Frequently Asked Questions about Voter Registration and Voting
- Who may register to vote?
You may register to vote if you are:
- A US citizen
- A resident of California
- At least 18 years of age on or before the next election
- Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction
- Not declared mentally incompetent by court action
You may fill out a Voter Registration Form available at all post offices, city halls, most public libraries, Department of Motor Vehicles and most governmental agencies. Once you sign the form, just drop it in the mail. Postage is pre-paid.
The Secretary of State's website enables you to fill out a registration form online. The online form uses your signature on file with the DMV. If you have no DMV signature, you may print out the form and mail it in.
If you move, change your name or wish to change your political party affiliation, you must re-register to vote.
You can register (or re-register) at any time, but you must be registered 15 days prior to an election to be eligible to vote in that election. However, in elections for President and Vice-President, special rules apply to new residents.
No. You are only eligible to register to vote using your place or residence. You are only eligible to vote in the contests in the jurisdictions where you live (e.g., congressional, state assembly, state senate, municipal, judicial, county, school, and/or special district offices).
You may use a business address or a P.O. Box as a mailing address to receive voter information materials.
A number of citizens who thought they had registered at DMV offices are not actually registered. Although they checked the box on the DMV form indicating they wanted to register to vote, many forgot to complete the attached voter registration form. A voter registration form must be complete, signed, and received by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division in order to become a registered voter.
No. California law states that an individual may select the "No Party Preference" when registering to vote.
The qualified political parties in California are: American Independent Party, Democratic Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, Peace and Freedom Party and Republican Party. California law permits you to register and select the "No Party" option indicating that you are not affiliated with any party. This is the same thing as a "nonpartisan voter," an "independent voter", or a "decline to state" voter.
Yes. If you wish to change your political party affiliation you must re-register at least 15 days prior to an election.
No. Generally, you are registered to vote as long as you live at the same address.
Go to "Check My Registration/Access My Election Materials/View My Sample Ballot Pamphlet" page. You will be asked to type in your house number, zip code and numeric birth date to check the status of your voter registration and find other important information. You may also call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222 and ask one of the staff to check and see if you are registered.
Yes. However, access to this information is restricted. The Elections Code has very strict guidelines as to the permissible uses of voter information.
Yes. Persons who become citizens after the close of registration may only vote at the Election Office up to the 7th day prior to an election. New citizens must present a Certificate of Naturalization and declare that they have established residency in San Mateo County.
Yes. An ex-felon can register to vote and is eligible to vote in elections if he/she is not currently in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.
- Where do I go to vote?
- When are the polls open for voting?
- Why was my polling place changed?
- Can I take my sample ballot or my own written voting choices into the voting booth?
- If I do not know what to do when I get to the polling place, will someone help me?
- I only speak very limited English, is there oral assistance or are written voting materials available in languages other than English?
- Can I vote for someone whose name is not listed on the ballot?
- I have to work and therefore have no time to vote, what should I do?
- How do I vote if I can't get to my polling place?
On Election Day, Polling Places will be open throughout San Mateo County. You will find your designated polling place on the back of your Sample Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet or online at Check My Registration/Access My Election Materials/View My Sample Ballot Pamphlet. Registered voters may vote in person at their designated polling place, request a replacement ballot, or drop off his or her voted ballot. Personnel will be on hand to help voters requesting assistance.
Polling places are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Election Day. By law, you have a right to vote if you are in line at the polling place by the close of the polls.
In California , there are no permanent poll sites. Locations may change from election to election if a facility previously used is not available for a particular election. Changes to precinct boundaries may sometimes occur when precincts are consolidated or realigned, especially for local elections that are not statewide.
Voters should ALWAYS refer to their sample ballot booklet or go online to the Check My Registration/Voter Information bar to find the location of his/her polling place before going to the polls to vote.
Yes. It is recommended that you mark your voting choices in your sample ballot and take it to your poll site on Election Day to use as a reference. This will allow you to vote your ballot quickly. Remember to take your sample ballot out of the voting booth after you have completed voting.
