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Politics & Policy

How to vote in San Francisco

Earnest Sanders deposits his ballot at an official ballot drop box outside City College of San Francisco, Chinatown / North Beach Campus at 808 Kearny St. on Tuesday, June 7, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif.
Earnest Sanders deposits his ballot at an official ballot drop box outside City College of San Francisco, Chinatown / North Beach Campus on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Voting is already in full swing for the Nov. 8 election. In fact, more than 43,000 San Franciscans have returned their ballots, according to data from the SF Department of Elections.  

You can join them today.

Casting a ballot is your opportunity to decide the future of San Francisco and have your voice heard. The good news: It’s easy, and you can do it now.

You can learn about each contest on The Standard’s voter guide and can see your sample ballot in SF’s voter portal

Read on for step-by-step instructions on how to vote in the Nov. 8 election.

When Can You Vote?

Today! Fortunately, gone are the days when you had to wait until election day to cast your vote. You can vote in person or through the mail right now, and voting will remain open through the end of the day Nov. 8. 

Who Can Vote?

SF residents who are U.S. citizens and will be 18 years old on Nov. 8 can vote in San Francisco in this election, and some noncitizens can cast ballots for the school board contest. You can find out which voting district your address is in by using this lookup tool

What If You Are Not Yet Registered to Vote?

It’s fine if you haven’t registered to vote, you can still cast your ballot in this election.

You can check if you’re registered to vote using the San Francisco voter portal, or the California Secretary of State’s voter status lookup tool.

If you aren’t registered yet, or if you’re still registered at an old address, including an address outside of San Francisco, you can still vote. All in-person voting locations offer conditional voter registration. When you arrive to vote, a poll worker will give you an affidavit of registration to sign. You don’t need to provide any form of ID or documentation to conditionally register. You’ll then cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted once the Department of Elections has confirmed that you’re eligible to vote in SF and haven’t already voted elsewhere this election.

What If You Are Not Living at a Fixed Address?

SF residents who don’t have a fixed address can provide an intersection instead of a specific address when they register. College students studying outside of SF can still vote in the city, so long as their SF address is still where they permanently reside. U.S. military members serving overseas and their families are eligible to receive their ballots via email.

People who are currently incarcerated in a state or federal prison cannot vote, but people who are incarcerated in county jails can. A criminal record does not prevent you from voting; people who are on parole or probation, including for felony convictions, can cast a ballot.

What If You’re Not a Citizen?

In San Francisco, noncitizen residents can cast a vote in the school board election if they are the parent, legal guardian or caregiver of a child who is under 19 and lives in SF. Noncitizens must re-register each time they vote in an SF election, which you can do at an in-person polling place.

Vote-by-mail ballot seen at SF City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, in San Francisco, Calif. | Liz Hafalia/SF Chronicle via Getty Images)
Vote-by-mail ballot seen at San Francisco City Hall on Oct. 30, 2018 | Liz Hafalia/SF Chronicle via Getty Images)

How to Vote by Mail

If you registered to vote before Oct. 24, you will receive a ballot in the mail automatically. The SF Department of Elections issued almost 500,000 vote-by-mail ballots by mid-September, so if you were previously registered to vote at your current address, odds are that your ballot already arrived in your mailbox. 

If you send your ballot back in the snail mail, it must be postmarked by Nov. 8 to count. Or you can drop it off at one of the official ballot drop boxes until 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, or bring it to any in-person polling location.

After you drop off your ballot, keep an eye on the voter portal where you’ll be able to track when the Department of Elections has officially counted your ballot.

What If You Didn’t Receive a Ballot in the Mail?

You can check the delivery status of your mail ballot in the voter portal. If you never received your mail ballot or lost it, you can request a replacement in the voter portal, or use an Accessible Vote-by-Mail printable ballot to mail in or return in person.

How to Vote in Person

In-person voting has begun at SF’s City Hall Voting Center. You can vote there any weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from now through election day. 

On election day, Nov. 8, you’ll be able to vote at a polling place in your neighborhood anytime from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Use the voting site lookup tool to find your local polling location. If you’re going to a neighborhood polling place, it’s important that you vote at your assigned polling location so that you get a ballot with the correct local races, including your representative on the Board of Supervisors.

What If You Can’t Get to Your Polling Place on Election Day?

If you’re unable to vote in person because of illness or disability, including Covid quarantine, you can authorize someone else to pick up and deliver your ballot on your behalf. You can also request to vote outside of the polling center by calling (415) 554-4375, or by asking someone to go into the polling place to request that a poll worker bring your voting materials outside.   

What If You Need a Ballot in Another Language?

All polling locations offer bilingual paper ballots in English and either Chinese, Spanish or Filipino. Some polling locations have reference ballots in Burmese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese, and the Department of Elections offers interpretative phone services in over 200 languages at all in-person voting sites.

Why Should You Vote This November?

The Nov. 8 ballot has key races for local, state and federal offices, including the SF Board of Supervisors, California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives. There are also local and state ballot measures that will determine how California legalizes sports betting and whether Golden Gate Park’s JFK Drive remains car-free and that could add an amendment to the state constitution enshrining the right to choose to have an abortion. 

The city’s moderate and progressive factions are battling for control of the Board of Supervisors, the district attorney’s race will decide whether the city embraces a law-and-order approach to public safety and competing ballot measures will reshape how housing is built. 

The bottom line? There’s a reason why San Francisco’s power players are spending millions to influence how you cast your ballot: Your vote matters. 

Noah Baustin can be reached at