Community & Voter Outreach Plan


Executive Summary

It is the mission of Registration & Elections Division to promote and encourage citizens to register to vote and to help shape the future of their communities by voting.

The Division’s Voter Outreach and Education Plan for the November 3, 2015 Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District All-Mailed Ballot Election is built around engaging the public so that people are aware of the requirements and opportunities for registering to vote and to cast a Vote by Mail ballot or to vote in person. Information on ballots and voting options will be sent multiple times directly to voters during the election period.

We have partnered with individuals, grassroots neighborhood groups, community-based organizations and local governmental agencies to get the message out to people who may not be familiar with the voting process and voting by mail.

We are keenly aware of opportunities to contact potential voters who have never registered, never voted by mail, where English is a second language, have special needs or disabilities, are homeless, or live in areas with low participation rates.

Here are just a few of examples of our work:

  • Voters with disabilities and older adults
    • We have formed a Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC) to assist the county on compliance with laws and regulations regarding access to voting. We are working with senior citizen centers, nursing homes and organizations such Redi-Wheels (County Paratransit) and city-sponsored shuttles to further assist voters with disabilities who prefer to vote by mail, and voters who prefer to vote privately and independently on our assessable eSlate voting machines. We are here to help facilitate whatever method the voter chooses.
  • Linguistically-concentrated communities
    • We make sure that our materials are translated, and the staff attending local events speaks the language of the community. These types of events include attending neighborhood festivals (see the Voter Outreach and Education Summary box above) and speaking at senior centers and citizenship classes.
  • Hard-to-Reach populations
    • Some people would rather get information from people they already know, so we partner with church groups and other groups who already provide services so that accurate information reaches everyone.
  • The youth vote 
    • Historically, the youth vote has not been high so we are reaching out to high schools to incorporate them into our voter base. As part of AB1817, which designates the last full two weeks in September to be “high school voter education weeks”, staff will team up with school personnel to register and educate students on campus. This is a great opportunity. 

Community college students now will have the opportunity to cast a ballot on campus. We arranged for each of the 3 community college campuses to host a Universal Polling Place. Now, the students won’t have to rush to their home polling place since we will have every ballot style at every UPP.

We are also getting our message out through traditional media like newspapers, radio, billboard and public transit ads, and through social media like Facebook and Twitter. We are reworking our webpages in responsive web design (RWD) aimed at easy reading and navigation of election information and voting.  Each platform has its own audience but our messages are the same: the requirements and opportunities for registering to vote and casting a ballot in the November 3, 2015 Election.

We anticipate our comprehensive voter outreach program will engage voters and result in increased voter registration and voter turnout. 

Outreach Plan

The San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division is participating in numerous community events, workshops and forums where we answer election-related questions while conducting voter registration drives.

Between now and November 3, we will coordinate for addition events in various parts of the County to further push for an increase in voter registration and participation in the electoral process.  We will continue to update a list of events on our website.
Community Groups
Citizen groups in culturally diverse communities can help us to conduct outreach among specific demographic groups that historically have low voter registration or participation rates.
These groups represent high potential for increasing the overall voter registration and participation rates of the County.
Certain cities and towns within in San Mateo County have a high degree of participation in terms of existing voter registration, vote by mail usage and voter turnout. Those already-engaged cities will be offered our help in getting the word out about the upcoming election; however, the cities and towns with lower rates of participation are where the most gains can be made.
The cities and towns with lower rates of engagement also happen to be the home of larger populations of non-native English speakers, ethnic minority groups and strong faith-based organizations. We want partner with the relevant community groups to focus on more intensive voter education efforts.

