The San Mateo County Registration & Elections Division’s Ballot Contingency Plan satisfies the requirement under Election Code Section 14299 to submit an alternate procedure for precinct boards if they are “unable to furnish a ballot to a qualified voter because there is an insufficient number of ballots at the precinct” and are “awaiting the delivery of additional ballots.”

The number one goal is to ensure that no Vote Centers run out of ballots. We also recognize the need to assist the public by ensuring there is no perception or fear of vote centers running out of ballots.


At each of our Vote Centers, we will have a mobile ballot laptop computer and printer. Vote Center Representatives will be given blank paper cardstock to print the required paper ballot for any voter who requests one. We train Vote Center staff and Field Technicians on how to monitor demand and when to request additional supplies, including paper from the Registration & Elections Division. An important component of the Ballot Contingency Plan is additional supplies must be requested and delivered prior to running out completely. If staff is unable to print paper ballots while they are waiting for replenishment, they may use the “Alternative Procedures” below.

Alternative Procedures for Vote Center Representatives at Vote Centers

If no paper ballots are available for voters, election officers may:

  1. Use the sample ballot from the County’s Sample Ballot & Official Voter Information Pamphlet. The sample ballot may be removed from the pamphlet, inspected by the Vote Center Representative, to ensure it has not been marked, and then issued to the voter.

    Even if the voter is using his or her own ballot, the election officer must ensure that the voter is using the correct ballot type, etc. The Vote Center Representative should write the precinct number on the sample ballot.

    If the sample ballot comes from the pamphlets provided with the vote center supplies, every attempt should be made to make copies of the unvoted blank sample ballot before issuing them to qualified voters.  This will allow the sample ballot to be used for more than one voter. A vote center that is in a city office or library may have easier access to a copy machine.
  2. Borrow ballot printing paper from a neighboring vote center. The Election Division may suggest to the Vote Center Representatives that they go to a neighboring Vote Center to borrow paper or additional supplies. In that case, the ballot stock must be accounted for by both vote centers in their ballot reconciliation and accountability.
  3. Refer voters to a neighboring Vote Center that is able to issue paper ballots. 
  4. Use a blank piece of paper upon which the names of all the candidates and titles of ballot measures are printed, along with corresponding areas to allow voters to select their choices. This is the least desirable alternative procedure because it requires printing all the candidates and measures from scratch. This procedure does NOT allow a voter to write his or her selections on a blank piece of paper. Before this method is used, every attempt needs to be made to make copies of the actual ballots available at the Vote Center.

Prevention is the key to running out of ballots throughout the Election period. The Elections Division has reviewed the voter registration counts of each voting precinct and factored in paper ballot request propensity and provisional ballot requests in the ballot order. This includes an evaluation of probable geographical and political “hot spots.”

Elections staff also regularly check in with Vote Center Representatives to verify their ballot stock levels to deliver additional ballot paper if necessary. Vote Center Representatives and Field Technicians must be diligent in monitoring their supply of ballots during the entire day. Voters generally tend to go to the polls in the morning and the evening. The morning turnout can help predict what to expect in the evening. An assessment of paper ballot inventory should be made throughout the day to cover their needs from 3 pm to 8 pm.

Vote Center Representatives and Field Technicians will alert the Vote-center Help & Support (VHS) about any potential problems. The Alternative Procedures outlined above will be their safety net; however, the Elections Division can begin deploying supplies immediately using the procedures described below.

Emergency Ballot Printing

The Elections Division must react quickly when alerted to a potential problem; however, a measured response is required. The Vote Center Representatives may request additional supplies, but they don’t always receive them because the Elections Division deems their remaining ballot inventory sufficient. Upon supervisor review and approval of a supply request, a delivery is immediately dispatched. 

Depending on the timing of the ballot printing supplies request and overall Election Day activity, the Elections Division may decide to print ballots and blanket similar Vote Centers with additional ballot printing supplies.