Innovation: San Mateo County provides easy absentee ballot tracking

Every once in a while, I run across a simple — but cool — innovation in election administration. The one for today is a neat tool located front and center on the San Mateo County (California) County Clerk/Recorder website, and it allows an absentee voter to track and confirm her absentee ballot request. This tool also is supposed to confirm when your absentee ballot was received by the election officials. I say “supposed to” here because as I’m not a registered voter in San Mateo County, I’ve not tried it, but I trust that it works!

This is a cool innovation because absentee voting can sometimes be a mysterious process for voters, as they do not necessarily know if their request for an absentee ballot was received — nor if their returned ballot was received and included in the final tabulation. As Betsy Sinclair, Thad and I have written in our paper “Whose Absentee Votes Are Counted: The Variety and Use of Absentee Ballots in California”, there are many absentee ballots that are never returned to election officials, and some of those that are returned are not included in final tabulation for a variety of reasons. New and innovative tools like this one offered by San Mateo County may help voters keep track of their absentee ballot, and may help empower them to act if it seems that their ballot request was not accepted or if for some reason their ballot was not returned to the election office.