If you’re a registered voter in San Mateo County, you won’t head to your usual neighborhood polling place on Nov. 3. And chances are you already got your ballot in the mail — whether you registered for vote-by-mail or not. That’s because San Mateo County has launched an all-mail election effort. More than 353,000 official ballots have been sent out to all registered voters in the county, according to Mark Church, chief elections officer for the county. Voters have until Nov. 3 to put those ballots in the mail, or drop them off at any city or town hall in the county, at a 24-hour drop box or at one of 32 voting centers. (Check San Mateo’s election website for a full list of locations.) “This election is already underway,” said Church. “Voting is now taking place.”
While San Mateo is not the first county in California to institute countywide mail ballots — both Alpine and Sierra counties have long had all vote-by-mail elections, according to the Secretary of State’s Office — it is the biggest county to do so. Alpine and Sierra both instituted their programs because of their rural and sparsely populated nature.
San Mateo, on the other hand, has a number of characteristics that make it more of a true test program for the large urban areas in California, said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation.
“It is a large county. It is a diverse county. This is going to give us a good idea of whether this is going to be a feasible option for local elections,” said Alexander.