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Politics & Policy

Live election updates: City leaders react to early results

A crowded room with diverse people conversing, two women in the foreground smiling at each other.
Mayor London Breed meets with attendees at GrowSF’s Election Night party at Anina in Hayes Valley. | Source: Camille Cohen for The Standard

San Francisco voters cast their ballots Tuesday, and The Standard has been following along as residents made their voices heard on local, state and federal races.  

Read below for updates from around the city. As results come in, we’ll be updating our coverage. Along with a presidential primary race, San Francisco voters were deciding on:

9:30 p.m. | ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’

Mayor London Breed worked the room at Anina in Hayes Valley after early returns, soaking up the adoration on a strong night for moderate Democrats. All of her ballot measures—Propositions C (incentives for office-to-housing conversions), E (police powers) and F (drug screening for welfare recipients)—were leading after the first count.

“To see the initial, promising results is incredible,” Breed said.

She continued to shake hands and conduct interviews until staff came across the room to deliver a much-needed glass of water.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed addresses the crowd at the SF Democrats for Change Election Night party. | Source: Jesse Rogala/The Standard

Supervisor Matt Dorsey went ballistic after the Prop. B results were announced.  

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” he yelled with his arms in the air.

The measure—which dealt with police staffing levels—was originally his idea but hijacked by Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, who is running for mayor. The measure was going down to defeat by a 66% to 33% margin in early returns. 

“We told the truth, we won and we sent a message to City Hall: Stop playing games with public safety,” Dorsey said about Prop. B after the mayor brought him onstage.

At the progressive slate’s election night party at District Six in SoMa, Supervisor Shamann Walton appeared glum with the initial results of Props. E and F—measures that he and other progressives have vociferously opposed.

“Of course we want crime down. Of course we want people to pay for their crimes,” said Walton about Prop. E’s promise to give police more latitude to chase suspects in car pursuits “But I think having police officers chase people willy-nilly is going to have a lot of unintended consequences.”

—Josh Koehn and Gabe Greschler

8:45 p.m. | Initial results show Props. A, E and F leading as B flounders

The first batch of ballots has been counted. Early results show Propositions E and F leading with 62.62% and 65.39% voting yes, respectively. Prop. A, a $300 million affordable housing bond that needs a two-thirds majority to pass, had 67.71% voting yes in the early results. Prop. B, the measure to fund police with a future tax, was failing, with just 34% voting yes.

Meanwhile, incumbent Superior Court Judges Michael Isaku Begert and Patrick Thompson were headed for reelection, garnering almost 59% and about 52% of the votes counted so far.

The initial results include 83,190 vote-by-mail ballots that were received before Election Day. The Department of Elections plans to update the results again with in-person votes at 9:45 p.m.

—Stephanie K. Baer

8 p.m. | Polls have closed. Here’s when to expect results

And just like that, the polls have closed. But if you were still in line when the clock struck 8 p.m., stay put—you have the right to cast a ballot.

The first results are expected around 8:45 p.m., when the Department of Elections releases an initial tally of vote-by-mail ballots it received before Tuesday. The city will then update the results again at 9:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. with ballots that were cast in-person. There should be one more report after that. But that’s hardly the end of the story.

A man in red votes at a booth while another reads a paper in an ornate room with vintage decor.
Voters fill out their ballots at the Columbarium. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

In the last two elections—November and June 2022—that final election night report documented only about half of the votes that were eventually tallied in those races.

That’s because voters are still allowed to hustle their ballots into the mail on Election Day, meaning votes will continue to arrive at the Elections Department well after Tuesday. For this election, votes will be counted so long as they receive an Election Day postmark and arrive at the election department by March 12.

In San Francisco’s last five major elections, an average of 91% of voters cast ballots by mail, instead of in person. 

—Stephanie K. Baer and Noah Baustin

5:00 p.m. | Campaigns make last-minute push

In the late afternoon, candidates were hitting the streets to make their last-minute pitches to voters. Two incumbent Superior Court judges, Patrick Thompson and Michael Begert, held signs in the Castro. Both said they’d gotten a positive response from voters.

