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 5, 2019 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


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

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
March 3, 2020, Consolidated Presidential Primary Election

Before Election Day
Activity Details Time Location
Ballot Measure Letter Designation The Department of Elections designates letters for local ballot measures December 9,
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.
Video recording
December 12,
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.
Video recording angle 1
Video recording angle 2
December 12,
2 p.m.
City Hall,
Rm 48
Logic and Accuracy Testing
ImageCast X Ballot Marking Devices January 27 - February 1, Monday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
ImageCast Evolution Ballot-Scanning Machines February 3 - February 14, Monday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Warehouse, Pier 31
ImageCast Central (ICC) Scanners February 3 - March 14, Monday –Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. City Hall, Rm 48