Vote by Mail FAQs


How many stamps are needed to return my ballot?

You do not need to pay for postage, or place any stamps, on the ballot return envelope that comes in the Official Ballot package.  The postage for the ballot return envelope has been paid by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division.

How much time do I have to return my Vote by Mail ballot?

Vote by Mail ballots must be received by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division on or before 8 p.m. on Election Day, or be postmarked on or before Election Day and received within 17 days after Election Day.

You may drop off your Vote by Mail ballot at any voting location and participating jurisdiction office before 8 p.m. Election Day and it will be counted. Visit for more information. 

What should I do if I think my Vote by Mail ballot will not arrive at the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division by the 8 p.m. deadline?

We encourage voters who are concerned with voting on-time to vote as soon as possible. Every election has a month-long voting period allowing early voters to mail their ballots back and track on to verify if their ballot was received and counted. Voters may also vote early at a Vote Center or drop off their voted ballot at an outdoor ballot drop box. 

What should I do if I cannot return my Vote by Mail ballot myself and it is too late to send it in the mail?

You may authorize any person to return your ballot. On the return envelope, you must sign your name and print the name of the person you are authorizing to return your ballot. That person must also sign in the space provide.

If I lose the Vote by Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?

Yes. Call/Text the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at 650.312.5222 or email and a second ballot will be sent to you. You may also go to a Vote Center.  The deadline to request a replacement mail ballot is 7 days before Election Day. Otherwise, you must go to a Vote Center in person.

I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?

Yes. Go to this website and follow the directions. You may receive a special Vote by Mail ballot that can be sent out as early as 60 days prior to an election.

I will be in another state during the election. How can I get a one-time ballot mailed to me there for this election if I’m not a military or overseas voter?

Voters who are traveling out of state during the election, can request a one-time Vote by Mail ballot to be sent to a temporary mailing address (the address where they’ll be during the election). Voters can request this ballot via phone, email, or on our website here.

How do I qualify for Permanent Vote by Mail status?

Under the California Voter’s Choice Act, all registered voters in San Mateo County will automatically receive a ballot in the mail for statewide or federal elections. 

California also allows any voter to request Permanent Vote by Mail status. Simply complete the online form. You can also call 650.312.5222 and request an application from our office. A Vote by Mail ballot will automatically be sent to you for all future special elections.

If I request a Vote by Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at any Vote Center?

Yes. If you have not already cast your ballot for the election, you may visit a Vote Center to obtain a replacement ballot or vote in person. Your previously issued ballot will be void upon the issuing of your replacement ballot or when you vote in person. 

When are Vote by Mail ballots processed?

Vote by Mail ballots are processed as they are received in the mail or picked up from the ballot drop boxes. The earlier a ballot is mailed or placed into a drop box increases the likelihood that it will be included in the Election Night posted result counts.