“I’ve been in every district, every farmers’ market, most BART stations in the city meeting people,” Begert said. “I’m counting on good turnout today because turnout has been low.”

A smiling man on a colorful crosswalk holds a campaign sign for Judge Michael Begert.
Judge Michael Begert is campaigning for reelection to the San Francisco County Superior Court. | Source: Josh Ram/The Standard

Nearby, a group of candidates for the Democratic County Central Committee gathered. Carrie Barnes, who’s running with a group of moderates called the Democrats for Change slate, sounded confident that its message was reaching voters.

“People are responding to our pro-housing, pro-public safety, commonsense messages, Barnes said. “I’ve heard from a lot of people looking at the GrowSF voter guide.”

Michael Nguyen, a progressive candidate for DCCC, said, “Voters I talk to don’t want more wiggle room for police and more unchecked police powers,” referring to Prop. E. Nguyen said he and other progressive candidates will be watching the results of the Prop. E and Prop. F votes closely.

—Josh Ram

4 p.m. | I haven’t voted yet. What are my options?

Don’t fret—though the clock is ticking, you still have a couple of options to ensure that your vote gets counted in San Francisco’s primary election. 

If you received a mail-in ballot and have already filled it out, it must be postmarked on or before March 5 for it to be counted by election officials. (Don’t forget to seal and sign the envelope. No stamp is needed.)

  • A map of the nearest USPS blue boxes can be found here.
  • Visit the city’s voter portal here to track your mail-in ballot.
People are seated at booths, filling out documents, with privacy dividers displaying text in multiple languages.
Vincent Strazzullo cast his vote at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

You also have the option of dropping off your ballot in-person until 8 p.m. tonight. There are numerous options, including City Hall, one of 37 official drop boxes or at over 500 polling stations across San Francisco. 

  • A list of the official drop boxes can be found here.
  • Your closest polling station can be found here by inputting your address.

If you’d like to vote the old-fashioned way, you have until 8 p.m. and can find your assigned polling station here.

Can I still vote even if I’m not registered? Yes, San Francisco allows “same-day voter registration” at City Hall and any polling station. However, certain contests must correspond to a voter’s address, so it is encouraged to visit your assigned polling station. (Your vote will be counted after its eligibility is confirmed, and you can track the ballot here.)

—Gabe Greschler

3:30 p.m. | Mayor London Breed confident

Soon after casting her ballot at City Hall, Mayor London Breed headed to Chinatown and walked with dozens of Chinese seniors to rally support for her ballot measures—especially Prop. E and Prop. F, which are related to drugs and police policy.

In an interview, Breed said she’s hopeful that the slate of moderate Democrats will win the Democratic County Central Committee race, but she also praised the progressive slate, saying it has some great labor and union activist candidates. She said the committee should focus more on big-picture issues.

A smiling woman in a blue blazer waves as she walks through a crowded hallway.
Mayor London Breed waves at election office employees after casting her vote at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

“My hope is that they’ll focus on the Democratic Party and what we need to do with the president and Congress,” Breed said. “We need to work collaboratively together despite our differences here locally.”

Earlier in the day, Breed noted that voter turnout in the election was very low and encouraged residents to make their voices heard. “We have not gotten as many ballots back as we would like at this time,” she said.

—Han Li

1:30 p.m. | What do the latest turnout numbers indicate?

Early data from the city’s Department of Elections indicates that a sizable chunk of the roughly half-million registered voters in San Francisco are not showing up to the polls for this March primary contest. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, 120,000 mail-in ballots had been returned to the city, according to Department of Elections Director John Arntz. That figure represents about 24% of registered voters and means San Francisco could see the worst turnout for a presidential primary since 2012, when only 31% of registered voters cast a ballot and former President Barack Obama was the incumbent presidential candidate. 

Turnout for presidential primaries has historically been pretty bad, though numbers hovered at around 60% in both 2020 and 2016. Arntz said the contests have, on average, brought out just 49% of registered voters since 1972. 

“We’re not going to catch up to the 2020 numbers,” said Eric McGhee, senior fellow and policy director at the Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s too big of a gap.”

