COVID-19 Voting, Explained


By Eleni Balakrishnan 


In addition to the choices on their ballots, San Francisco voters have many new options and some new restrictions to consider when they vote in this year’s election. 


San Francisco’s Department of Elections hopes to make the process as easy as possible for voters, especially with ever-present COVID-19 concerns. Registered voters of San Francisco are receiving ballot packets in the mail, which can be returned through the postal service or at various in-person drop-off locations.

Voters can easily hand in their ballot from their car. San Francisco, CA. Oct. 23, 2020. Photo by Melvin Wong/The Guardsman.

“The vast majority of voters will not need to take any action to receive a ballot in the Nov. 3 election and any registered voter may vote using a vote-by-mail ballot instead of going to the polls on Election Day,” said Director John Arntz in a press release. 


The ballot itself includes state and local propositions, and officials will be elected from the local to the presidential level. 


Voter registration closed on Oct. 19, but voters can cast a provisional ballot on Election Day. Non-citizen residents of the city may also register to vote in the San Francisco School Board elections this year, due to the passage of Prop N in 2016. 


Those who wish to mail their ballots do not need to pay for postage; they simply place their completed ballot card in the return envelope included in their packet, sign the envelope, and drop the envelope at any United States Postal Service box or location. 


Ballots must be postmarked before or on Nov. 3. 


Voters can also bring their completed ballots in-person to the city’s designated outdoor voting center or one of 11 ballot drop-off sites. 


The city’s main voting center opened Oct. 5 in front of Bill Graham Civic Auditorium at 99 Grove Street, and will be open Monday through Friday at 8 am to 5 pm, with shortened hours on weekends. Voters can vote at a ballot booth, drop off their completed ballot, or request curbside voting. 

On Oct. 31, each of the 11 supervisorial districts will open its own ballot drop-off site, according to the Department of Elections website. 


On Nov. 3, Election Day, 588 neighborhood polling places will open across the city, where voters can drop off their completed ballots from 7am to 8 pm. Both Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and each district’s ballot drop-off station will remain open as well. 


“At drop-off stations, voters deposit their voted ballots into sealed red ballot boxes that bear the official seal of the City and County of San Francisco and are monitored by Department of Elections personnel,” according to the Department of Elections website. Elections personnel will wear red vests to match. 


According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s interim guidance from Oct. 1, elections personnel are required to self-screen for COVID-19 and wear masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). They also have strict guidelines on washing and sanitizing their hands throughout their shifts, as well as disinfecting voting supplies and high-touch surfaces. 

Citizens on their way to the ballot box after filling out their mail-in ballots. San Francisco, CA. Oct. 23, 2020. Photo by Melvin Wong/The Guardsman.

Voters are also required to wear masks. Face coverings, gloves, and hand sanitizer will be provided at all in-person voting locations, and social distancing will be enforced. 


The Department of Elections’ press release said residents started receiving their ballots the week of Oct. 5. Meanwhile, “ballots that are personally returned must be delivered no later than the close of polls at 8:00 p.m. on Election Day, November 3.”



How to vote: 

  • By mail: 
  • In person: 
    • Oct. 5 – Nov. 3: 
      • Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, 99 Grove St. 
    • Oct. 31 – Nov. 3: 
      • Find your district’s drop-off station: 
        • District 1 – Anza Branch Library, 550 37th Ave.
        • District 2 – Golden Gate Valley Library, 1801 Green St.
        • District 3 – Portsmouth Square, Washington St at Walter U Lum Pl.
        • District 4 – Ortega Branch Library, 3223 Ortega St.
        • District 5 – Park Branch Library, 1833 Page St.
        • District 6 – Chase Center, 1655 3rd St.
        • District 7 – West Portal Branch Library, 190 Lenox Way
        • District 8 – Noe Valley/Sally Brunn Branch Library, 451 Jersey St.
        • District 9 – Mission Branch Library, 300 Bartlett St.
        • District 10 – Bayview/Linda Brooks-Burton Library, 5075 3rd St.
        • District 11 – Excelsior Branch Library, 4400 Mission St.
    • Nov. 3 (Election Day): 

Track your ballot @ 

Questions? Call the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 or write to


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