In-person voting options expand in San Mateo County

Saturday ushered in additional choices for some in the California Gubernatorial Recall Election: how to cast your ballot.

In-person early voting has been available on a limited basis in some counties since mid-August, but it expanded greatly Saturday in some Bay Area counties, namely San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo.

San Mateo County spearheaded the move to mail-in ballots, and away from the "polling place model" to the "election center model."

It’s a different way of holding elections that’s been adopted in 15 California counties and it gives voters more choices in making their voices heard.

Burlingame City Hall is one of nearly a dozen sites in San Mateo County where people can now cast their ballots in person in the recall election.

The county has sent mail-in ballots to all of it’s 440,000 registered voters.

Some, however, are choosing to exercise their right the old-fashioned way, rather than mail it in.

"I did want to do it in person, but I may do that in the future.  I feel it’s very safe, also," said voter, Christine Bloomer.

"There’s always this excitement about voting in person that has been a tradition for so many years and I just wanted to help in preserving the traditional way of voting," said voter, Adrian Pangilinan.

Another motive is trust, which is why some people decided to cast their ballots at the county elections headquarters in San Mateo.

"Here I at least I can rely on the San Mateo County elections group, division to properly count it, and there are records here.  You stick it in the mail, who knows where that’s going to go," said Hernan Santos, of Foster City.

"The reality is most voters are mailing-in their ballots.  They’re dropping them off at one of our 42 ballot drop-off locations and we’re going to see approximately 90% of the ballots delivered that way," said Jim Irizarry, Assistant Chief Elections Officer of San Mateo County.

Several people were doing just that Saturday afternoon, driving up or walking up to deliver their mail-in ballot.

County elections officials say, so far, 167,000 ballots have been submitted, about 38%, outpacing the statewide average of 21%.

San Mateo is one of several counties that gives voters multiple options to cast a ballot, even allowing voting at any available site, rather than a designated polling place.

It’s all made possible by the Voters Choice Act, approved in 2018, aimed at increasing turnout.

"It’s a system that provides options to voters, to vote by mail, to drop their ballot off at a vote center, to vote on a voting machine, at a vote center, or to use remote accessible vote by mail," said Irizarry.

Remote Accessible Mail-in Voting allows a person to get a link from the county, vote on their personal computer, then print it out and mail it in.

Voters clearly have lots of choices and elections officials say they hope people find the one that best suits them and exercise it by or on election day, September 14th.