Vote by Mail

Person dropping a completed vote-by-mail ballot into a postal service mailbox

 

Per state law, all registered voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail for all elections.

The next citywide election is the November 8, 2022, Consolidated Statewide General Election. All local registered voters will automatically receive a vote-by-mail packet around October 10, 2022.

This page contains information on receiving and tracking your vote-by-mail ballot, how to fill out your ballot and envelope, options for returning your ballot, and frequently asked questions about voting by mail.

To learn more about the processing of vote-by-mail ballots, we invite you to visit our new page, How does voting by mail work in San Francisco?

If you have any questions about voting by mail, please contact the Department of Elections.

Receiving and Tracking Your Ballot

The Department begins mailing vote-by-mail ballots approximately one month prior to Election Day.

Voters can check their registration status and track their ballots as they move through the steps of printing, assembly, delivery, and processing, using the Voter Portal.

Voters can also choose to receive automatic notifications on the status or their ballots via email, SMS (text), or voice call. Visit
wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov to sign up for this service.

Ensure Timely Delivery of Your Ballot by Keeping Your Address Up to Date!

There are three ways to update your home address or mailing address.

  1. Complete a Registration Update Form and return it to the Department.
  2. Re-register to vote at registertovote.ca.gov, or contact the Department for a paper application.
  3. Send a letter to the Department that includes your name, former residence, current residence, mailing address (if different), a certification by you, the voter, of the content of the written request as to its truthfulness and correctness, under penalty of perjury, and your dated signature.

If you prefer to receive your ballot at a temporary address for this election or need a replacement ballot, you can submit your request through the Voter Portal or by calling (415) 554-4375.

Voting Your Ballot

Your vote-by-mail ballot packet will contain an official ballot, an instructional insert, an official postage-paid return envelope, and an “I Voted” sticker.

Follow the instructions on the top of each ballot card to mark your selections, and be sure to check both sides of the cards for contests.

If you make a mistake and need a replacement ballot, submit your request through the Voter Portal or by calling (415) 554-4375.

When you are done voting, remove receipts from ballot cards, fold each card, put cards in the return envelope, and peel away the self-sealing strip to seal the envelope. You must sign the envelope for your ballot to be counted!

The envelope features signature line punch-outs to assist voters with visual impairments in locating the signature field. The envelope also provides instructions on how voters unable to sign may substitute a witnessed mark for a signature.

Upon receipt of your voted ballot, the Department will compare the signature on the envelope with your signature(s) in your voter record. If your signature has changed since you last registered to vote, be sure to reregister with your new signature as soon as possible.

Returning Your Ballot

To be counted, you must return your ballot on time!

If you return your ballot by mail, your ballot return envelope must be postmarked by Election Day, (check collection times if you use a blue USPS mailbox to mail your envelope on Election Day).

If you return your ballot in person to the City Hall Voting Center, an official ballot drop box in San Francisco, or a polling place, you must do so no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. For the November 8, 2022 election, the Department of Elections will provide 34 official ballot drop boxes in neighborhoods across the City. These boxes will be available 24/7 beginning October 10 through 8 p.m. on Election Day, November 8. For locations, visit the Official Ballot Drop Boxes page.

You may also return your ballot in any other county in California or authorize another person to drop off your ballot for you.

Voting by Mail FAQs

  1. If I want to vote by mail, do I need to request a vote-by-mail ballot?
  2. When should I expect my vote-by-mail ballot to arrive?
  3. By what date do I need to return my ballot and what are my return options?
  4. Do I need a stamp to mail my ballot?
  5. How can I find the closest USPS blue box to mail my ballot?
  6. How can I find a convenient ballot drop box to return my ballot?
  7. Why do I need to sign my ballot return envelope?
  8. If my ballot is challenged, can it still be counted?
  9. How will I know if my ballot has been counted?
  10. How can I help make sure all the selections on my ballot are counted?
  11. How can I get a replacement ballot?
  12. How can I help someone who needs a replacement ballot to be delivered to them?
  1. If I want to vote by mail, do I need to request a vote-by-mail ballot?
    No, if you are a registered voter, you will automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot packet before every election.

    Previously, any California voter who wanted to vote by mail needed to do so by request, but that rule has recently changed. In 2020, a temporary COVID-19 related law required elections officials to send vote-by-mail ballots to all voters and this law was made permanent in 2021.
     
  2. When should I expect my vote-by-mail ballot to arrive?
    If you are registered to vote in San Francisco, you can expect to receive your ballot packet about one month before each Election Day (unless you are a military or overseas voter, in which case, you can expect to receive your ballot no later than 45 days before each Election Day instead).

    Your ballot packet will contain a ballot, postage-paid return envelope, voting instructions, and an “I Voted!” sticker.