Community-Based Organizations (CBOs)
We have identified community based organizations that we seek to partner with in an effort to expand their ability to provide voter registration services to citizens of San Mateo County. This includes organizations from non-profits, faith-communities, labor, government agencies and non-profits.
Between now and the next election, we will provide training, guidance and materials to groups interested in conducting their own voter registration drives and voter education.
Outreach efforts specific to this November’s all-mailed ballot election will be furthered at these events:

  • 9/5-6 Millbrae Arts & Wine Festival
  • 9/14-25 High School Voter Outreach
  • 9/16 Fiestas Patrias in RWC
  • 9/19 Redwood Shores Clean-up
  • 9/24 LOWV/RWC Candidate Forum
  • 9/26 RWC Salsa Festival
  • 9/26 Disability and Unity Festival
  • 9/27 San Mateo Autumn Moon Event
  • 10/3 HSA Belmont – Fun Family Expo
  • 10/4 Millbrae Japanese Festival
  • 10/8 RWC Innovate School Election Forum
  • 10/10 Transition to Independence Fair
  • 10/17-18 HMB Pumpkin Festival
  • 10/29 Homeless Connect Event 

Using Technology to Reach Voters

The public relies on our website for up to date information about voter registration, elections and voting. To offer website visitors a comprehensive understanding of the November 3, 2015 Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District All-Mailed Ballot Election, we have made some additions and improvements to our current site.

On our home page, we have a link to a landing page dedicated to the all-mailed ballot election. That page incorporates responsive web design and will allow optimal viewing and navigation across a wide range of devices. The page contains the following headings: Voter Registration, Community & Voter Outreach, Vote Early, Vote by Mail, Vote in Person on Election Day, Election Results. Within each of those general areas, there are sub-topics that have content, documents, forms and links specific to the November 3, 2015 election.

Earlier this summer, website visitors using Apple’s iOS experienced a pop-up message about incompatibility with Flash Player. We have solved this problem by removing an embedded video from the home page. The video was not critical to the home page and can still be accessed elsewhere on the site. The issues between Apple products and Adobe Flash are bypassed on our website through this simple change.

Traditional Media

Our media strategy includes getting our message out through traditional media like newspapers, radio, billboard and public transit ads, and through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Each platform has its own audience but our messages are the same: the requirements and opportunities for registering to vote and casting a ballot in the November 3, 2015 Election.

We plan to run media campaigns on billboards, BART, bus stop-shelters, newspapers, television, and radio.

  • Newspapers/Magazines
    • The Almanac
    • Bay City News Services
    • Redwood City-based News
    • Daily News Group, San Mateo County
    • Daily Post
    • East Palo Alto Today
    • El Mensajero (Spanish Language)
    • Half Moon Bay Review Managing
    • News for Chinese (Chinese Language)
    • Pacifica Tribune
    • San Francisco Chronicle
    • San Francisco Examiner
    • San Jose Mercury News
    • The San Mateo County Times
    • Reporter: Josh Melvin
    • The San Mateo Daily Journal
    • San Mateo County
    • Sing Tao Daily (Chinese Language)
    • The Spectrum
    • El Ravenswood
  • Blogs
    • The Daily Fetch
    • Montara Fog
    • Pacifica Riptide
    • Peninsula Public Policy Examiner
  • Television
    • KGO-TV Channel 7 ABC
    • KNTV NBC
    • KRON-TV
    • KTSF 26
    • KTVU FOX 2
    • Peninsula Television
    • Univision 14, KDTV (Spanish Language)
    • Midpeninsula Media Center
  • Radio Stations
    • KCBS 740 AM Radio
    • KLIV Silicon Valley News 1590 AM Radio

Below is a sample of our campaigns

Mailings to Voters

San Mateo County’s conduct of an all-mailed ballot election will include advertising and promotion on a variety of platforms: radio, digital, print and social media.  However, we have an opportunity to make an individual connection with voters through a mailing directly to the voter.

Mailings directly from the local election official are recognized as very effective in mitigating any negative effects all-mailed ballot elections have on voter turnout.  In one study, “How Does Vote By Mail Affect Voters? A natural experiment examining individual-level turnout” by Bergman, Yates and Ginnold, it is clear that the odds of a voter voting by mail are increased through repeated communication with voters about vote by mail procedures and deadlines. The authors suggest at least 4 mailings.

We have scheduled / proposed the following:

All Mailed Ballot Election Announcement – To be mailed prior to Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet

Purpose: to announce that the Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District Election will be conducted as an all mailed ballot election under AB 2028.

