Examining San Mateo County’s Adoption of the California Voter’s Choice Act
Study Resource Center
about the Study:
This report provides an analysis of the impact of the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) on San Mateo County voters in the 2018 Primary and General Elections. The goals of this research include generating critical insight on how the challenges and opportunities of the VCA differ across the 2018 Primary and General Elections, and to inform the effective implementation of the VCA in other California counties. The study’s findings will also aid California counties adopting the VCA model to implement effective voter education efforts in future elections in order to achieve greater and more demographically-representative engagement in California’s electoral process.
This research was commissioned by the San Mateo County Elections Office and was independently conducted by the California Civic Engagement Project. We would like to thank the San Mateo County Elections Office for their support of this research. We also thank the study’s Community Advisory Committee for providing careful review of and feedback of this report’s findings.
Study Community Advisory Committee:
This report provides an analysis of the impact of the Voter’s Choice Act on San Mateo County voters in the 2018 Primary and General Elections.
The data appendices accompany the research report entitled, Examining San Mateo County’s Adoption of the California Voter’s Choice Act: 2018 Election Cycle.
The two-page executive summary accompanies the research report entitled, Examining San Mateo County’s Adoption of the California Voter’s Choice Act: 2018 Election Cycle.
Other Available VCA Resources:
California Voter’s Choice Act Implementation Study - The Voter's Choice Act Implementation Study was designed to provide a better understanding of how the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) was implemented in California.
California Secretary of State: VCA Quick Start Guide - This quick start guide is designed to be a supplement to the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) Starter Kit developed by the Secretary of State’s Voter’s Choice Act Team. This quick starter kit is intended to be used as a starting point for county elections administrators that are considering adopting the Voter’s Choice Act model for election administration in their county.
California Secretary of State: VCA Starter Kit - This Starter Kit to the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) is designed as a collection of resources and in-depth references. These materials and documents were developed by many of the stakeholders (county, state, and NGO) that participated in the implementation and planning process for the first Voter’s Choice election in 2018.
League of Women Voters of California VCA Toolkit for Community Organizers - The Voter’s Choice Act Toolkit is a compilation of resources and strategies to help community organizations promote public understanding and drive successful implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act.
Voter’s Choice California: Strategies for Voter Education and Outreach Under the Voter’s Choice Act - This report is a summary of the lessons discussed at the Redwood City convening on July 17, 2018 as well as insights from Future of California Elections’ experience in managing our statewide Voter’s Choice California project.
Voter's Choice California - Voter’s Choice Act Implementation: Building a VCA Coalition - This report highlights best practices for building a local VCA coalition, including recommendations for coordinating partners and working with local election officials.
Voter’s Choice California: Education Tools and Resources - Voter’s Choice California seeks to support communities transitioning to the Voter’s Choice Act. The VCC is comprised of a diverse Statewide Coalition and several Local Hubs that focus on participating counties. It is supported by Future of California Elections staff and a small Steering Committee.
The New Electorate Study: How Did the Voter’s Choice Act Affect Turnout in 2018? - Funded by the University of California’s Office of the President, this project brings together faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates at five UC campuses with collaborators at USC and the Public Policy Institute of California.
Other CCEP Vote Center Research - To better understand the experiences that California voters have with the different available methods for casting ballots, the CCEP conducted a multi-method research study (statewide survey and focus groups) entitled The California Voter Experience Study.
CCEP Vote Center Siting Tool - Developed by the California Civic Engagement Project (CCEP), this mapping tool is designed to provide assistance to California county election offices seeking to implement the Voter's Choice Act in future elections. The goal of this tool is to help election officials identify optimal sites for potential Vote Center and Vote-by-Mail drop boxes.
About the Voter’s Choice Act:
In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 450, which allows California counties to choose to adopt a new voting model. Known as the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA), this law directs participating counties to mail every registered voter a VBM ballot, which the voter can mail in, drop off at a secure Ballot Drop Box Location, or drop off at any newly established Vote Center.
The VCA builds on a handful of existing election reforms in California and introduces additional options for voters. When the VCA became law, VBM was already a frequently chosen method of voting for Californians. The use of VBM ballots in the state has steadily increased since 2001, when Californians were given the ability to register as permanent VBM voters. By 2016, nearly 58% of ballots cast in the general election were VBM ballots, up from 27% in 2002.
The VCA provides the pathway for California to expand VBM further, while still preserving in-person voting options. Under the VCA, traditional polling places are replaced with Vote Centers that provide more services to voters. At a Vote Center, voters can now cast their ballots in person, drop off their VBM ballots, conditionally register and vote after the 15-day registration deadline, request replacement ballots, use an accessible voting machine, and receive language assistance. While there are fewer Vote Centers than polling places by design, Vote Centers are open to voters for up to ten days prior to Election Day and available for all voters to utilize countywide.
In addition to San Mateo County, four other counties adopted the VCA in 2018: Madera, Napa, Nevada and Sacramento. All other California counties are currently eligible to adopt the model for 2020. Los Angeles county is an exception, and is not required to mail every registered voters VBM ballots until 2024. In addition to Los Angeles County, the following counties have publicly announced that they will adopt the VCA for the 2020 Election Cycle: Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Mariposa, Orange, Santa Clara, and Tuolumne (see Figure 1). In total, fifteen California counties will be conducting elections under the VCA in 2020—containing approximately half the state’s current registered voter population.