Rules to Ensure Election Transparency and Voter Privacy on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8

Department of Elections
City and County of San Francisco
John Arntz, Director

For Immediate Release
SAN FRANCISCO, Saturday, November 5, 2016 – The Department of Elections reminds San Francisco residents, the media, campaigns, and other organizations of the rules and responsibilities related to observing the election process and Election Day activities.

Election law strives to balance the public’s right to open, transparent elections with each voter’s right to cast a secret ballot free from any form of intimidation or coercion. The Department of Elections expects campaign supporters, the media, and other observers to conduct their activities in a way that ensures a voting environment where voters can freely express their views when casting their ballots on Election Day.  

To ensure that the election is conducted in a manner that is free, fair, and functional, the Department of Elections assigns nearly 100 field staff to monitor activities at the polls, ensuring that all voters can cast their vote independently and privately.  

Anyone who believes they have information concerning a possible incidence of election interference, voter intimidation, or fraud should call the District Attorney’s Election Fraud Hotline at (415) 551-9507 or Department of Elections’ Voter Assistance Hotline at (415) 554-4375. The Department of Elections will also forward any reports of election interference or fraud to the District Attorney’s Office.

Electioneering, which is any visible or audible activity that advocates for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot, is prohibited within 100 feet of the room in which voters are casting ballots. Examples of prohibited materials and activities include displaying a candidate’s name, likeness, or logo; displaying a ballot measure’s number, title, subject, or logo; buttons, hats, pencils, pens, shirts, signs, or stickers with information about candidates or issues on the ballot; or any audible broadcasting of information about candidates or measures on the ballot.

Electioneering also includes soliciting signatures for a candidate petition, a recall petition, or any other petition within 100 feet of a polling place.  

On Election Day, if someone is conducting electioneering within a 100-foot radius of a polling place, poll workers and Department of Elections field staff will inform him or her of the legal prohibition and request that the activity stop. The Department will also alert campaigns to the actions of their personnel and volunteers.

Exit Polling
The Department advises news organizations and other pollsters to refrain from exit polling within 25 feet of a polling place. Organizations conducting exit polling are advised to do so in a quiet, non-disruptive way, or provide a written questionnaire to gather information from voters.

Media and Observers
Members of the media and observers are welcome to watch the proceedings at the polls, including opening and closing, and ask questions of poll workers as long as they do not interfere with the voting process.

Media and election observers must not obstruct the election table, enter the voting booth area, observe or record voters marking their ballots or how voters mark their ballots, or ask voters in the polling place about how they voted.

The use of cameras or video equipment at polling places is allowed only under certain circumstances, provided such activity does not interfere with voting, is not intimidating to any voters or poll workers, and that the privacy of voters is not compromised. For instance, a credentialed media organization may photograph or film a candidate voting at a polling place, as long as no one at the polling place objects.

Posting of Street Index
State election law requires that poll workers post a Street Index outside the polling place for each precinct. The Street Index lists voters’ names, party preferences, addresses, and phone numbers, if the phone numbers are listed in their registration records. Throughout Election Day until 6 p.m., poll workers update the Street Index by crossing off the names of the voters who have already voted. Observers and campaigns may obtain information from the Street Index; however, the index may not be removed before the polls close.

Anyone with questions or concerns related to voting, poll observation, or other election matters is urged to call the Department of Elections immediately at (415) 554-4375 so that staff can assist in resolving any issues while the polls are still open.


Department of Elections
City and County of San Francisco
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place,
City Hall, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 554-4375

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