With election results steadily trickling in, some races are yet to be called across San Mateo County. But with just around 2,300 ballots left to process, a few metrics about the voting process itself have already become clear. This was a record-breaking election year for San Mateo County, with residents turning out and voting by mail at the highest rates in recent history.
San Mateo County Assistant Chief Elections Officer Jim Irizarry said the final turnout for the 2020 election will likely settle around 85 percent, higher than all presidential elections since 1968. As of Nov. 13, Coastside races on average were even higher, garnering 86.6 percent turnout on average. In California, turnout hovered just below 77 percent, and The Washington Post predicts 66.7 percent turnout nationally once all votes are certified.
“This is a truly remarkable year for democracy in our county,” Irizarry said.
Irizarry said the more than 376,000 ballots received easily tops 2016’s more than 323,000 ballots and 81.6 percent turnout. More voters were registered this year than ever at over 442,000.
Coastside turnout was similarly high overall, but some local races were exceptional. Races for the county Community College District’s Trustee Area 1, Cabrillo Unified School District’s Trustee Area B, the Pacifica City Council District 4, the Midcoast Community Council, the San Mateo County Harbor District 4 and Half Moon Bay’s Measure U each attracted turnout above 88 percent. No Coastside races saw less than 81 percent turnout.
High turnout was widespread across precincts on the Coastside, with just three areas — the 16 voters living immediately next to the Devil’s Slide tunnels, the 62 voters registered within Pillar Point Harbor and the 187 registered voters living at the Moonridge Apartments in Half Moon Bay — dropping below 75 percent.
It’s not just voter turnout that shattered records in the county this year. More than 91 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail or deposited them at county drop boxes, a “substantially larger portion of all votes cast” than ever before, Irizarry said. Just 65 percent of county voters voted by mail or drop box in 2016.
Irizarry also noted that, this year, early voting was more popular than ever — with 89 percent of ballots returned before Election Day. Just around 12,000 in-person votes were cast on Election Day in the county.
Irizarry said he’s encouraged by the numbers.
“I think this will have effects over the years to come, by cementing early voting and voting by mail among young and first-time voters, who may not have been aware of our convenient system with its many options for casting your ballot,” Irizarry said.