California Voter’s Choice Act
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is the California Voter’s Choice Act? How will it change the way I vote?

The California Voter’s Choice Act fundamentally transforms elections to an All-Mailed Ballot/Vote Center Model. California Governor Jerry Brown signed this landmark law on September 29, 2016.

Under the law, ALL registered voters will be mailed a Vote by Mail ballot beginning 29 days prior to Election Day, regardless of whether you have signed up as a Vote by Mail voter or not.  

Over 200 traditional neighborhood polling places countywide will be replaced by 39 Vote Centers along with 26 Ballot Drop-off Locations. 
In addition to mailing back their voted ballot, voters can also go to ANY Vote Center to cast their ballot in person either on paper or on the eSlate voting machine. You can also drop off your ballot at ANY Vote Center, Ballot Drop-off Location or any participating City/Town Hall in the county.

​When is the first election that San Mateo County will conduct under the California Voter’s Choice Act voting model?

San Mateo County has been selected by the State Legislature as one of 14 pilot counties statewide authorized to conduct elections under the California Voter’s Choice Act starting on January 1, 2018.

On September 12, 2017, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors authorized the Chief Elections Officer to conduct the June 5, 2018 Statewide Direct Primary Election as the first election to be held under the California Voter’s Choice Act.

Will all elections be conducted by this new model in the future in San Mateo County?

This new model will affect all regularly scheduled elections. Special elections occurring on other dates may operate differently depending on the request of the jurisdiction(s) calling an election.

What services will be provided to voters with disabilities?

San Mateo County engages the disabled community in every aspect of an election, from voter education to accessible voting options. The Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet is provided in an accessible format that is screen-reader friendly. Each Vote Center will be equipped with multiple Disabled Access Unit eSlate voting machines and have multilingual staff to assist in English, Spanish, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese or Hindi. Facsimile ballots will also be mailed to voters those precincts who receive facsimile status and who requests the language.

Voters with disabilities will be able to vote privately and independently through our Accessible Vote by Mail (AVBM) system. AVBM Voters may mark an electronic ballot in a screen-reader accessible format and then print and return their ballot in a postage paid envelope.
 

What services will be provided to the non-English preference voters?

All information that is provided in English, including official ballots, will also be available in Spanish and Chinese as required by Section 203 of American Voting Rights Act. Additionally, facsimile ballots in Filipino, Japanese and Hindi will be displayed at all Vote Centers as required by Elections Code Section 14201. Bilingual staff members are also available at all Vote Centers. Facsimile ballots will also be mailed to voters in precincts who receive facsimile status and who request the language.

 

Vote Centers

What is a Vote Center?

Vote Centers look and feel like polling places, but provide additional services and options for voters. You can go to any Vote Center in San Mateo County to:

  • Register to vote or update registration information up until Election Day
  • Use accessible voting machines
  • Access multilingual election material and receive election support from English, Spanish, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese or Hindi speaking staff. Language speaking staff may have to be reached by phone for some language locations.
  • Drop off your ballot
  • Receive a replacement ballot
  • Vote a paper ballot in person

How are the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations selected?

The California Voter’s Choice Act requires the county to provide at least one Vote Center per 50,000 voters by 10 days prior to Election Day and one Vote Center per 10,000 voters by three days prior to Election Day.
The law also requires the county to establish at least one Ballot Drop-off Location per 15,000 voters by 28 days prior to Election Day.

Vote Centers are required by law to be accessible for voters with disabilities. Both Ballot Drop-off Locations and Vote Centers also need to be located near public transportation. The Registration & Elections Division selects the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-off Locations with input from the public through public meetings and community outreach efforts.

  1. What are the Vote Centers’ opening days and hours?

We have multiple Vote Centers to fit your schedule. Which one works best for you?

Number of Vote Centers

Days Open

Business Hours

Three Vote Centers

29 days prior to Election Day

Weekdays

Two weekends before Election Day

(Minimum eight hours per day)

Eight Vote Centers

Ten days prior to Election Day

Weekdays

Two weekends before Election Day:

(Minimum eight hours per day)

ALL 39 Vote Centers

Three days prior to and on Election Day

Three days before Election day

(Minimum eight hours per day)

Election Day

 (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Where can I find the addresses of the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations?

The addresses of Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations will be published in the Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet. They will be mailed to you starting 40 days prior to Election Day. The information will also be available online on this website.

I live in Redwood City and want to vote in person, do I have to go to a Vote Center in Redwood City?

No, you will be able to vote at any Vote Center in the county on or before Election Day. Under the California Voter’s Choice Act, each Vote Center will be non-precinct specific.

I have been going to my neighborhood polling place for years.  Can I still vote at my former polling place on Election Day?

No, unless your former polling place is also a Vote Center.