A voter stands at a check-in area with booths and a "March 5, 2024 Presidential Primary Election" sign.
People check in at a counter before voting at City Hall on Tuesday. | Source: Eric Risberg/AP Photo

The reasons for the low turnout are varied, politics experts say. They include this year’s absence of a competitive presidential race that usually drives voters to the polls. Others say this year’s propositions may not be too exciting for San Franciscans.

It’s not exactly clear which ideological camp low turnout numbers may benefit, according to political observers. 

Nationally, low turnout usually benefits more moderate candidates since those engaged are older and wealthier. But San Francisco could prove to be an anomaly, experts told The Standard, since the high proportion of mail-in ballots usually tilts toward benefiting progressives.

—Gabe Greschler

1 p.m. | Voters say what issues are bringing them to the polls

In recent San Francisco elections, about 90% of voters have cast their ballots by mail. But there are still thousands of people who vote in person. San Francisco has over 500 designated polling places that are open Tuesday until 8 p.m., and early voting has been taking place at City Hall for weeks.

The Standard dropped by City Hall on Monday and Tuesday to find out what issues were on voters’ minds and what was bringing them out to the polls.

Jonathan Munevar, 36, a native of Los Angeles who lives close to Civic Center, said he was voting Tuesday in part to cast a ballot against Proposition E, which would expand police powers—including the use of drones—while curtailing the oversight abilities of the Police Commission.

“We have to keep police accountable,” he said. “The idea of giving police more technology without oversight is insane.”

In the confusing U.S. Senate race to replace the late Dianne Feinstein, Munevar said he was casting his vote for Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland.

“Her vote against the Iraq War was brave, at a time when people were suspicious of you if you were against the war,” he said.

Daniel McCormick, a NoPa resident in his 20s, was also casting his ballot in Tuesday’s election at City Hall and said he votes in all local, state and federal races.

Like Munevar, McCormick said he was eager to cast a ballot for Lee in the Senate race.

“Barbara Lee earned my vote by being a vocal ally to Palestine,” he said. “I hope that plays an important role in separating her from the crowded field of Democrats, though I wouldn’t say I have too much faith there.”

McCormick also said he believes mental health services are a hot issue for many reasons but was concerned that Prop. 1, a statewide $6.4 billion measure supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom to expand mental health treatment beds, threatens to destabilize local programs.

A worker in gloves sorts ballots.
An elections office employee helps process ballots at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

Jim Meininger, a sixth-grade teacher and Marina resident, said he is disgruntled with the current city leadership. Although voters won’t get to cast ballots for mayor until November, that race was already on his mind.  

“I’m excited Mark Farrell threw his hat in the ring. He’s a little more moderate, and I consider myself a moderate liberal,” said Meininger, who was voting Monday at City Hall. 

Farrell, a former city supervisor who served as acting mayor after the death of Ed Lee, is challenging Mayor London Breed in November. Also in that race are Levi Strauss heir Daniel Lurie and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin is also expected to jump into the race.

Voters like Meininger said they are looking for change. 

“We really need a shakeup in general and better representatives to deal with petty crime. I see it all over my neighborhood. My neighborhood has definitely changed in the last 10 years, not for the better,” he said. “It’s time to really make people accountable. … My partner is an SF native and is frustrated by the same things.”

Sahan Reddy moved to San Francisco four months ago and lives in Hayes Valley but spends most of his time in the Mission. Housing and public transportation, he said, are important issues to him.

San Francisco voters were being asked to decide on two propositions related to housing this week—Proposition A, an affordable housing bond, and Proposition C, a measure that would waive the transfer tax on any property converted from commercial to residential use when it is sold for the first time.

“I’m a brand new transplant from Chicago. … Housing, crime and public safety are important to me in the city,” Reddy said as he voted Monday. “More housing is a big issue.  … Everything should just be upzoned, and we’ll let the market work it out. … Let’s build more housing. Anything to ease the pain of renters is good. In addition to housing, public transit needs to be a focal point all the time.”

