San Mateo, Napa counties add conveniences for voters to boost turnout

It’s Election Day and two Bay Area counties are trying something new this year: Voters in San Mateo and Napa county residents were sent mail-in ballots eliminating the need for neighborhood polling places, among other changes made to encourage higher voter turnout.

This year, under the Voter’s Choice Act, all voters in San Mateo and Napa counties were automatically sent mail-in ballots. The counties also expanded in-person early voting several days ahead of the election.

And now, registered voters in both counties can vote in any designated voting spot anywhere in their county. They don’t have to go to a specific neighborhood polling place.

Thirty nine of these voting centers have been open across San Mateo County since this weekend giving people a longer window - a four- day period - to cast their vote in person instead of dealing with lines and crowds on Tuesday.

The emphasis on mail-in ballot, also cuts down on the need for hundreds of poll workers. Some Bay Area counties, like Santa Clara County, have had a difficult time finding all the poll workers they need to staff up for Election Day. 

Mark Church, chief elections officer for San Mateo County, said because they eliminated the 235 neighborhood polling places, they've only had to find 400 poll workers vs. the 1,200 to 1,400 they've had to hire in previous elections.

Based on early voting, turnout in San Mateo County is about 35 percent, Church said. In the last gubernatorial election, it was 27 percent, he said. 

San Mateo and Napa counties are the only two Bay Area counties participating in the program for this election. But starting in 2020 all counties across the state will be able to start adding some of these conveniences.


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