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. The November 3, 2020 Observer Guide (PDFincludes 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.

Special Election

Special Election
Activity Details Time Location
Special Tax District Nos. 2019-1 and 2019-2 (Pier 70 Leased Properties) Link to Video recording Monday, January 27, 9 am City Hall, Rm 48

Calendar of Observable Activities
November 3, 2020, Consolidated General Election

Before Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Ballot Measure Letter Designation The Department of Elections designates letters for local ballot measures August 10,
11 a.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Randomized Alphabet Drawing The Secretary of State shall conduct the randomized alphabet drawing to determine the order in which the candidates will appear on the ballot. The Department of Elections shall conduct the randomized alphabet drawing for offices of State Senate District 11, State Assembly District 19, and Congressional District 14. The county-drawn alphabet shall be used only to arrange the names of candidates when a district includes more than one county. August 13,
11 a.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Selection of Opponents’ Arguments If the Department receives more than one opponent argument for a measure, the Department will select one proponent and one opponent argument according to priority levels and, if necessary, by lottery. August 13,
2 p.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Selection of Proponents’ Arguments If the Department receives more than one opponent argument for a measure, the Department will select one proponent and one opponent argument according to priority levels and, if necessary, by lottery. August 18,
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
ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Devices September 18 – September 28, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
ImageCast Evolution Ballot-Scanning Machines September 29 – October 7, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
IImageCast Central (ICC) Scanners and other media devices September 18–October 9, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Poll Worker and 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 5– November 3, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
October 24–25 and October 31– November 1, 
10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In front of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Grove Street
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 TBD 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

(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
As early as September 22, after transmission of ballots to military and overseas voters, until complete Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Opening of vote-by-mail ballot envelopes, ballot extraction, ballot counting in preparation for tabulation

(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
October 12 until complete Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376.
Ballot Adjudication and Remake When ballots contain valid votes, even in cases in which a ballot has been irregularly marked, are torn, bent, or otherwise damaged and unreadable, the Department reviews and adjudicates these ballots. When necessary, ballot remake is conducted. October 12 until complete Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Mock Election Day Support Center The practice of logging and resolving inquiries and issues in a simulated environment similar to Election Day

(Streamed on sfelections.org/live)
November 1, 
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
City Hall, North Light Court
On Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Voting Centers/ 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 City Hall, North Light Court
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 31
Data Collection Center Receives memory cards from polling places Begins after 8 p.m. and continues until all polling place memory devices have been received Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
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
 
Ballots 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 17 days of Election Day; vote-by-mail ballots that were remedied by voters up to two days prior to the certification of the election; 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 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
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 TBD Warehouse
at Pier 31
1% Manual Tally Random selection of precincts for manual tally TBD City Hall,Rm 48
Manual tally Manual tally of 1% of ballots cast TBD Department warehouse, Pier 31 (public parking unavailable inside warehouse)