The small army of poll workers who usually conduct San Mateo County elections will not be showing up for a special supervisor election May 3.
For the first time in county history, a new member of the Board of Supervisors will be selected by an all mail-in vote, which could result in campaigns that will intensify more than a month before election day and lower voter turnouts.
With the filing period officially ending Friday, six candidates are already in full campaign mode for the seat formerly held by Mark Church, who became the county assessor-clerk-recorder Jan. 1.
The candidates include four current elected officials: Terry Nagel, mayor of Burlingame; Gina Papan, City Council member in Millbrae; Dave Pine, a San Mateo Union High School District trustee; and Richard Holober, a San Mateo County Community College District trustee.
Businessman Michael Stogner and San Mateo resident Demetrios Nikas are also running. Others still have through Friday — the official end of the filing period — to file.
The mail-in election was authorized as part of Measure U, an amendment to the county charter that voters approved in November.
Mail-in ballots will be sent to voters starting April 4, and they can be cast during the 29-day period before May 3. With that time frame, candidates will likely have to finish the bulk of their campaigning before the county’s 341,000 registered voters receive their ballots.
“The candidates will be required to get their message out early,” Pine said.
Papan said many people she has talked to are not even aware there is an election, and Holober said he believes many voters will expect to go to a polling place, so he is concerned there will be a low turnout.
Fundraising will also be important, as candidates will have to spread their message countywide. The county is the only one in the state that still elects its supervisors countywide rather than by district.
Elections officials say the all-mail election will cost $1.1 million, saving the county about $500,000 compared to a traditional election involving 350 polling stations and 1,800 poll workers.
“All those expenses go away,” said Elections Manager David Tom.
For voters who insist on casting their ballots in person, the county will keep voting stations open at the elections offices in Redwood City and San Mateo throughout April, in addition to temporary early voting stations in five locations, likely in Daly City, Millbrae, San Mateo, Redwood City and Half Moon Bay.
With the $500,000 savings, the county also decided to pre-pay the return postage for the mail-in ballots.
“Hopefully that encourages voters to participate,” Tom said.
Executive director of Consumer Federation and community college district trustee
“I’m going to bring that practical problem-solving experience to the county Board of Supervisors and make sure that we run efficiently, cut waste, cut unnecessary management staffing if we find it and preserve public safety and health care services.”
Mayor of Burlingame and managing editor of Encore.org
“I think I bring a philosophy of working with people to solve problems — not just keeping the seat warm and rubber-stamping staff decisions. I would be out there in the community and working to bring the cities together to work on problems.”
Deputy attorney general and Millbrae City Council member
“I am the only candidate who has worked at the state, county and local level, and I think given the last [gubernatorial] election, the voters are looking for experience.”
Former Silicon Valley attorney and school trustee
“In these difficult economic times when the county’s budget is under siege, a person of my background will be an important asset to the county and one I think the voters will want to see in office.”
“I am a representative of individuals, not special interest. I support an immediate audit of the district attorney, sheriff, probation and coroners’ offices. I am opposed to high-speed rail in San Mateo County. I am opposed to the Cargill salt flats development.”
Demetrios Nikas could not be reached for comment.