Yes. Ask the election Election Officers to help you with the voting process. Poll workers cannot, however, help you in making decisions on your voting choices.
Yes. In accordance with Federal law, San Mateo County provides voter registration information, election materials and oral assistance in English, Spanish and Chinese. Additionally, poll sites that have been identified as requiring oral language assistance are staffed with bilingual speaking Election Officers whenever possible. Signs are posted in those locations identifying the minority language(s) spoken.
Yes. You may vote for a qualified write-in candidate whose name is not printed or displayed on the ballot. Only votes for qualified write-in candidates will be counted. Ask Election Officers or call the Election Office for a list of those candidates. Elections Officials can also assist you with write-in voting procedures.
According to California Elections Code, employees are eligible for paid time off for the purpose of voting only if they do not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote. Employees can be given as much time as they need in order to vote, but only a maximum of two hours is paid. Alternatively, we encourage voters to sign-up to vote by mail--any registered voter in California can do so simply by requesting to do so. Use this online form to sign-up to vote by mail.
You can vote by mail by sending the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division a request for a vote by mail ballot. You can also apply by sending a letter. The required information includes your name as registered, residence address, mailing address if different, your date of birth, the election which you are applying for and your signature. You may also choose to vote in person at the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division in San Mateo and Redwood City beginning 29 days before each election.
- How much time do I have to return my Vote by Mail ballot?
- What should I do if I think my Vote by Mail ballot will not arrive at the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division by the 8 p.m. deadline?
- What should I do if I cannot return my Vote by Mail ballot myself, and it is too late to send it in the mail?
- If I lose the Vote by Mail ballot sent to me, can I get another one?
- I am out of the country and the mail is slow. Can I apply earlier than the normal 29 days?
- How do I qualify for Permanent Vote by Mail Status?
- If I request a Vote by Mail ballot, can I change my mind and vote at my regular polling place?
Vote by Mail ballots must be received by the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division on or before 8 p.m. on Election Day, or ballots will be on time if they are postmarked on or before Election Day and received by the Friday after Election Day.
You may drop off your Vote by Mail ballot at any polling location in the county, any city hall or at either of the two Voting Centers before 8:00 p.m. Election Day and it will be counted.
You may come use our 24-hour ballot drop box located at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo up until 8 p.m. on Election Day. On Election Day, you may return your Vote by Mail ballot to any polling place or Voting Center in San Mateo County between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
You may authorize a relative (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, brother or sister) or any person residing in the same household to return your ballot. On the return envelope, you must sign your name and print the name of the person you are authorizing to return your ballot. That person must also sign in the space provided.
Yes. Call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222 and a second ballot will be sent to you. You must sign the statement sent to you with the second ballot that you have lost or did not receive your Vote by Mail ballot.
You may also go to your regular polling place or San Mateo County Voting Center. You may be asked to vote a provisional ballot.
Yes. Go to the http://www.fvap.gov and follow the directions. You may receive a special Vote by Mail ballot that can be sent out as early as 60 days prior to an election.
California allows any voter to request Permanent Vote by Mail status. Simply complete the online form. You may also call (650) 312-5222 and request an application from our office. A Vote by Mail ballot will automatically be sent to you for all future elections.
If you don't vote for a period of eight years, your Permanent Vote by Mail status will be cancelled. But, if that happens, you can always reapply and resume voting by mail again. Your voter registration will not be cancelled.
Yes. But please take your ballot to the polling place or one of the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division and turn it into the Election Officer in exchange for the right to vote a regular precinct ballot. If you do not have your Vote by Mail ballot, you will be allowed to cast a "provisional" ballot at the polling place. Your provisional ballot will be counted after the elections officials confirm that you did not previously vote using your Vote by Mail ballot for that election.
- Is it true that voter registration lists are used to select citizens for jury duty?
- Why am I receiving multiple Jury Summons?
- If I cancel my voter registration, can I be certain that I will not get a summons for jury duty?