    Before marking a ballot, confirm the packet is addressed to you. To ensure the Department of Elections mails your ballot to the correct address, check your information at voterstatus.sos.ca.gov and if necessary, update your registration at registertovote.ca.gov. (The post office cannot forward official ballots.)

    In addition, beginning 29 days before Election Day, any voter can choose to use the Accessible Vote-by-Mail System (AVBM) to access and mark a screen-readable ballot – AVBM ballots must be returned by mail or in person in a timely manner, just as regular mailed paper ballots must be.
     
  3. By what date do I need to return my ballot and what are my return options?
    In order for your ballot to be counted, it must be returned on or before Election Day.

    You may return your ballot by mail or directly to the Department of Elections.

    Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than Election Day. If you mail your ballot on Election Day, please check the last collection time on the blue USPS collection box, home letterbox, or business mail drop — if the last mail collection has already occurred, your ballot will be postmarked late and will not be counted.

    Ballots returned directly to the Department of Elections must be dropped off no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. Beginning 29 days before Election Day, you can return your ballot to any official ballot drop box, the City Hall Voting Center, or on Election Day, to any polling place.
     
  4. Do I need a stamp to mail my ballot?
    No, the ballot return envelope is postage-paid.
     
  5. How can I find the closest USPS blue box to mail my ballot?
    You can search for locations of USPS boxes and pickup times at usps.com/locator.
     
  6. How can I find a convenient ballot drop box to return my ballot?
    For locations of official ballot drop boxes in the city, visit sfelections.org/ballotdropoff or call (415) 554-4375. All San Francisco drop boxes are available 24/7 during the early voting period up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
     
  7. Why do I need to sign my ballot return envelope?
    When you sign the back of your ballot return envelope, you are providing proof that you are eligible to vote in the current election, that you have not already done so, and that you are the person to whom the ballot inside the envelope was sent. When the Department of Elections receives your ballot return envelope, a Department staff member compares your signature on the envelope to one in your voter registration record before opening and counting the ballot inside. If you do not sign your ballot return envelope, your identity cannot be verified and the ballot will be challenged.
     
  8. If my ballot is challenged, can it still be counted?
    This depends on whether the challenge is “curable” and your prompt response.

    If a challenge is curable, meaning that it can be fixed, a voter can cure their ballot by returning a challenge form to the Department of Elections by mail, email, fax, or in person to any polling place, drop box, or the City Hall Voting Center. Examples of curable challenges include forgetting to sign the return envelope or providing a signature that does not compare to the signatures on file.

    Before any vote-by-mail ballot is challenged for signature-related reasons, the ballot return envelope signature is reviewed by three different Department staff members and compared to all signatures in the voter’s record. If, after completing the signature verification process, Department staff cannot find a comparable signature, they will challenge the ballot and attempt to notify the voter via mail, email, and/or phone with options to cure it.

    Some challenges are not curable, such as when a ballot is challenged for being returned after Election Day. If a challenge is uncurable, there is nothing the voter who submitted the ballot can do to make their ballot count.
     
  9. How will I know if my ballot has been counted?
    You can check on the status of your ballot as it moves through printing, assembly, delivery, and counting processes by going to sfelections.org/voterportal, contacting the Department at (415) 554-4375, or signing up to receive automatic notifications about your ballot via email, text, or voice message at wheresmyballot.sos.ca.gov.
     
  10. How can I help make sure all the selections on my ballot are counted?
    Follow the instructions printed on each ballot card carefully. After marking your ballot, double-check you have not made a mistake, such as only partially filling the selection ovals, making too many selections in a contest, or making unintentional marks. If you make a mistake, you may request a replacement ballot.
     
  11. How can I get a replacement ballot?
    If you have lost, damaged, or mismarked your vote-by-mail ballot and would like to request a replacement, there are several ways to do so:
    • Up through one week before Election Day, you may request a new ballot via mail by calling, visiting, or emailing the Department of Elections, or by visiting sfelections.org/voterportal; or
    • At any time in the 29-day early voting period, including the week before Election Day, you can request a replacement at the City Hall Voting Center; or
    • On Election Day, you can request a replacement ballot at any polling place.
     
  12. How can I help someone who needs a replacement ballot to be delivered to them?
    If someone would like you to help them get a replacement ballot, they have several options. First, up through one week before Election Day, any voter can use a Ballot Pickup Authorization Form to authorize you to deliver a replacement ballot provided you are the voter’s spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, or a person residing in the same household and over 16 years old. Or, in the last week of the voting period, any voter unable to travel to a polling place or voting center because of illness, disability, or confinement to home or hospital, may complete an Emergency Ballot Service Request Form, authorizing anyone to pick up and deliver the voter’s vote-by-mail ballot on behalf of the voter.
     

Questions? Need more information? Please contact the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 or sfvote@sfgov.org.