Public invited to observe mail-in ballot processing in San Mateo County

Photo: City of San Carlos/Twitter.

Starting Tuesday, the public is welcome to watch San Mateo County authorized elections staffers open and process mail ballots for the Nov. 3, 2020 Presidential General Election.

Election officials can open the return envelopes containing voted mail ballots beginning 29 business days before Election Day, according to a release from Mark Church, San Mateo County chief elections officer.

Operating hours for opening and processing will be daily, Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. -- or until all ballots are processed for the day, until the official canvass is complete.

For each ballot, an election official will compare the voter's signature on the outside of the envelope to the signature on the voter's original registration application or other updated signatures on file.

The ballot is separated from the envelope to preserve secrecy.

The envelope is saved for the mandatory retention period, and the ballot is digitally scanned.  

The tabulation of the scanned ballots will not be reported until the close of voting at 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Anyone interested in observing the process can go to the registration and elections division office at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo at any time, or make prior arrangements by contacting Elections Supervisor Michael Lui at (650) 312-5238 or

Observers will receive a copy of the election observer program guidelines, which specifies observer rights, responsibilities and limitations, and a copy of the vote by mail processing procedures.

Registered voters may use the "My Election Info" link at to verify when ballot materials were mailed and when the Registration & Elections Division received their voted ballot.

The last day for registered voters to request a ballot to be mailed to them for the November 3, 2020 Presidential General Election is Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. 

Voted mail ballots can be returned in one of the following ways: Mail the ballot in the POSTAGE-PAID ENVELOPE.  Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, and received by the Registration & Elections Division no later than Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Ballots may be dropped off at any Official Ballot Drop Box located throughout the county, or dropped off at any Vote Center daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. before Election Day and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

A full list of county vote center locations can be found online at and select "All Vote Center Locations" or at