SFGovAccessibility
Seal of the City and County of San Francisco
City and County of San Francisco

To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

English中文Español | Filipino

  1. How do I vote for a write-in candidate who is not listed on the ballot?
  2. What voting machines will San Francisco voters use for the upcoming election?

1. Who can vote in San Francisco?

You are eligible to vote in San Francisco if you are:

  • A United States citizen
  • At least 18 years old on Election Day
  • Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction 
  • A resident of San Francisco
  • Registered to vote in San Francisco

Back to Top

2. How do I register to vote?

You can register to vote at registertovote.ca.gov or you can register to vote using a paper form. To request that a paper form be mailed to you, call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375. You can also obtain paper voter registration forms at the Department of Elections, the Department of Motor Vehicles, San Francisco Public Library branches, or United States post offices throughout San Francisco.

Back to Top

3. When must I register to vote?

You can register to vote at any time. However, you must be registered at least 15 days before an election to vote in that election. 

You must re-register to vote every time you move, change your name, or want to change your political party preference.

For specific dates and deadlines for the upcoming election, see Important Dates and Deadlines.

Back to Top

4. When I register to vote, do I need to provide identification?

Yes. When you register to vote, you must provide your California driver’s license or California identification number (you do not have to show the identification). If you do not have either one of these documents, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.

Back to Top

5. When I register to vote, do I need to join a political party?

No. When you register to vote, you will be asked if you want to disclose a political party preference. There are currently six qualified political parties in California: the American Independent Party, the Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Peace and Freedom Party, and the Republican Party. If you do not want to disclose a political party preference, indicate “no party preference” when registering to vote.

You can find more information on political parties from the California Secretary of State at sos.ca.gov or (800) 345-VOTE.

Back to Top

6. How do I find out if I am registered to vote?

To find out if you are registered to vote in San Francisco, use the voter registration online look-up tool, or call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375.

Back to Top

7. Is my voter registration linked to jury duty service?

Yes. However, cancelling your voter registration will not eliminate the possibility of you receiving a jury duty summons. The courts contact potential juror through both voter registration and California Department of Motor Vehicles records. You can eliminate receiving more than one jury summons by keeping your voter registration and DMV records up to date. Check that you are registered to vote at your current address at: http://sfelections.org/tools/reglookup/

Back to Top

8. Can my name be removed from candidate and campaign mailing lists?

No. By law, the Department of Elections cannot stop the political mailings you receive. The Department cannot remove your address from your voter registration record. While voter registration records are not available to the general public, California law allows certain voter information to be released to a member of the California Legislature or U.S. Congress; any candidate; any committee for or against a proposed ballot measure; for election, scholarly, journalistic, or political purpose; or for governmental purposes. Your social security number, driver’s license number, and signature are never provided. Commercial use of voter registration information is a misdemeanor. If you have any questions about the use of voter information or wish to report suspected misuse, please call the Secretary of State at 1 (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

Back to Top

9. If I have been convicted of a crime, can I still register and vote?

You can register and vote when:

  • You are awaiting trial
  • You are on trial
  • You have a misdemeanor conviction
  • Your felony conviction is suspended
  • You are on probation
  • You have completed your sentence

Back to Top

10. How can I vote by mail?

Anyone who is registered to vote in San Francisco can choose to vote by mail. You can vote by mail for just the next election or vote by mail permanently.

If you choose to vote by mail for just the next election, the Department of Elections will send your ballot to you for the next election only. To choose to vote by mail for just the next election:

  • Call (415) 554-4375 and make the request over the telephone.
  • OR — Complete an online Vote-by-Mail Application.
  • OR — Fill out and mail the form on the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet.
  • OR — Request a form at the Department of Elections, City Hall, Room 48. 
If you choose to vote by mail permanently, the Department of Elections will automatically mail you a ballot before every election. You can indicate that you want to permanently vote by mail when you register to vote or by completing a permanent vote-by-mail application. Your signature is required. Be sure to keep your mailing address up to date. To apply to vote by mail permanently:
  • Call (415) 554-4375 and request that an application be mailed to you.
  • OR — Complete an Application for Permanent Vote-by-Mail Status (PDF), which you will need to print out, sign, and mail.
  • OR — Fill out, sign, and mail the form on the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet. 
  • OR — Request a form at the Department of Elections, City Hall, Room 48. 
Important! Your request for a vote-by-mail ballot must be received by the Department of Elections no later than seven days before an election. Requests received after this date will take effect the following election.

For specific dates and deadlines for the upcoming election, see Important Dates and Deadlines.

