County of Marin - News Releases - Election Postage

For Immediate Release
December 15, 2015

County to Pay Postage for Mailed-in Ballots

Supervisors support cost of postage on return envelopes

San Rafael, CA – Looking to increase voter participation in local elections, the Marin County Elections Department is going to cover the costs of vote-by-mail postage.

An election worker thumbs through mailed ballots on Election Day at the Civic Center.An election worker thumbs through mailed-in ballots on Election Day.
Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts talked about the pros and cons of the proposal December 15 before the Marin County Board of Supervisors, which then gave unanimous support to implementation of the plan.

The idea was pitched by the Marin County Election Advisory Committee, a volunteer board that provides feedback to Roberts. Responses from 38 counties to an informal survey conducted by Roberts last year showed that only San Francisco, Alpine and Sierra counties paid return postage for all vote-by-mail ballots. (All elections in sparsely populated Alpine and Sierra counties are mail-only).

Roberts said the advantages of postage-paid, mail-in voting are a possible higher voter turnout, more convenience for voters, and positive messaging about the importance of voting. She said it would cost the County government an estimated $35,000 to $55,000 per election, depending on the type of election, and the use of the U.S. Postal Service’s Business Reply Mail (BRM) would likely add one day to delivery time.

Marin routinely has one of the highest voter turnouts in the state. The turnout was 87.4 percent for the presidential election of November 2012 and 60.1 percent for the statewide election of November 2014. However, the turnout was 35 percent for the most recent local election in November 2015, and the Supervisors said they hope paid postage in the future will help improve turnouts for local elections.

Voting by mail has been steadily increasing in Marin, and in the last two statewide elections was over 70 percent. Despite its popularity, the Elections Department is obligated by state law to have polling stations open on Election Day unless there are 250 or fewer voters in a precinct.

Roberts said the new postage program can be implemented in time for the June 2016 Presidential Primary Election. The change only requires ordering enough Business Reply Mail envelopes to send with voters’ ballots.

Established in 2006, the Marin County Election Advisory Committee focuses on voter participation and election integrity issues. It has two subcommittees: the Voter Outreach and Education to Low-Turnout Populations Subcommittee and the Election Integrity/Voter Confidence Subcommittee that meet on an as-needed basis. The committee is looking for representatives from Marin City and the Canal area of San Rafael; email to learn more.

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Lynda Roberts
Registrar of Voters
Elections Department

Marin Civic Center Administration Building
3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 121
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6401
Email: Lynda Roberts
Elections website