County adopts new election practice

Local residents are participating in a new effort to make the upcoming local election more convenient and productive.

This year, San Mateo County has become the largest county in the state to hold an election using mail-in ballots only. Although voters will still have the option of dropping off their ballots at 32 polling places throughout the county, they will receive a ballot in the mail with the more convenient option of sending it in, provided it is postmarked by Election Day, November 3.

The change in procedure comes in the wake of a new law that went into effect at the start of 2015, which amended previously legislature that required mail-in ballots be received before polls closed on Election Day.

All mail-in elections have been experimented with throughout the state and country. California’s Sierra and Alpine counties hold all mail-in elections, but mostly as a matter of convenience due to their rural locations. San Mateo County is the first largely populated voting district in the state to adopt the practice.

All mail-in elections have been adopted statewide in Oregon, Washington and Colorado in recent years, with promising results. During the 2014 general election, which had a low national turnout of 36.3 percent, all three states reported a turnout of at least 5 percent above the national average. Oregon and Colorado were among only seven states with a voter turnout of more than 50 percent in 2014.

“It has been successful,” said Karen Schwarz, an incumbent running once again for re-election, “It would more likely encourage citizens to vote.”

Although the results are promising, particularly in light of last year’s dismal turnout nationally, all mail-in elections present their own set of issues and considerations that must be taken into account. Opponents point out the heightened opportunity for voter fraud, and a study by The California Voter Foundation found that 0.8 percent of mail-in ballots statewide go uncounted. The top reasons for uncounted ballots were late arrival and issues with signatures.

“For me it’s more convenient but at the same time it’s not really safe because the ballot can be tampered with,” Skyline student Rolin Castro said.