A person walks a dog past a "Vote Here" sign at an ornate building entrance.
Michael Bellings walks with his dog Leo to drop off his ballot for the primary election at the Columbarium in San Francisco on Tuesday. The building dates to 1898 and contains over 8,500 niches. | Source: Eric Risberg/AP Photo

Michael Solomon, a San Francisco resident since the 1990s and Noe Valley resident who works for the city, said the city is facing “the same old issues … housing, helping people on are on the streets, helping raise the city up a bit.”

Unlike Meininger, he said, “I think we’re on the right trajectory, but there’s still a lot of work to do.” 

Solomon said his friends agree with him that homeless encampments need to be cleaned up. 

“I see the city’s stats and improvements, but I empathize with my friend’s frustrations,” he said. “People go by their experiences. If you live on a block with issues, you see them 100% of the time.”

Anthony, a hospitality ambassador in his 20s who would not give his last name, said Tuesday he voted against Prop. 1 and Prop. A.

“I work with the homeless every day, so I want them to be taken care of,” he said. “But I don’t trust the city or state to spend the money effectively. Both already have enough money and resources to deal with homelessness and mental health issues.” 

Like Munevar, he said he is strongly against Prop. E, the measure that would expand police powers. “The city already has enough cameras and surveillance, and the police don’t need any more,” he said.

Mayor Breed cast her ballot at City Hall shortly after noon on Tuesday and was greeted by a slew of reporters. | Source: Josh Ram/The Standard

Rebecca Kinney, a former city employee in her 50s, also said she was voting against Prop. E. “Are you kidding me? I am not anti-police, but there is already enough surveillance,” she said Tuesday at City Hall. 

She was also against Prop. C, the tax reduction for office-to-housing conversions.  

“Screw that! The bill will determine whether developers get a smaller or bigger yacht,” she said. 

Kinney said she and her partner rent and can’t afford to buy a home in San Francisco, and she wants to see more affordable housing across the city for families and for middle-income people. Though she was torn on the statewide Prop. 1 and San Francisco’s Prop. A, she voted in favor of both. 

Sherry Velazquez, a San Franciscan in her 20s and resident of Nob Hill who works in the Financial District, said she was concerned about street conditions.

“I love San Francisco,” she said as she voted Monday at City Hall. “I don’t want to be afraid to walk down the street as a woman. I want to see tourists back and see our city growing. I really want to see some changes because I love this city.”

—Josh Ram

11 a.m. | What vote outcomes will we know by Tuesday night?

Election parties are no fun without a toast to a decisive victory, or at the very least a drink to cleanse the disappointment of a resounding defeat. But in California’s still-young universal vote-by-mail era, election night has brought less clarity, and fewer votes tallied, than in yesteryear. Tuesday’s election may very well continue that trend.

In San Francisco, the Department of Elections will release an initial report at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. That report will tally all the vote-by-mail ballots it received before Election Day. That will be followed by the results of all the in-person voting in the city, with those reports scheduled for 9:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m., with a final late-night release coming whenever workers wrap up counting.

A worker in a mask sorts ballots
Zora Arum, an elections office employee, sorts ballots at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

But in the last two elections—November and June 2022—that final election night report documented only about half of the votes that were eventually tallied in those races.

That’s because voters are still allowed to hustle their ballots into the mail on Election Day, meaning votes will continue to arrive at the election department well after Tuesday.

For this election, votes will be counted so long as they receive an Election Day postmark and arrive at the Election Department by March 12. (You also have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to leave a ballot in a drop box if you don’t get it into the mail in time.)

In San Francisco’s last five major elections, an average of 91% of voters cast ballots by mail, instead of in person. 

In some races, the margins in Tuesday’s early reports will likely be wide enough for The Standard to project the final result. But for the close ones, it’s very possible that many people in the city will go to sleep Tuesday still unclear on whether their vote went to the winning side or not. 

After all, if the Tuesday reports contain just over half of the eventual vote count, that will leave plenty of room for margins to change in the coming days. And of course, we won’t actually know how many votes people cast in the race until after March 12, the deadline for mail ballots to arrive.

So save a few cold ones in the fridge, San Francisco politicos. That victory toast might have to wait a few days.

