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 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
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 3, 2020, General Election
|Before Election Day|
|Ballot Measure Letter Designation||The Department of Elections designates letters for local ballot measures||-||City Hall,
|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|
March 3, 2020, Consolidated Presidential Primary Election
|Before Election Day|
|Ballot Measure Letter Designation||The Department of Elections designates letters for local ballot measures||December 9,
|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.
|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
|Voter Outreach Presentations||Contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376 for details, time, and location|
|Logic and Accuracy Testing|
|ImageCast X Ballot Marking Devices||January 24 - February 3, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.||City Hall, Room 48|
|ImageCast Evolution Ballot-Scanning Machines||February 3 - February 14, Monday thru Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.||Warehouse, Pier 31|
|ImageCast X Ballot-Marking Devices||January 24 – January 31, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.||Warehouse, Pier 31|
|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||February 3 – March 3, Monday–Friday,
8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
February 22–23 and February 29– March 1, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
|City Hall, in front of Room 48|
|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,
|Vote-by-Mail Ballot Processing|
|Sorting, scanning, and verifying signatures on the vote-by-mail envelopes in preparation for ballot counting - Live Stream||As early as January 20, 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 - Live Stream||February 18 until complete||City Hall, Rm 48|
|For activity on a specific day, contact Matthew Selby (415) 554-4376|
|Ballot Adjudication & 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.||February 18 until complete||City Hall, Rm 48|
|Voting Center||Any voter may vote at the Voting Centers, located at the San Francisco State University and Joseph Lee Recreation Center, beginning 3 days before the election||February 29 – March 1,
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
March 2, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
March 3, 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
|San Francisco State University Towers
Conference Center, 798 State Drive
Joseph Lee Rec. Ctr 1395 Mendell Street
|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)
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
|Rm adjacent to the City Hall café|
|On Election Day|
|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||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 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||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|
|Ballot Processing and Tabulation - Live Stream||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 three days of Election Day; vote-by-mail ballots that were remedied by voters within eight days of the election; 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||City Hall,
|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||March 5,
10 a.m.–7 p.m. beginning
beginning March 6,
8 a.m.– 5 p.m. daily except Sundays and holidays
at Pier 31
|1% Manual Tally||Random selection of precincts for manual tally
Video recording angle 1
Video recording angle 2
|March 12, 11 a.m.||City Hall,Rm 48|
|Manual tally||Manual tally of 1% of ballots cast||March 13, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
March 14, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., if necessary
|Department warehouse, Pier 31 (public parking unavailable inside warehouse)|