Target Audience: All Registered Voters (354,000)

  • Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet – September 24, 2015 through October 2,2015
    • Purpose: to provide a voter information and a sample ballot to every voter.
    • Target Audience: All Registered Voters (354,000)
  • Ballot Mailing Alert – September 28, 2015
    • Purpose: to announce that the ballot will be in their mailbox in the next week and a picture of the exterior envelope.
    • Target Audience: Voters who are not Permanent Vote by Mail (148,000)
  • Official Ballot Mailing – October 5, 2015
    • Purpose: official Ballot, Return Envelope and VBM Instructions
    • Target Audience: All Registered Voters (354,000)
  • Outreach to Last Minute Voters – October 26, 2015
    • Purpose: to remind voters that Election Day is near and that they are running out of time to vote.
    • Target Audience: Voters who haven’t returned a ballot (330,000 – estimate)
  • Disqualified Ballot Letter – Ongoing. Last day to mail October 30, 2015
    • Purpose: to give them a second chance to sign the ballot and let them know where to go to vote if they can’t return the ballot on time. To have them update their signature for the future.
    • Target Audience: Voters who returned a ballot but it was disqualified due to reasons such as: no signature, non-matching signature, etc.

Postcard Mailing 1: All-Mailed Ballot Election Announcement


Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet


Postcard Mailing 2: Ballot Mailing Alert


Official Ballot Mailing


Postcard Mailing 3: Outreach to Voters Who Haven’t Mailed in their Ballot


Additional Mailing: Challenged Ballot Letter

Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC)

The Registration and Elections Division is firmly committed to ensuring older adults and persons with disabilities can participate fully in the elections process. As part of its commitment, a Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee was formed in July 2015. The committee includes persons with disabilities, older adults and individuals who represent and serve those communities.

The committee meets regularly to discuss the policies and practices of the Registration & Elections Division. Already the Committee has had the opportunity to review voting machines and the planned distribution of the vote by mail ballots for the upcoming All-Mailed Ballot Election. Suggestions from the committee have been reviewed and incorporated into the practices of the Elections Division.

Members of the Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee

  • Sue Digre; PARCA
  • Chip Huggins; Caminar
  • Randall Jones; Social Vocational Services
  • Michael Levinson; CID, Paratransit Coordinating Council
  • Craig McCulloh; Commission on Disabilities
  • Vincent Merola, CID
  • Trinh Phan, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo

Voter Assistance

Voting Privately and Independently 
Our two (2) Voting Centers and our thirty-two (32) Universal Polling Places meet or exceed the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disability Act and the Help America Vote Act. The staff at all polling locations ensure that the path of travel is barrier-free on Election Day and all election materials are accessible.

San Mateo County’s electronic “eSlate” voting machines allow anyone to vote privately and independently. There are a number of features that make them accessible and compatible with adaptive devices such as headphones, sip and puff devices, and tactile input switches.

Home Bound Voters

The San Mateo County Elections Division has deployed staff to the homes of voters who have no one to assist them with voting and no means to get to a polling place. Sometimes we only need to retrieve the voter’s ballot, sometimes the voter needs help marking the ballot.

Nursing Home Outreach

The San Mateo County Nursing Home Outreach Program is designed to assist people who are patients in hospitals and residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers who may not have updated their voter registration information. We want to be sure they get their election materials. We partner with social workers and activity directors to educate them about how to make sure their clients are registered to vote, receive a Vote by Mail ballot and are able to return the ballot on time. We also provide direct support to the clients through making presentations, assisting with filling out voter registration cards, and picking up ballots from the facilities.

Shuttle Services

Since there will be fewer polling places during this all-mailed ballot election, voters may want to plan transportation to and from the Universal Polling Place, Voting Centers, City or Town Halls. We have alerted San Mateo County Paratransit to this need. If a voter is certified to use Redi-Wheels, they should call the number on their card at least one day in advance or call the SamTrans customer service center at 1(800) 660-4287. 

Plain Language

In an effort to make our materials accessible to as many people as possible, we review our materials for best practice plain language standards. The materials for the November 3, 2015 election have been prepared with the intention to make the information as simple and visually-oriented as possible. You will see this, most notably, in our Vote by Mail instructional insert that is mailed with the Official Ballot.

Community & Voter Outreach Tool Kit

Community & Voter Outreach Plan
Public Communications Guide
Voting Options Brochure
The All-Mailed Ballot Election Brochure