Observe the Election Process
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 in-person at the Department’s office and warehouse, or via live streams
- 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 Election Activities and Live Streams
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|
|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.||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.||August 23 until complete||City Hall, Rm 48|
|For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376.|
|Ballot Adjudication and Remake||When 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.||September 11, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.||Rm adjacent to City Hall café|
|On Election Day|
|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.||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|
|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
|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.||September 21, 11 a.m.||City Hall, Rm 48|
Petition Processing Live Streams
The Department of Elections is responsible for processing state and local initiative, referendum, and recall petitions.
|Recall Petitions: Board of Education Members - Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga||8 a.m. – 5 p.m., September 8, 2021 until complete but no later than 30 days from the date of filing, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, except as provided in California Elections Code §9115.||City Hall, Rm. 80
City Hall, Rm. 48
|Recall Petitions: District Attorney
|8 a.m. – 5 p.m., October 25, 2021 until complete but no later than 30 days from the date of filing, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, except as provided in California Elections Code §9115.||City Hall, Rm. 60
City Hall, Rm. 48