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
  • Participate in a Department of Elections Open House
  • 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 (PDF). The guide 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
November 6, 2018, Consolidated General Election

Before Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Ballot Measure Letter Designation The Department of Elections designates letters for local ballot measures
The event has concluded
August 13,
11 a.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Selection of Proponents’ and Opponents’ Arguments If the Department receives more than one proponent or opponent argument for a measure, the Department will select one proponent and one opponent argument according to priority levels and, if necessary, by lottery
The event has concluded
August 16,
2 p.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Voter Outreach Presentations Contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376 for details, time, and location
Logic and Accuracy Testing
Optech 400-C machines
The event has concluded
September 28
8 a.m - 5 p.m
City Hall, Rm 48
Optech Insight machines
The event has concluded
October 1 – October 9
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Pier 48, Shed B
AVC Edge II machines
The event has concluded
October 11 – October 19
8 a.m. – 5 p.m
Pier 48, Shed B
Poll Worker & Field Support Training Contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376 for details, time, and location
Voting Center Any voter may vote at the City Hall Voting Center beginning 29 days before the election October 9 – November 5, Monday–Friday,
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

October 27 – 28 and
November 3 - 4,
10 a.m.– 4 p.m.
City Hall, ground floor
Open House During the Open House, attendees are invited to tour the Department’s office and learn about processes that take place before, on, and after Election Day in support of the election October 12 
1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Vote-by-Mail Ballot Processing
Sorting, scanning, and verifying signatures on the vote-by-mail envelopes in preparation for ballot counting

As early as September 24, after transmission of ballots to military and overseas voters, until complete City Hall, Rm 48
Opening of vote-by-mail ballot envelopes, ballot extraction, ballot counting in preparation for tabulation October 23 until complete City Hall, Rm 48
For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376
Ballot Remake When ballots are torn, bent, folded, dirty, damp, or otherwise damaged and unreadable, the Department remakes these ballots October 23 until complete City Hall,
Rm 48
Mock Election Day Support Center The practice of logging and resolving inquiries and issues in a simulated environment similar to Election Day

November 3,
10:30 a.m.– 12:30 p.m.
Rm adjacent to the City Hall café
On Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Voting Center/ Polling Places Check sfelections.org for polling place locations Voting Center and polls are open from 7 a.m.– 8 p.m. on Election Day City-wide
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 and other materials from polling places Begins after 8 p.m. and continues until all polling place materials have been received Warehouse at Pier 48
Data Collection Center Receives memory and results cartridges from polling places Begins after 8 p.m. and continues until all polling place memory devices have been received City Hall, McAllister St. entrance
Election Night Results Reporting Results are displayed on a large monitor on Election Night. Results are also available at: sfelections.org, San Francisco Government Television – SFGTV, Channel 26, Department’s Office 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 These include vote-by-mail ballots that voters dropped off at the polling places or the City Hall drop-off stations, or that the Department received in the mail within three days of Election Day; vote-by-mail ballots that were remedied by voters within eight days of the election; provisional ballots; ballots with write-in votes; and votes cast on the Edge accessible voting machines Continues until all ballots have been counted and the results are certified City Hall,
Rm 48
  For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376
Results Reporting after Election Night The Department posts updated results online on any day ballots are tabulated Daily at approximately 4 p.m. sfelections.org
Canvass An internal audit of the election to ensure the accuracy of results November 7, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. beginning
November 8,
8 a.m.– 5 p.m. daily except Sundays and holidays
at Pier 48
Selection of Precincts for 1% Manual Tally Random selection of precincts for manual tally
Recordings of live streamed event are below:

1% Manual Tally Dice
1% Manual Tally Room
1% Manual Tally Screen
Saturday, November 17, 10 a.m. City Hall,
Rm 48
1% Manual Tally The Department will conduct a manual tally of all ballots, including vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, cast in 1% of San Francisco’s 604 precincts. Monday, November 19, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday-Friday, excluding the holiday and weekends, until complete. Warehouse
at Pier 48