—Noah Baustin

A woman wearing a mask and gloves works diligently with ballots at city hall.
Joy Raasch, an elections office employee, sorts ballots at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

6 a.m. | San Francisco elections: What’s at stake in Tuesday’s vote

San Francisco voters are heading to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots on a number of issues, ranging from two San Francisco Superior Court seats and seven local ballot measures to a statewide mental health initiative. 

The election is an opportunity for voters to weigh in on the state of the city and decide if they want to nudge it in a more conservative (for San Francisco, at least) direction, or reject “moderate” policies—some pushed by wealthy tech executives, Mayor London Breed and even some of her chief competitors.  

Data indicates that voter turnout may be low: As of Monday, only 84,000 ballots had been returned, representing about 17% of registered San Francisco voters. In addition to state and local issues, voters will also:

  • Decide which two U.S. Senate candidates will advance to the November election to fill the seat vacated by the late Dianne Feinstein;
  • Choose presidential candidates for November; and
  • Elect representatives for Democratic and Republican County Central Committees.

In San Francisco, Propositions E and F are among the most closely watched ballot measures, both backed by Breed. Prop. E would make it easier for police to use surveillance technology and chase suspects. It would also curb the ability of the Police Commission to enact new policies for San Francisco cops without community input. 

Proposition F, also sponsored by Breed, would subject some adult recipients of county cash welfare to drug screening if they are suspected of being addicted to illegal substances. If found to be addicted, they would be required to enroll in some form of treatment to continue receiving benefits. 

A person in a pink outfit and a face mask is examining papers in a room with labeled "Elections" bins.
Margaret Hirsch backfolds ballots at City Hall in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

If voters pass both Propositions E and F, it could give Breed’s hopes for reelection in November a boost. The mayor has been facing low approval ratings, and is being challenged by Levi Strauss heir Daniel Lurie, former Mayor and Supervisor Mark Farrell, and Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. 

Farrell has been tacking a bit right of Breed as he jockeys for an advantage in a race that is already shaping up to be one of the most expensive in San Francisco history. Breed’s competitors have been hammering her record on everything from homelessness and policing to the drug crisis. 

Other ballot measures include Prop. A, a $300 million affordable housing bond that’s attracted widespread support among elected officials; Prop. B, which would establish police staffing minimums contingent on a future tax hike; and Prop. C, which would waive the transfer tax for properties converted from offices to housing the first time they are sold. 

Prop. D, sponsored by the Ethics Commission, would tighten up city ethics rules around receiving gifts. Prop. G would encourage the San Francisco Unified School District to bring back algebra for eighth graders. 

San Francisco voters will also decide on two Superior Court seats. Prosecutor Jean Roland is challenging incumbent Judge Patrick Thompson and attorney Albert “Chip” Zecher is challenging incumbent Judge Michael Isaku Begert. Roland’s and Zecher’s supporters have billed them as tough-on-crime candidates while trying to paint the incumbents as soft on criminals.

The Democratic County Central Committee, or the governing board of the local Democratic Party, is also up for grabs. The normally obscure race has attracted outsize focus this year from moderate political groups who want to move the local party back to the center. More than $1.6 million has been poured into these races, which are not subject to the usual $500 maximum for individual officeholders. 

Proposition 1, backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is the only statewide measure on the ballot. The proposition would borrow $6.4 billion to create thousands of new mental health treatment beds and modify a tax on millionaires that funds mental health services.

A man at a podium gestures passionately, with a "Yes on 1" sign, and attentive people around him.
Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigns for Proposition 1 in Los Angeles in January. | Source: Myung J. Chun/LA Times/Getty Images

Polls in San Francisco are open until 8 p.m. Tuesday, and first results are expected by 8:45 p.m.

The San Francisco Department of Elections will count all vote-by-mail ballots received with valid postmarks delivered by mail by March 12. Mailed ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday to be counted.

The city has over 500 polling places. To find your assigned polling place, check this map.

Voters who have filled out ballots at home may drop them off at City Hall or any other polling place by 8 p.m.

Voters may also drop ballots into one of 37 official drop boxes throughout the city. Ballots must be deposited by 8 p.m. Tuesday to be counted.

—Annie Gaus