Department of Elections Mission and Responsibilities

Plaque stating, “San Francisco Department of Elections, established in 1878”


The mission of the Department of Elections is to provide equitable access to voting and election-related services and to conduct free, fair, and functional elections for the City and County of San Francisco.

The Department works to maintain an open and transparent process that inspires public confidence in the election system, and we continuously strive to improve our services while anticipating the future needs of San Francisco voters. We invite you to review the 2021-2023 Strategic Plan for the Department of Elections (PDF) to learn about ongoing and future activities and projects within the Department intended to manifest the Department’s ongoing commitment to delivering accessible and equitable voting related services and programs to all San Francisco residents eligible to participate in elections, while cultivating a safe, inclusive, and thriving work environment for employees.

To accomplish our strategic goals, we seek feedback from the community through various community partnerships and public observation opportunities, and through our feedback survey available on our website and at our office.

Department of Elections Responsibilities

The Department of Elections is responsible for conducting elections in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, including the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the City’s Language Access Ordinance, and all applicable regulations issued by the California Secretary of State. The Department engages in all election activities with the following goals in mind: inspire public confidence in elections; maximize the impact of public outreach and education programs for local voters and potential registrants; and improve the efficiency of services while anticipating the future needs of City voters.

Serving a current base of approximately 500,000 registered voters, the Department is responsible for all components of election administration, some of which include:

  • Maintaining an accurate and complete voter roll and conducting ongoing voter file maintenance procedures;
  • Facilitating the filing of candidate nomination papers, local and district ballot measures, and ballot arguments that appear in the Voter Information Pamphlet;
  • Producing San Francisco’s official ballot, sample ballot, and Voter Information Pamphlet in various languages and accessible formats;
  • Providing services and voter education to registered voters and potential registrants;
  • Administering a universal (automatic) vote-by-mail program for all locally registered voters and approximately 11,000 military and overseas voters;
  • Securing nearly 600 polling places to administer voting on Election Day;
  • Recruiting and training nearly 3,000 poll workers to administer mandated procedures and serve a linguistically and culturally diverse electorate;
  • Facilitating early voting programs beginning 29 days before each Election Day;
  • Organizing the collection of ballots and election results data from polling places on Election Night;
  • Performing tabulation of ballots and reporting election results;
  • Conducting an Official Canvass of votes cast to verify the accuracy and validity of election results

The San Francisco Department of Elections and Elections Commission Statement of Incompatible Activities (PDF) guides officers and employees of the Department of Elections and Elections Commission about the kinds of activities that are incompatible with public duties and therefore prohibited.

Voter Bill of Rights

The Voter Bill of Rights, posted at all voting locations and printed in the San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet, outlines ten fundamental rights that California voters have:

  • The right to vote if you are a registered voter. You are eligible to vote if you are a U.S. citizen living in California, at least 18 years old, registered where you currently live, not currently in state or federal prison for the conviction of a felony, and not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court.
  • The right to vote if you are a registered voter even if your name is not on the list. You will vote using a provisional ballot. Your vote will be counted if elections officials determine that you are eligible to vote.
  • The right to vote if you are still in line when the polls close.
  • The right to cast a secret ballot without anyone bothering you or telling you how to vote.
  • The right to get a new ballot if you have made a mistake, if you have not already cast your ballot. You can ask a poll worker at a polling place for a new ballot, exchange your vote-by-mail ballot for a new one at an elections office or at your polling place, or vote using a provisional ballot.
  • The right to get help casting your ballot from anyone you choose, except from your employer or union representative.
  • The right to drop off your completed vote-by-mail ballot at any polling place in California.
  • The right to get election materials in a language other than English if enough people in your voting precinct speak that language.
  • The right to ask questions to a poll worker about election procedures and watch the election process. If the person you ask cannot answer your questions, they must send you to the right person for an answer. If you are disruptive, they can stop answering you.
  • The right to report any illegal or fraudulent election activity to an elections official or the Secretary of State’s office.

If you believe you have been denied any of these rights or you are aware of any election fraud or misconduct, call the Department of Elections’ Voter Hotline at (415) 554-4395 so that staff can provide assistance and ensure that every eligible voter in San Francisco can cast a secret ballot. Alternatively, you may call the Secretary of State’s confidential toll-free Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).