Frequently Asked Questions on November 3, 2015 Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District All-Mailed Ballot Election


Why is San Mateo County conducting the November 3, 2015 Consolidated Municipal, School and Special District Election as an All-Mailed Ballot Election?

On August 15, 2014 Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2028 (authored by Kevin Mullin, 22nd Assembly District) authorizing San Mateo County to join Yolo County in an All-Mailed Ballot Pilot Program to conduct up to three local elections by December 31, 2017, in which every voter will receive a ballot by mail. This program will provide valuable information to the legislature to help determine how elections will be conducted in California.  San Mateo County was chosen to be a part of this program because it is a diverse urban county where 57% of registered voters already vote by mail on a regular basis.

What are the benefits of holding the November 3, 2015 election as an All-Mailed Ballot Election?

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

  1. Increased Voter Participation – In looking at San Mateo County’s own history of conducting countywide All-Mailed Ballot Elections, the county saw an increase of 10% in voter turnout from a traditional polling place countywide special election to an all-mailed ballot special election.  It is expected that a similar increase will be seen in November.
  2. Decreased Cost - In looking at the results of Yolo County’s All-Mailed Ballot Election on March 5, 2013, the county saw an overall savings of 43%.  We anticipate similar cost savings for each jurisdiction in San Mateo County participating in the pilot program.  The savings will come primarily from major reductions in the hiring, training, and support of pollworkers, and the testing and deployment of voting equipment and supplies.
  3. Increased Efficiency and Effectiveness – Through the use of “Universal Polling Places” voter eligibility questions will be identified and resolved quicker and therefore it will reduce the use of provisional voting.  As well, results on Election Night will be reported faster as the majority of ballots cast will be counted on Election Night.
  4. Voter Convenience – Voters will now have a ballot in hand beginning 29 days before Election Day.  Voters may choose to return their ballot by mail with a postage paid return envelope or drop it off at more than 20 ballot drop-off locations throughout the County at any time during the 29-day voting period.  They may also choose to cast their ballot in person at either of our two Voting Centers during the 29-day voting period or at one of our “Universal Polling Places” on Election Day.

What are the requirements of AB 2028 for the November 3, 2015 election?

Under AB 2028, every voter will receive their ballot in the mail with a postage paid return envelope.  However, for those voters that still wish to vote in person, the law requires that San Mateo County provide at least one polling place per city on Election Day.

Do I have to vote by mail?

No, under the law, the County must provide polling place options to voters on Election Day.  There are 32 Universal Polling Places for the November 2015 election. San Mateo County will have at least 1 polling place in each town/city on Election Day for voters.  As well, our office will continue its customary practice of opening up Voting Centers at the following two locations:

Registration & Elections Division
40 Tower Road
San Mateo, CA 94402

Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder’s Office
555 County Center, 1st Floor
Redwood City, CA 94063

The Voting Centers will open 29 days prior to Election Day (October 5, 2015) and allow voters to cast their ballots Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on an accessible electronic voting machine or on a paper ballot. The Voting Centers will also be open the Saturday prior to Election Day (October 31, 2015) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If I live in Redwood City and want to vote in person on Election Day will I have to go to the Redwood City polling place?

No. One of the many benefits of AB 2028, is that each polling place will be a “Universal Polling Place”.  This means, voters in San Mateo County will be able to go to any one of our polling places in the County on Election Day and receive their specific ballot type.

When will I receive my ballot in the mail?

Under the pilot project, ballots will be sent out 29 days prior to Election Day (October 5, 2015).  If a voter doesn’t receive their ballot by October 12, 2015, they should contact our office by phone at 650.312.5222 or by email at Or simply vote in person at a Voting Center on or before Election Day, or vote at any polling place on Election Day.

Will the City Clerk’s Office have a ballot box?

Yes, as in prior elections, we will continue to have ballot box’s beginning 28 days prior to Election Day at each City Clerk’s office in the County.  Voters can drop off their ballots during regular business hours in these boxes or on Election Day until 8 p.m.

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 to ensure that voters who don’t usually vote by mail understand that they will be getting their ballot in the mail this October.  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 by all-mailed ballot.  As well, this will be one way our office ensures that we have the correct address for all registered voters in the county.

Our office will also be working with different 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 educate our voters.

Under this program does my vote by mail ballot need to reach the Elections Office by 8 p.m. on Election Night to count?

No. On September 26, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law SB 29.  This law states that as long as a vote by mail ballot is postmarked on or before Election Day and received within three calendar days, it will be counted.  Accordingly, for the November 3, 2015 Election all ballots that are postmarked on or before November 3, 2015 and received by November 6, 2015 will be counted.  This legislation is for all elections not just those under the All-Mailed Ballot Pilot Program. But it will surely benefit voters for the November 3, 2015 All-Mailed Ballot Election.

Does a district or city need to approve of the All-Mailed Ballot Pilot Program for the November 3, 2015 election to be conducted by mail?

Yes.  For this program to move forward, we need the participation of every city, town, school and special district that is holding an election in November.  All jurisdictions have passed resolutions requesting the Elections Division to conduct their election by mail.  Without the approval of each jurisdiction that will be holding an election, our office will be unable to conduct the November 3, 2015 election by mail.

Is there a deadline by which jurisdictions need to pass resolutions authorizing an All-Mailed Ballot Election?

Yes, all jurisdictions must pass resolutions authorizing an All-Mailed Ballot Election by August 7, 2015.

Isn’t voting by mail geared towards younger people?

No, in fact, throughout the county, 57% of voters are registered to permanently vote by mail.  Moreover, a majority of voters in each age group are registered to vote by mail.

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

No. In San Mateo County, 58% of individuals registered for the Democratic Party are permanent vote by mail voters and 60% of individuals registered for the Republican Party are permanent vote by mail voters. As well, 55% of voters who identify themselves as No Party Preference are registered as permanent vote by mail voters.  Accordingly, in San Mateo County, voting by mail doesn’t have a bias towards any party preference.

Is there anything else I should know?

Yes!  San Mateo County is excited to be a part of this pilot program and we believe that it will greatly benefit our voters with more voting options, reducing costs to conduct elections, and increase voter participation.  We will help the State of California to shape the future of elections and allowing our voters more choices when it comes to voting!  Please contact our office at 650.312.5222 or if you have any further questions.