Observe the Election Process

Elections staff sorting vote-by-mail ballots at the processing center

 

Transparency is a key component of free, fair, and functional elections. To that end, the Department of Elections welcomes members of the public to observe its operations and offer feedback.

We offer a variety of observation opportunities:

  • Watch election processes streamed live on the Department’s website
  • Take a tour of the Department of Elections
  • Join the Official Observer Panel for an in-depth view of our operations

To help potential observers familiarize themselves with election processes and observation guidelines, the Department publishes an Observer Guide. The September 14, 2021 Observer Guide (PDF) includes observer rights and responsibilities, as determined by the California Secretary of State and California Elections Code, and a description of observable activities that take place before, on, and after Election Day.

For more information about observation opportunities, contact us through our contact form or call us at (415) 554-4375.

Official Observer Panel Application

Prior to each election, the Department invites representatives from campaigns, political parties, the Civil Grand Jury, the League of Women Voters, other committees and organizations, members of the media, and interested members of the public to join the Official Observer Panel.

The Department hosts an introductory meeting approximately one month before each election to provide an opportunity for panelists to learn about the Department, learn more about the observation process, and learn about mechanisms for providing feedback to the Department on election processes and procedures.

To serve on the Official Observer Panel, please complete and submit the Observer Panel Application (PDF). Once we receive your application, we will send you more information and an official invitation to join the Panel.

Schedule of Activities

Before each election, the Department prepares a schedule to show when, where, and how members of the public can observe specific election activities.

Calendar of Observable Activities
September 14, 2021, California Gubernatorial Recall Election

Before Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Voter Outreach Presentations Contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376 for details, time, and location
Logic and Accuracy Testing
Testing of ImageCast Central (ICC) Scanners and other media devices August 4–12, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. City Hall, Rm 48
Testing of ImageCast Evolution Ballot-Scanning Machines August 17–27, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
Testing of ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Devices August 9–16, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
Poll Worker and Field Support Training Contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376 for details, time, and location
Voting Center Any voter may vote or drop off their vote-by-mail ballot at the City Hall Voting Center beginning 29 days before the election. August 16– September 14, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

September 4–5 and September 11–12, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
City Hall, in front of Rm 48
Vote-by-Mail Ballot Processing
Sorting, scanning, and verifying signatures on vote-by-mail ballot envelopes in preparation for ballot counting.
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
As early as August 3, following transmission of ballots to military and overseas voters, until complete City Hall, Rm 48
Opening of vote-by-mail ballot envelopes, ballot extraction, ballot scanning in preparation for tabulation.
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
August 23 until complete City Hall, Rm 48
For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376.
Ballot Adjudication and Remake WWhen ballots contain valid votes, including cases in which a ballot has been irregularly marked, torn, bent, or otherwise damaged and unreadable, the Department reviews and adjudicates these ballots. When necessary, ballot remake is conducted. August 23 until complete City Hall, Rm 48
Ballot Drop-Off Stations Any voter may return their vote-by-mail ballot to any of San Francisco’s official ballot drop-off stations. September 11–12, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
September 13, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
For locations, visit sfelections.org/ballotdropoff
Mock Election Day Support Center An internal practice of logging and resolving inquiries and issues in a simulated environment similar to Election Day.
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
September 11, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Rm adjacent to City Hall café
On Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Voting Centers/ Polling Places The City Hall Voting Center and 588 polling places are open to local voters who wish to register to vote or vote in person, use accessible voting equipment, receive personal assistance, or return their vote-by-mail ballots. Election Day, September 14, 7 a.m.–8 p.m. For locations, visit sfelections.org/MyVotingLocation
Ballot-Drop Off Stations Any voter may return their vote-by-mail ballot to any of San Francisco’s official ballot drop-off stations. Election Day, September 14, 7 a.m.–8 p.m. For locations, visit sfelections.org/ballotdropoff
Election Day Support Center Provides support to poll workers and dispatches in-person assistance to polling places when needed.
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
5:30 a.m. to approximately midnight Rm adjacent to City Hall café
Processing Center Receives voted ballots, rosters of voters, and other materials from polling places. Begins after 8 p.m. and continues until all polling place materials have been received Warehouse, Pier 31
Data Collection Center Receives memory cards from polling places. Begins after 8 p.m. and continues until all polling place memory cards have been received City Hall, McAllister St. entrance
Election Night Results Reporting Results are available on sfelections.org/results San Francisco Government Television – SFGTV, Channel 26 First preliminary results released at approximately 8:45 p.m. with updates released at approximately 9:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. City Hall, North Light Court
After Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Processing and Tabulation
 
Ballots include vote-by-mail ballots that voters returned to polling places and drop-off stations, and that the Department received in the mail within seven days of Election Day; vote-by-mail ballots that were timely remedied by voters; provisional ballots; and ballots with write-in votes.
For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
Continues until all ballots have been counted and the results are certified (no later than October 14) City Hall, Rm 48
Results Reporting after Election Night The Department holds press briefings and posts updated results on its website on any day ballots are tabulated. Daily at approximately 4 p.m. sfelections.org/results
Canvass An internal audit of the election to ensure the accuracy of results. September 16, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. beginning September 17, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. except Sundays and holidays Warehouse, at Pier 31
1% Manual Tallies Random selection of precincts and batches for manual tallies.
(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
September 23, 11 a.m. City Hall, Rm 48