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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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  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?

To vote in San Francisco, you must be a San Francisco resident and a registered voter.

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2: Who can register to vote?

You are eligible to register to vote if you are:

  • A citizen of the United States;
  • A resident of California;
  • At least 18 years of age on or before Election Day; and
  • Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

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3: How do I register to vote?

To register to vote, you must submit a completed voter registration form to the Department of Elections. To get a voter registration form, you can:

  • Call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 and request that one to be mailed to you;
  • Fill out an online registration form on the California Secretary of State Web site, and a completed form will be mailed to you. After you receive the form, sign it and mail it to the Department of Elections. The Department of Elections recommends you use this service at least one month before Election Day; or
  • Pick one up at the Department of Elections, the Department of Motor Vehicles, at public libraries, or at post offices throughout San Francisco.

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4: 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.

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

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5: When must I re-register to vote?

You must re-register to vote if you move, change your name, or if you want to change your party affiliation.

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6: 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. If you do not have either one of these documents, you must provide the last four digits of your Social Security number.

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7: When I register to vote, do I need to join a political party?

When you register to vote, you will be asked if you want to be affiliated with a political party. There are currently seven qualified political parties in California: the American Independent Party, the Americans Elect 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 join a political party, you may “decline to state” a political party. Decline-to-state, or “independent”, voters may be able to participate in a party’s primary election based on California’s modified primary system.

For more information on political parties and California's Modified primary system, visit the California Secretary of State Web site or call 1-800-345-VOTE.

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8: How do I find out if I am registered to vote?

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

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

You can register to vote if:

  • You have completed your prison term for a felony conviction; or
  • You have been released from parole for a felony conviction; or
  • You are on federal or state probation; or
  • You are incarcerated in county jail either awaiting trial or serving a sentence for a misdemeanor offense.

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10: Where do I vote on Election Day?

On Election Day you will 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 the polls to vote. To find the location of your polling place:

  • Look on the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet; or
  • Call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375.

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11: What time does my polling place open and close?

On Election Day, polling places are open from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

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12: How can I vote by mail?

Complete a vote-by-mail application to vote by mail in the next election. The forms are available:

  • On the Department’s Web site: Vote-by-Mail Application;
  • On the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet; or
  • At the office of the Department of Elections in City Hall.

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.

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13: How can I become a permanent vote-by-mail voter?

Complete a permanent vote-by-mail application and the Department of Elections will automatically mail you a ballot before every election. Applications are available:

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14: How can I vote early at City Hall?

You can vote early at the office of the Department of Elections in City Hall beginning 29 days before each election. Voting hours are from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. the last two weekends before the election. You may also vote at City Hall on Election Day from 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m.

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

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15: What is Ranked-Choice Voting?

Voters passed Ranked-Choice voting as an amendment to the City Charter in March 2002. 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.

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16: Who is elected using ranked-choice voting?

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.

For more information, see Ranked-Choice Voting .

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17: 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 initially to provide identification if you did not enter your California Driver's License, California Identification number or the last four digits of your social security number on your registration form.

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18: Are voting materials available in languages other than English?

In compliance with federal law and local ordinance, the Department of Elections provides voter services and official election materials in Chinese and Spanish, in addition to English. If you would like to receive election materials in Chinese and Spanish, call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375.

Voter registration applications, distribution requests, cancellation/correction forms; Vote-by-mail applications; voter information brochures; and the Voter Information Pamphlet are also available in Chinese and Spanish on the Department's Web site.

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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 access the list of qualified write-in candidates by calling the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 or on the Department's Web site.

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

San Franciscan voters use an optical scan voting machine to cast their ballots at the polling place. This machine is a paper-based voting system that optically scans the marks that you make on your paper ballot and counts the votes electronically when the ballot is inserted.

Additionally, each polling place has one accessible touchscreen voting machine 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: 7/21/2014 11:59:40 AM