March 2, 2020

By Mark Church


Words matter.

Irresponsible, reckless, and inaccurate statements which spread misinformation and disinformation as to the integrity of elections, undermine voter confidence and do a great disservice. Journalists must be very careful with the words they choose and base their conclusions solely on the facts.

Such was not the case with Mark Simon’s column of February 20, wherein he created his own facts to cast doubt on the integrity of elections. His baseless comments do nothing more than feed into political rhetoric that shake the very foundation of our democracy. Statements such as these are dangerous and foment distrust in the electoral process.

The incident referenced in Mr. Simon’s column occurred when our printing and mailing vendor did not follow our specific instructions identifying which of our 10,920 different ballot images would be mailed to each of our 416,000 registered voters.

The vendor apologized for this incident, acknowledging that our instructions were completely accurate, and that one of his employees failed to follow those instructions. The result was that 2,046 voters received ballots with one incorrect measure.

After the vendor prepared the ballots, Elections Staff proofed each of the 10,920 different ballot images, and everything was accurate. It was after the final proofing, when the vendor’s employee misapplied the instructions.

The issue was quickly addressed and did not affect anyone’s ability to cast their ballot. Correct ballots were mailed to the affected voters within 48 hours. Additionally, each voter was contacted by phone, letter or email.

Unfortunately, in his rush to judgment, Mr. Simon assumed facts that were not true. Had Mr. Simon bothered to contact me, he would have been in possession of the true facts.

Mr. Simon also erroneously claims that multiple ballots are a mistake. That is simply not true. Multiple ballots are triggered whenever there is a change in Voter Registration status or a Replacement Ballot is issued. The issuance of multiple ballots is a necessary and customary practice for all election offices throughout the state. Our systems are designed with barcodes to ensure that only one ballot is counted.

Mr. Simon’s attack on the credibility of our operation and his suggestion that we are susceptible to “ballot and potential meddling” is absurd. Our elections systems and technology are designed to specifically protect the integrity of each ballot. Our voting and tabulation system is a closed system. It does not have any external connections to the internet. Only authorized staff with restricted administrative permission have access to the system. Any external intrusion into the construction and tabulation of official ballots is impossible. Mr. Simon’s misstatements only serve to undermine the integrity of our election infrastructure, which is one of the securest in the nation.

It is remarkable that someone who purports to be a professional journalist and professes to be an expert in the area of elections, would make such reckless and willful comments in total disregard of the known facts and the truth.

My office prides itself in conducting efficient, transparent and accurate elections. Our core value is to provide the very best service to the people and is embodied in our motto “People First”.

My administration has brought innovation and transformational change to San Mateo County Elections. We have taken a 20th Century Elections Department into the 21st Century with cutting-edge technologies, services and programs.

We pioneered the first countywide All-Mailed Ballot Election in the State resulting in the passage of the California Voter’s Choice Act, fundamentally changing the future of California elections and empowering all segments of the voting population.

Our Department was the first in the state to develop an Accessible Vote by Mail Ballot for visually impaired voters. Our new voting system and electronic pollbooks have significantly improved the voting experience for all San Mateo County voters.

All of these accomplishments, and many more, are the direct result of the hard work and dedication of the men and women of the Elections Office who set the highest of standards.

Contrary to Mr. Simon’s assertions, San Mateo County is a recognized leader in elections throughout the state and the nation. San Mateo County voters can rest assured that their voting systems and elections are safe and secure, and that every vote is accurately counted.

Mark Church is the Chief Elections Officer and Assessor County Clerk Recorder for San Mateo County.

Related Contacts

Mark Church

Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder and Chief Elections Officer
555 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1665Get Directions

Jim Irizarry

Asst. Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder & Asst. Chief Elections Officer
555 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1665Get Directions