 

Vote by Mail

What are the benefits of holding the June 5, 2018 Statewide Direct Primary Election as an All-Mailed Ballot/Vote Center Election?

There are several benefits to this program for both voters and jurisdictions. 

  1. Increased Voter Convenience – All voters will be sent a Vote by Mail ballot beginning 29 days before Election Day.  Voters may return their ballot by mail or drop it off at one of our 26 Ballot Drop-off Locations throughout the County.  Voters may also cast their ballot in-person before Election Day at any of our 39 Vote Centers.
  2. Enhanced Voter Services – The Voter’s Choice Act replaces traditional Election Day polling places with Vote Centers where voters may cast a ballot in person.  Vote Centers allow voters to register to vote, resolve registration or ballot issues and vote on accessible voting machines.
  3. Increased Voter Participation –  San Mateo County saw a 4% increase in voter turnout in its most recent All-Mailed Ballot Election in 2015.  Building upon this trend and increasing the number of ballot drop-off locations and Vote Centers, voter turnout is expected to increase for the June 5, 2018 Statewide Direct Primary Election.
  4. Reduction in Provisional Ballots – Through real-time/live access to countywide voter registration records at Vote Centers, voter eligibility questions will be identified and resolved immediately, which will dramatically reduce provisional voting.  A reduction in provisional ballots will shorten the time needed for the election canvass (tabulating and verifying).  Unofficial results on election night will be reported faster as fewer locations (Vote Centers) will deliver ballots to the Registration & Elections Division office on election night.​

When will I receive my ballot in the mail?

Vote by Mail ballots will be mailed out 29 days prior to Election Day.If you do not receive your ballot within 10 calendar days, you should contact our office by phone at 650.312.5222 or by email at registrar@smcacre.org. Or simply vote in-person at a Vote Center.

Do I have to pay for postage for returning my ballot through mail?

No, all Vote by Mail ballots will be mailed with an enclosed POSTAGE-PAID return envelope.
 

When do I need to mail back my Vote by Mail ballot for it to be counted?

We recommend mailing your Vote By Mail ballot back in the postage paid as soon as possible. It must be postmarked on or before Election Day and be received by our office within three days after Election Day.
 

I understand that I will automatically receive a Vote by Mail ballot, but do I have to vote by mail?

No, you can still vote in person at any Vote Center on or before Election Day.

Is the Registration & Elections Division going to do any outreach for those voters who don’t usually vote by mail?

Yes, it is very important that our office conduct a thorough outreach and media campaign. If you do not usually vote by mail, you will be alerted that you will receive a ballot by mail in April. The Elections Division will be contacting voters several times before and throughout the voting period to ensure that voters are aware the election will be conducted as an All-Mailed Ballot/Vote Center Election. These mailings are an additional way our office can obtain updated addresses for voters in the county.

Our office will also be working with different community groups and use a variety of media platforms to get the message out. This includes television, radio and newspaper that cater to the major language preferences of our voters (English, Spanish and Chinese). We will use social media, billboards and voter outreach events throughout the county to inform our voters

Isn’t voting by mail geared towards younger people?

No, in fact, throughout the county, 67% of voters are registered to permanently vote by mail. A majority of voters in each age group are registered to vote by mail. Voting by mail is more accessible to less mobile persons who are unable to drive.
 

Does voting by mail favor one political party over the other?

No, in San Mateo County, 59% of individuals registered for the Democratic Party are permanent vote by mail voters and 61% of individuals registered for the Republican Party are permanent vote by mail voters. 55% of voters who identify themselves as No Party Preference are registered as permanent vote by mail voters. In San Mateo County, voting by mail doesn’t have a bias towards any party preference.

 

Ballot Drop-off Locations

How are the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations selected?

The California Voter’s Choice Act requires the county to provide at least one Vote Center per 50,000 voters by 10 days prior to Election Day and one Vote Center per 10,000 voters by three days prior to Election Day.
The law also requires the county to establish at least one Ballot Drop-off Location per 15,000 voters by 28 days prior to Election Day.

Vote Centers are required by law to be accessible for voters with disabilities. Both Ballot Drop-off Locations and Vote Centers also need to be located near public transportation. The Registration & Elections Division selects the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-off Locations with input from the public through public meetings and community outreach efforts.

When will Ballot Drop-Off Locations be available?

The Ballot Drop-Off Locations will open 28 days prior to Election Day.
 

Where can I drop off my voted ballot?

  • Ballot Drop-Off Locations
  • Vote Centers
  • Participating City/Town Halls

Where can I find the addresses of the Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations?

The addresses of Vote Centers and Ballot Drop-Off Locations will be published in the Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet. They will be mailed to you starting 40 days prior to Election Day. The information will also be available online on this website.