Why are we changing the way we vote? What’s wrong with the previous system?

The Hart-InterCivic voting system, purchased in 2006, has served San Mateo County well, but it has reached the end of its useful life. In addition, on February 27, 2019, the California Secretary of State (SOS) advised all Registrar of Voters that any legacy voting system not meeting the current state certification standards would be decertified effective August 27, 2019. Our Hart-InterCivic voting system was one of those systems.

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors approved a contract to lease a new voting system, called Democracy Suite, from Dominion Voting Systems, Inc., on July 9, 2019. The Democracy Suite system was used for the first time in the November 5, 2019 election.

Why did San Mateo County choose the Democracy Suite voting system from Dominion?

The new Dominion voting system, called Democracy Suite, is a state certified, fully integrated voting system platform providing the highest degree of election security and transparency to the voting public. Dominion has a proven track record in California, operating successfully in at least 40 counties.

Democracy Suite key benefits:

  • Voting security - certified by the California SOS; complete audit trail
  • Improved voter experience - touch screen Ballot Marking Tablet
  • Improved services - easier ballot adjudication
  • Faster processing and scanning of ballots

How was the Dominion Democracy Suite system chosen?

On January 24, 2019, the Registration & Elections Division released a detailed Request for Information (RFI) package to qualified voting system vendors. During the 30-day RFI period, three qualified vendors responded to the RFI.

These vendors were:

  • Dominion Voting Systems, Inc.
  • Hart-InterCivic, Inc.
  • Election Systems and Software, LLC

All vendors underwent a rigorous competitive screening process including detailed proposals, on-site demonstrations and a critical review by our voting advisory committees and staff. Our advisory committees are the Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC), Language Accessibility Advisory Committee (LAAC), Voter Education and Outreach Committee (VEAOC).

Upon evaluating the proposals and considering input from our advisory committees, our Voting System Selection Committee, comprised of staff members, unanimously recommended the selection of Dominion Voting Systems.

Is the new voting system easy to use?

Yes. The new Ballot Marking Tablets are easy-to-use touchscreens and are designed to be highly intuitive.

  • At a Vote Center check-in station, you will be issued an activation card
  • Insert the card into the base holding the Ballot Marking Tablet
  • Adjust the font size and screen contrast as needed; you may change the language from English to Spanish or Chinese
  • To advance to the next contest, touch the “Next” button at the bottom of the screen
  • Once satisfied with the selections made, touch the final “Print Ballot” button
  • Your ballot will print in your voting booth. Take the ballot and deposit it in the Ballot Box

Voting Instructions

How to Vote on a Ballot Marking Tablet

Cómo Votar en una Tableta de Marcar Boletas


How to Vote Video

Español Video - Cómo Votar en una Tableta de Marcar Boletas

I am a voter with accessibility needs. Will staff be there to help me use this new system?

Yes, staff will be there to help you. However, Democracy Suite enables new options for accessible voting and the system is designed to help you vote privately and independently.

The Ballot Marking Tablet assists voters with visual impairments by presenting the ballot in audio format during an Accessible Voting Session. Headsets provide voters with audio instructions to perform all actions, such as selecting language, adjusting volume and speed of ballot, and reviewing, editing or changing a write-in selection.

An Audio Tactile Interface (ATI), a handheld device that is used by a voter during an Accessible Voting Session, is used to navigate through and make selections to the voter's ballot.

The ATI:

  • Has raised buttons of different shapes and colors, with Braille numbers and letters
  • Can be operated with one hand
  • Includes two 3.5 mm headphone jacks, one for headphones and one for assistive devices like jelly switches, paddles or sip and puff devices

The new voting booths are designed for accessibility. The Ballot Marking Tablet screen can be tilted to support viewing from either a standing or seated position.

How can I be sure the Ballot Marking Tablets are working correctly?

Before any vote is cast, the Ballot Marking Tablets are tested to make sure they work as expected. This process, known as Logic & Accuracy (L&A) testing, ensures that votes are counted as they have been cast. Comprehensive system testing and validation are conducted before every election. After the election, the Registration & Elections Division conducts a post-election manual tally of the votes cast, that serves as an audit to validate the results before they are made official. There are many other security features—both in the process and in the equipment and software—built into the election cycle.

How do I know my vote was properly recorded?

The Ballot Marking Tablet prints a ballot, showing the voter’s selections. After printing a ballot, a voter can review the ballot to confirm the selections made are listed properly.

Does the Ballot Marking Tablet have a paper trail?

Yes. The ballot is printed directly from each Ballot Marking Tablet booth. Voters deposit their ballots in a Ballot Box. Ballot Boxes are returned to the San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division, where central scanners count the paper ballots and tabulate votes. As ballots are reviewed during the canvass, the system creates a complete audit trail documenting how each ballot was interpreted and tallied.

In the case of a recount, the Registration & Elections Division is required by state law to use the paper record as the official vote tally.

What if a recount is necessary?

If a recount is necessary, the paper ballots are counted and audited.

How do I know my votes are private?

Nothing in the system can connect you to the selections you voted.

  • The Voter Card that you insert into the Ballot Marking Tablet has no information about you; it merely includes which ballot style you will use, determined by the address of your residence.
  • The Ballot Marking Tablet does not record how you voted; it simply sends your selections to the printer.
  • The ballot that you print, after making your selections, includes no information linking you to your ballot.

This means that there is no identifying information recorded with your vote. Therefore, it is impossible to trace your vote.

What if I change my mind or make a mistake after I have touched the “Print Ballot” button?

Using a Ballot Marking Tablet, a voter can change any vote at any time until the final “Print Ballot” button is touched. Up to that point, simply touch the selection you made to deselect that choice. Then make your new selection, by touching the appropriate box. The earlier vote is erased and the new vote is recorded. Follow the onscreen instructions for guidance in making changes to your ballot before you print your ballot.

If you realize you made a mistake after your ballot is printing, please contact a Vote Center Representative for assistance.

What if I want to skip a contest?

It is your decision and right to choose not to vote in any contest. To skip a contest, touch “Continue” at the bottom right of the Ballot Marking Tablet. That will take you to the next contest. After you have voted in the last contest on the ballot, a warning screen will tell you if you have skipped a contest or voted for fewer than the maximum number of selections in a contest. You will have an opportunity to change your votes and to vote in previously skipped contests.

What if I accidentally vote twice in a race? Will my vote be discarded?

The Ballot Marking Tablet will not allow you vote twice in the same contest unless the contest allows two or more options. The system is programmed to help make the entire voting experience intuitive and smooth, providing assistance if needed. Prompts will appear on-screen if more options are available. If you change your mind and deselect one of your choices, you can then make another choice.

How do I know that my vote has been cast?

Unlike our previous voting system, your vote is not cast until you deposit your ballot in the Ballot Box. After you have printed your ballot, be sure to deposit your ballot in the Ballot Box before leaving the Vote Center.

If the power fails or if there is a machine failure, will my vote be lost?

No. If the power fails while you are voting, the selections you have made will not be lost on the Ballot Marking Tablet, due to the battery backup. A Vote Center Representative will assist you in printing your ballot during a power outage or if another problem arises.