Back to Top

11. How do I return my vote-by-mail ballot?

Return your vote-by-mail ballot in the return envelope that has your name printed on it. Be sure to sign and date the envelope.

  • Before or on Election Day, mail your ballot, in the signed and dated return envelope, to the Department of Elections. It must be dated and postmarked or time-stamped no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day and received at the Department of Elections by the Friday after Election Day
  • OR — Before or on Election Day, take your ballot, in the return envelope, to the Department of Elections 
  • OR — On the Saturday, Sunday, Monday before Election Day, and on Election Day, take your ballot, in the return envelope, to Drop-off Stations outside City Hall 
  • OR — On Election Day, drop off your ballot, in the return envelope, at any San Francisco polling place — open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Back to Top

12. How do I know my vote-by-mail ballot was received?

You can see when your vote-by-mail ballot was sent, when it was received, and when it was counted at sfelections.org/vbmstatus. If your ballot could not be counted, you will be advised of the reason.

Back to Top

13. How can I vote early at City Hall?

All eligible San Franciscans can vote at the City Hall Voting Center beginning 29 days before each election. Voting hours are from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. the last two weekends before the election, and Election Day from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

For specific dates and deadlines for the upcoming election, see Important Dates and Deadlines.

Back to Top

14. Where can I vote on Election Day?

On Election Day you can vote at your assigned polling place or at City Hall. All polling places (including City Hall) are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. To receive the ballot with the correct contests and candidates for where you live, vote at your assigned polling place. The location of your polling place may change from one election to another, so always check before going to vote. To find the location of your polling place:

  • Use the Polling Place Lookup tool.
  • OR — Look on the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet.
  • OR — Call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375.

If you cannot get to your assigned polling place or City Hall on Election Day, you can vote a provisional ballot at any San Francisco polling place. However, only your votes for the contests and candidates where you live will count.

Back to Top

15. Do I need to show identification when I vote?

No. You will not need to show identification when you vote, with one exception. You may be asked to provide identification the first time you vote if you did not enter your California Driver's License number, California Identification number, or the last four digits of your social security number on your registration form.

Back to Top

16. How do I find out what’s on the ballot?

Information about upcoming elections is posted on sfelections.org as it is available.

A few weeks before each election, all voters will be mailed a San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet and Sample Ballot that includes explanations about all local measures and candidate statements. For state elections, all voters will be mailed a California Voter Guide with information about state measures and state candidates.

The Department of Elections also produces materials explaining what’s on the ballot for each election and presents information to community groups by appointment. All outreach materials and presentations are free.

Back to Top

17. Are voting materials available in languages other than English?

Yes. In compliance with federal law and local ordinance, the Department of Elections provides voter services and official elections materials in Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino in addition to English.

If you would like to receive elections materials in a language other than English, update your voter registration at sfelections.org/language or call:
  • (415) 554-4375 — English
  • (415) 554-4367 — Chinese
  • (415) 554-4366 — Spanish
  • (415) 554-4310 — Filipino
For voter services, forms, and tools, click on your language preference:
Back to Top

18. What is Ranked-Choice Voting?

Voters passed Ranked-Choice Voting as an amendment to the City Charter in March 2002. San Francisco voters use Ranked-Choice Voting to elect the Mayor, Sheriff, District Attorney, City Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor-Recorder, Public Defender, and Members of the Board of Supervisors. Ranked-choice voting allows San Francisco voters to rank up to three candidates for a single office. This makes it possible to elect local officials by majority vote without the need for a separate run-off election.

Back to Top

19. How do I vote for a write-in candidate who is not listed on the ballot?

To vote for a qualified write-in candidate who is not listed on the ballot, write the person's name on the blank line at the end of the candidate list and complete the arrow. You must complete the arrow for your write-in vote to be counted.

Only write-in votes for qualified write-in candidates can be counted. A list of qualified write-in candidates will be available at the polling place. Vote-by-mail voters can get the list of qualified write-in candidates by calling the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 or at sfelections.org.

Back to Top

20. What voting machines will San Francisco voters use for the upcoming election?

San Franciscan voters use a pen to mark a paper ballot and then insert it into an optical scan voting machine to cast their ballots at the polling place. When the ballot is inserted, this machine, called an Insight, optically scans the marks made on the paper ballot and counts the votes electronically.

Additionally, each polling place has an accessible audio and touchscreen voting machine called an Edge, which is designed to assist voters with disabilities to vote independently and privately. For information about accessible voting, see Voting with the Accessible Voting Machine.

 
Last updated: 8/21/2015 4:13:49 PM