Vote by mail - It's free!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        
June 2, 2016

VOTE BY MAIL – IT’S FREE!

SAN JOSE – With Election Day just one week away, voters in Santa Clara County will find it easier than ever to cast their vote thanks to postage-paid ballots and extended deadlines in the June 7th election. 

County Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed the postage-paid ballots last year, saying, “While the cost to individual voters is probably negligible in most cases, it just strikes me as fundamentally inappropriate to impose a cost, however modest, to exercise the right to vote.”

Simitian noted that postage for a lengthy ballot can be as high as 91 cents, and “while most people probably wouldn’t react that badly if you asked them how they felt about paying postage on their vote-by-mail ballot, I think if you asked most voters whether it was appropriate to charge them a buck to cast their vote, they would find it fundamentally inappropriate.”

Simitian said that the use of postage-paid envelopes has the potential to:

  • Reduce the potential for voter confusion by establishing a simple and uniform policy of postage-paid vote-by-mail ballots. Under the previous policy, some vote-by-mail ballots were postage-paid; some were not. And if the envelope did require postage, the voter had to determine what level of postage was required;
  • Increase voter participation; and
  • Reduce the number of vote-by-mail ballots that are returned to a polling place on Election Day, which have proven particularly challenging for the Registrar of Voters to handle.

As a result of Simitian’s proposal, which the Board approved last year, voters in the June 7th election will be able to send in their vote-by-mail ballots free of charge.

Additionally, thanks to a change in State law, ballots post-marked by Election Day will be accepted until June 10th.

“Folks who are permanent vote-by-mail, but who want to wait until Election Day to vote, are going to find it much easier to cast their ballots this time around,” said Simitian. “These changes are relatively simple steps that we can take to help more people take part in the process.”

Recently, the Board of Supervisors also approved a plan to provide automatic, publicly-funded recounts in elections that come down to less than 25 votes, or less than .5% of ballots cast. Simitian proposed the new policy in February, and the Board approved it earlier this month.

“The right to vote is fundamental,” Simitian said. “And when it comes down to the wire, we want to make doubly sure that every vote is counted, and counted correctly.”

Under the old system, candidates got a recount only if they – or another concerned community member – covered the cost, no matter how great the cost or how close the election.  In almost every instance the cost would be too great for an individual candidate to absorb, and may in fact be precluded by campaign spending caps.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in making it easier for people to vote and make their voices heard,” said Simitian. “With more resources at the Registrar of Voters, access to postage paid vote-by-mail ballots, and automatic recounts in the closest contests, the public can feel confident that their vote really does count, especially when it counts the most.”

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