At a time when there is a lot of political rhetoric about elections, words matter. It is particularly troublesome when an elected official makes unfounded accusations and attacks the integrity of the elections process. Responsible elected officials instill confidence in the electoral process, but Mark Olbert’s letter to the editor (“Third-party audit needed of elections office”) published in the Nov. 7 edition of the Daily Journal, did just the opposite.  

As policy makers, we must be very careful with the words we choose, and that responsibility rests with every individual from the President on down to local elected officials.

My administration has brought positive change to San Mateo County Elections. We are recognized as a leader in the state and the nation. We pioneered the first countywide consolidated All-Mailed Ballot Election, we’re leading the way in the implementation of the California Voter’s Choice Act and we were first in the state to implement an Accessible Vote by Mail System for visually impaired voters. All of this has been accomplished with an outdated voting system and severe understaffing.

Positive change isn’t always easy, and it’s never problem-free. Issues occur in every election, in every county and in every state. What matters is how these issues are managed so there is minimal or no impact to the voting process.

The issue referenced in Olbert’s letter was quickly addressed and did not affect anyone’s ability to cast their ballot.

My office prides itself in conducting open, transparent and accurate elections. We regularly provide tours to election observers. 

Olbert exhibits a profound lack of understanding of the complexity of elections. Had he taken the time to contact me, I would have been happy to educate him.

Mark Church

Chief Elections Officer

San Mateo County

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(5) comments

Brent Turner

Mr. Church, though personally " likable" ,is delusional when stating San Mateo County as a state or local leader regarding elections . In SMC we use the same " secret software " corporate owned systems that botched Ohio in 2004 and were issued scathing rebuke in the most recent Texas events. Though it is a national security priority, the SMC Supes and the Department of Elections have ignored all warnings from security experts advising them to move toward public systems. Warren Slocum and Church appear to be plotting yet another purchase of thee notoriously flawed systems.. and to be ignoring the science of voting system security .Mr. Church should immediately reach out to San Francisco for open source voting alliance and info, or step down. To pretend that forced voting by mail is a security upgrade is a hoax.. and sets detrimental precedent nationally.

Michael Stogner

San Mateo County made the DOJ's list thanks to Mark Church.

Sabrina Brennan

Dear Mark Church,

Please provide a detailed response regarding the following concerns:

1.) On Tuesday, Oct 30, 2018, Race Tracker was published on the San Mateo County Elections website with “mock” results. Voters discovered the Race Tracker results online when they Google searched a candidates name. The word ”mock“ was in fine print giving voters the impression the results were from votes cast in the Nov 2018 election. The “mock” results did not appear to be randomized.

2.) The countywide Board of Education election was excluded from the Sample Ballot pamphlet everywhere except the Coastside. Delaying the arrival of ballots by a week or more.

3.) The sample ballot problem carried over to real ballots, and dozens of overseas voters were sent ballots also omitting the Board of Education race.

4.) Instructions for sealing all ballot envelopes were inaccurate.

5.) Multiple ballots were mailed to individual voters.

Sabrina Brennan
San Mateo County Harbor Commissioner


All mail voting is an unmitigated disaster. It invites fraud. It's too easy for unscrupulous groups to "buy" signed ballots. Voting at the polls, with thumbprint ID would be more secure.

Terence Y

Unfortunately, your response is still lacking. It didn't sound like Mr. Olbert was making unfounded accusations, but instead was stating facts, along with a pertinent question.

Based upon what Mr. Olbert had written, along with a few other comments (most notable in the Half Moon Bay Review), it sounds like the quality of the ballot was lacking. Instead of writing about changes to allowing more people to vote, maybe you can instead shed light on what quality assurance procedures are in place to prevent recurrence of these, or other quality issues. Any corrective and preventive action? If ballot information is incorrect or lacking, it doesn't do any good, even if you get 100% participation.

You say that your office provides open, transparent and accurate elections, then you shouldn't have any issue with allowing a third-party audit. Have you taken the time to contact Mr. Olbert, to educate him and to reassure him about corrective actions so that these past issues will not recur? Because this letter to the editor that didn't address his concerns or question probably will not engender any goodwill.

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