Voting FAQs


Voting FAQs

Where do I go to vote?

Vote Centers will be open throughout San Mateo County starting 29 days prior to the Election. You will find Vote Center locations on the back of your Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet or online here. Registered voters may vote in person at any San Mateo County Vote Center, request a replacement ballot or drop off their voted ballot. Vote Center Representatives will be on hand to help voters requesting assistance.

When are the Vote Centers open for voting?

You will find Vote Center locations on the back of your Sample Ballot & Voter Information Pamphlet or online here. In addition, Vote Centers are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. By law, you have a right to vote if you are in line at the Vote Center by the close of the polls.

Why was my Vote Center changed?

In California, there are no permanent Vote Centers. Locations may change from election to election. Sometimes a facility that was used previously may not be available for a particular election. Changes to precinct boundaries may sometimes occur when precincts are consolidated or realigned, especially for local elections that are not statewide.

Voters should always refer to their Sample Ballot booklet or go online to the Vote Centers & Ballot Drop Box Locations to find the location of a Vote Center before going to the polls to vote.

Can I take my Sample Ballot or my own written voting choices into the voting booth?

Yes. It is recommended that you mark your voting choices in your Sample Ballot and take it to the Vote Center on Election Day. You can refer to your Sample Ballot to make your choices. Remember to take your Sample Ballot out of the voting booth after you have completed voting.

If I do not know what to do when I get to the Vote Center, will someone help me?

Yes. Ask the Vote Center Representatives to help you with the voting process. Vote Center Representatives cannot, however, help you in making decisions on your voting choices.

I only speak limited English, is there oral assistance or are written voting materials available in languages other than English?

Yes. In accordance with federal law, San Mateo County provides voter registration information, election materials and oral assistance in English, Spanish and Chinese. Additionally, Vote Centers that have been identified as requiring oral language assistance are staffed with bilingual Vote Center Representatives whenever possible. Signs are posted in those locations identifying the minority languages spoken.

Can I vote for someone whose name is not listed on the ballot?

Yes. You may vote for a write-in candidate whose name is not printed or displayed on the ballot. Only votes for qualified write-in candidates will be counted. Ask Vote Center Representatives or call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at 650.312.5222 for a list of qualified write-in candidates. Elections Officials can also assist you with write-in voting procedures.

If a candidate that I voted for drops out of the election, can I change my vote or vote again for a different candidate?

No. Once you vote (cast your ballot), you cannot change your vote or vote again regardless of whether a candidate drops out before Election Day. 

Why don’t I see my city council/school district on my ballot?

San Mateo County’s election landscape is changing. Most scheduled local elections will no longer occur in odd-numbered years beginning in 2017. Senate Bill No. 415 (SB 415), also known as the California Voter Participation Rights Act, mandates jurisdictions with odd-year elections to move to even-year elections by November 2022 if voter turnout falls below a threshold established by law. The new law aims to increase voter participation and lower costs in local elections since even-numbered year elections have higher voter turnout. More information can be found at Senate Bill 415: Elections Moving from Odd to Even Years.

I have to work and therefore have no time to vote, what should I do?

According to California Elections Code, employees are eligible for paid time off for the purpose of voting only if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. Employees can be given as much time as they need in order to vote, but only a maximum of two hours is paid. Alternatively, all registered voters will receive a Vote By Mail ballot. Ballots can be dropped off through the mail, at any Vote Center, as well as at Ballot Drop Off Box locations.

How do I vote if I can’t get to a Vote Center?

ALL registered voters will be mailed a Vote by Mail ballot beginning 29 days prior to Election Day. You can complete the ballot and return it by mail in the included postage-paid envelope. You can also drop off your completed ballot at ANY Vote Center or Ballot Drop Box Location.

You also can go to any Vote Center to cast your ballot in person either on paper or on a ballot marking device.

Please note – there is no online voting. You have a choice of either completing your Vote by Mail ballot and returning in the mail or dropping it off OR voting at a Vote Center.

If you do not receive your Vote by Mail ballot by 20 days before the election, contact the Registration & Elections Division by text or phone at 650.312.5222 to request another ballot.