Friday, April 24, 2015

San Mateo County CEO Mark Church weighs in on SB 163 aka “Vote-from-Home”

Besides “Thank you,” here’s what San Mateo, California, Chief Elections Officer and Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church ( had to say in response to an inquiry from Etopia News about SB 163:

“Voter turnout has reached dismal lows in recent history. Increased voter participation and turnout will only serve to strengthen democracy, and SB 163 will help to achieve that.

“SB 163 mandates vote by mail ballots be sent to every registered voter. Voters who have a ballot in hand are more likely to vote. SB 163 will expand the opportunity of voters to participate in the democratic process, and the outcome will be that the voices of more voters are heard. The election results will also reflect a broader cross section of the community and will ensure a more representative government.

“At this point the cost is unknown. It will depend on a decision by the Commission on State Mandates. If the Commission determines that this is a state mandated cost, reimbursement to the local agencies and school districts will be required. At the most, we would be reimbursed for every ballot we mail, which would reduce our election expenses by approximately $300,000 per election. At the least, we would be reimbursed for the additional ballots sent to voters above those that are sent to permanent vote by mail voters, which is the more likely scenario.

“SB 163, however, may result in more provisional ballots cast. Voters going to the polls will need to surrender their mail ballot to vote on Election Day, or vote by provisional ballot. Provisional ballots require more time to process than regular ballots, and as a result, are costlier.

“SB 163 could result in some voter confusion, but given San Mateo County already has an all-mail ballot pilot program under AB 2028, the confusion may be less here than in some other counties provided AB 2028 is implemented this November.

“To address voter confusion issues, and the additional provisional ballots that will be anticipated, significant voter education and outreach will need to be conducted. There is no provision in the bill for reimbursement of such expenses. Those expenses will be borne locally.”

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