Yes. California State Statutes require that lists of registered voters be provided to the Jury Commissioner to be used for jury duty selection.
The Jury Commissioner selects jurors from lists provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the County Voter Registration Unit. If your name appears differently on your driver's license and voter registration file, you may receive multiple notices. To remedy this situation, complete a new voter registration form with your name printed as it appears on your license and return it to the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at 40 Tower Road, San Mateo.
No. It has no effect on future jury duty summons. The Jury Services Division requests a list of all active voters. The law also requires that lists of licensed drivers, obtained from Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), be made available to the Jury Commissioner.
- Are there circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail?
- How can I volunteer to work at or provide a polling place?
- What do I do if I move before the election?
- I am disabled/physically challenged. Is there any assistance for me?
- I would like to run for office. What are the qualifications and requirements?
- May I sign a petition if I am not registered to vote?
- How can I find out my districts (congressional, legislative, supervisorial etc.)?
- How do I get election results?
- Can I receive advice on which candidates or ballot measures that I should support or oppose?
- Does San Mateo use Touch Screen voting? What type of voting machines/technology does San Mateo County use?
Yes. There are circumstances under which a voter can be required to vote by mail. If a precinct has fewer than 250 registered voters on the 88th day before an election, that precinct can be declared by the Elections Official to be a "Mail Ballot Precinct." All Mail Ballot voters are notified of the change in status and mailed an official ballot.
Call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 286-2610 or fill out the online Election Officer application form. We're always in need of Election Officers.
If you moved within San Mateo County 14 days or less before the election, you can go to the polling place for your old address, the polling place for your new address or to the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division. If you go to the polling place for your new address, be sure to bring either a California Drivers license, ID card or two other types of identification that will prove you live at the new address. If you don't have proof of current residence, you can complete an affirmation form in our office on Election Day.
Our voting system is compliant with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA); it has audio headphones, raised braille labeled keys, and adaptive devices that provide large tactile buttons for motor issues as well as sip-n-puff capability. We also provide curbside voting if you cannot enter the polling place. A Election Officer will bring your ballot and voting device to your vehicle to enable you to vote.
Voters who wish to have a copy of the Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet provided to them in an audio format prior to the election may contact the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222 and request assistance.
Finally, if a voter prefers to vote at home, he/she can sign up to vote by mail.
Candidate qualifications and filing requirements are specific to each elective office. For general information regarding candidate qualifications, filing requirements, filing periods, campaign statement/financial disclosure reporting, call (650) 312-5222 or review the Candidates & Campaigns section of this web site.
No. You must be a registered voter for your signature to be valid on a petition. If you complete and sign a voter registration form on the same date or a date prior to signing the petition, your signature will be valid. The Election Office must receive the completed/signed voter registration form on or before the date the petition is filed with the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division.
Go to www.shapethefuture.org/elections/electedofficials/ or contact the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222, visit our website homepage or check your Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet.
Get election results online or call the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222. Election night results are published online simultaneously with their release. The first returns are posted at 8:05 p.m., the second at 8:30 p.m. and on the half-hour thereafter until all the precinct votes are counted on Election Night.
Updates are posted online in the week that follows the election. The updates include (vote by mail ballots dropped off at the polls, vote by mail ballots received at the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division on Election Day, and eligible provisional ballots) that are added to the vote totals in each contest.
No. The San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division is prohibited from offering advice to voters regarding how a voter should cast their vote.
No. San Mateo County uses a fully electronic voting machine called an eSlate, but it is not a touchscreen.
Voters navigate the ballot by turning the dial on the eSlate. A voter makes ballot choices by pressing the "enter" button. The eSlate gives the voter many different ways to correct or change a voting choice before the ballot is cast. The eSlate produces a printed paper record of all the choices made; this lets the voter verify that it is correct before they press the "Cast Ballot" button to make it official.
Because of the eSlate voting machine’s numerous accessibility features people are able to vote privately and independently. To find out more about the eSlate please watch our YouTube video.