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Voting is Good for Health!

Staff Perspective Heather Eastwood

While voting may not seem like a public health issue, research shows a correlation between voter turnout and positive health outcomes. This means that places with higher rates of voters also have higher rates of positive health outcomes, such as overall improved mental and physical health [1].  Alternatively, places with low voter turnout have higher rates of poor self-reported health, and research shows that there is a connection between reported and actual health outcomes [2]. With an election coming up November 6th, and with new ways to vote in San Mateo County, it’s important to know your options to make sure your vote counts!

Voting in San Mateo County
In 2016, California passed the Voters Choice Act. This law aims to provide flexibility in how people vote in California. To begin implementing the law, the state has selected five pilot counties, with San Mateo County being one of them. The remaining 53 counties are all expected to implement the law by 2020 [3].  For now, this means that voting in San Mateo County and in the four other pilot counties, looks slightly different from voting in other places in California. This difference includes automatically receiving a ballot in the mail for all registered voters and greater flexibility in how to cast that ballot. To support the implementation of the Voters Choice Act (VCA), the Health Policy and Planning program launched an initiative called Voting Matters to maximize voter participation among our health partners and clients. We are working closely with the County Elections Office, who is leading the implementation of the new voting mechanisms.

While more people voted in the June 2018 election than the June 2014 election in San Mateo County, voter turnout still varies by place, age, income, and race. In the June 2018 election, Daly City had a voter turnout of 33.8% and San Bruno had a similar turnout of 40.2%. In the same election, more affluent places like Atherton and Woodside saw voter turnouts of 47.2% and 50.7%. Additionally, voter turnout across the county for low-income youth of color ages 18-24 was 18% in the June 2018 election. Those numbers vary even more when looking at place. In East Palo Alto, 11% of registered low-income youth of color voted in June 2018, while in Redwood City the percentage increased to 19%.[4] One strategy of the Voting Matters initiative is to target places with low voter turnout to inform people about how to register and vote in San Mateo County.

How to vote in SMC!
Voting is one way to be civically engaged, and in San Mateo County it’s one of the easiest. You can register online to vote until October 22, 2018 (, and after this date you can register in person at any voting place in the county through election day.

Youth can now pre-register to vote starting at 16, and they will automatically receive their ballot in the mail when they turn 18.

Under the new voting pilot program, San Mateo County residents have three options to cast a ballot. Your options for voting in San Mateo County include:
1.         Casting a ballot at ANY voter center
2.         Mailing your completed ballot on or before election day, November 6th, 2018.
3.         Dropping off your completed ballot to ANY voter center.

With these three different ways to vote, there is an option available for every eligible voter. San Mateo County has made it easier than ever to make sure your vote counts, so be sure to participate this election. If you have any questions on voting in San Mateo County, please reach out to Heather Arata (, or the County elections office (650-312-5222). And please, remember to vote by November 6, 2018!

[1] Ballard, P., and Syme, S. (2016). Engaging youth in communities: a framework for promoting adolescent and community health. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. Vol 70 (2). 
[2] Gallagher, J., Wilkie, A., Cordner, A., Hudgens, E., Ghio, A., Birch, R., and Wade, T. (2016). Factors Associated with Self-Reported Health: Implications for Screening Level Community-based Health and Environmental Studies. BMC Public Health, Vol 16.
[3] Wildermuth, J. (2018). New voting process to make its mark in some Bay Area counties in June. San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2018.
[4] San Mateo County Elections Office, 2018.