Drop Box located throughout the county.
  • Or drop off your ballot at any Vote Center daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. before Election Day and from 7 a.m. to on Election Day.
    • Four Vote Centers are open weekdays until February 22;
    • Nine Vote Centers will be open daily beginning February 22; and
    • 42 Vote Centers will open daily starting February 29 with extended Election Day hours.

All-Mailed Ballot – Vote Center Election Model for the March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election
The March 3, 2020 Presidential Primary Election will be the fourth election San Mateo County conducts under the California Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) model. It is the first Presidential Primary Election to be held under the VCA.

Traditional polling places have been replaced by Vote Centers, which will be open for voting for an extended period, and which will offer expanded voter services, including voter registration, multilingual assistance, and disabled access voting options. Every registered voter will also receive a Vote by Mail ballot, which voters can return with no postage required in any mailbox or into secure county ballot drop boxes located throughout the county.

For more information, call 650.312.5222, visit or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @smcvote.