Accessible Voting and Services

Accessibility sign marking an accessible path to a polling place

 

The Department of Elections is committed to ensuring all voters can participate in elections, and provides various accessible programs and services to help voters cast their vote privately and independently. Four federal laws guide many of these programs and services:

Voting Rights Act of 1965, which among many other provisions, mandates that any voter requiring assistance may receive it from a person of the voter’s choice, other than the voter’s employer or agent of that employer, or officer or agent of the voter’s union.

Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984, which promotes the fundamental right to vote by requiring “access for elderly and disabled individuals to registration facilities and polling places”.

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which requires public entities to provide auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in and enjoy the benefits of service, program or activity conducted by a public entity.

Help America Vote Act of 2002, which among other things, enables greater opportunity for access and participation in the election process, including provisions regarding accessible voting systems at each polling place.

The Department meets regularly with its Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee to discuss and seek ways to improve and expand access to voting and services for all voters in San Francisco. If you are interested in collaborating with the Department to improve voter accessibility in San Francisco, visit the Participate in Advisory Committees page.

If you have questions or require further assistance, please contact the Department using the contact form, or call (415) 554-4375. The Department also offers American Sign Language Interpretation at its office and teletypewriter (TTY) services. TTY users may call (415) 554-4386.

Accessible Voter Information Pamphlets

San Francisco voters are mailed a standard 12-point font paper version of the Voter Information Pamphlet approximately one month before Election Day. In addition, the Department posts the Pamphlet online in various formats: HTML, XML, and PDF, all of which are available in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Filipino. An MP3 audio version is also available in English.

The San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet is available in additional accessible formats, including a large-print booklet, audiocassette, and thumb-drive (MP3 audio). To request the Pamphlet in one of these formats, use the contact form, or call (415) 554-4375. Teletypewriter (TTY) users may also call (415) 554-4386.

Accessible Ballots and Voting Equipment

Paper, touchscreen, and audio ballots are available in English, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin audio), Spanish, and Filipino at all polling places on Election Day and the City Hall Voting Center, beginning 29 days before the election.

Paper Ballot

To assist with marking a paper ballot, the Department provides easy-grip pens, large print voting instructions, and optical sheets that magnify print.

Touchscreen Ballot

For touchscreen voting, the AVC Edge II accessible voting machine is equipped with a touchscreen viewing device with large-print text and adjustable font controls. To use the touchscreen ballot, voters make selections by touching the screen, and may review their selections on a paper record before casting their vote.

Audio Ballot

For audio voting, the AVC Edge II accessible voting machine is equipped with headphones and a Braille-embossed handheld keypad, with keys coded by color and shape. To use the audio ballot, voters are provided with audio instructions and guided through the ballot, and may listen to their selections before casting their vote.

Access to Polling Places on Election Day

To meet the needs of all San Francisco voters, the Department offers a variety of tools, services, and assistive technologies on Election Day, and continually evaluates and seeks to improve polling place accessibility.

Entryways and Voting Areas

On Election Day, “Accessible Entry” signs are posted outside polling places to direct voters towards the accessible entrance to the polling place. For the November 8, 2016 Election, 100% of Polling Places in San Francisco were designated as compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act requirements for accessibility to voters, and the Department strives for 100% accessible designation in every election. To learn more about how the Department determines polling place accessibility, view this short video.

To confirm whether your polling place has an accessible entrance and voting area, check the back cover of your Voter Information Pamphlet for the international symbol of access, use the Polling Place and Sample Ballot Lookup Tool, or call (415) 554-4375. Teletypewriter (TTY) users may also call (415) 554-4386.

If your polling place is not accessible, you may choose to vote at a nearby accessible polling place. Use the Polling Place and Sample Ballot Lookup Tool or contact the Department to find the nearest accessible polling place that has the same ballot as your precinct.

Seated Voting

The Department offers chairs and designated wheelchair accessible voting booths at all polling places and the City Hall Voting Center. The international symbol of access is posted on accessible voting booths so that they can be easily identified by voters.

Voting Tools

All polling places provide large-print instructions on how to mark a ballot, optical sheets to magnify the print on the paper ballot or other election materials, and pen attachments to make the writing utensils easier to grip.

Personal Assistive Devices

The accessible AVC Edge II voting machine allows voters to connect a personal assistive device such as a head-pointer or a multi-user sip/puff device when voting.

The Department can also dispatch a head-pointer or a multi-user sip/puff device to a polling place on Election Day upon request. If you would like to request such device to be available at your polling place, please contact the Department using the contact form, or call (415) 554-4375. You may also contact the Department using TTY service by calling (415) 554-4386.

Personal Assistance

The Department trains poll workers to ask all voters if they would like to receive assistance related to voting. Poll workers may assist with reading the ballot to the voter and/or marking the voter’s choices using a paper or touch screen ballot. Alternatively, a voter may bring up to two people into the voting booth to assist with marking the ballot.

Curbside Voting

Any voter who cannot reach the voting area at the polling place or the City Hall Voting Center may request to vote “curbside”. Curbside voting allows voters to park as close as possible to the voting site and vote, whether the voter is at the curb or in a car. When notified that someone has requested curbside voting, a poll worker or staff member brings a Roster of Voters to the voter to sign, as well as a ballot, a ballot secrecy sleeve, and a ballot marking pen, and assists the voter, if necessary. When the voter finishes voting, he or she places the ballot in a ballot secrecy sleeve, which is then placed by a poll worker or staff member into a voting machine or a secure, sealed ballot container.

Additional Accessible Voting Options and Services

The Department provides additional accessible voting options and services to ensure all voters are able to cast their ballot privately and independently.

City Hall Voting Center

The City Hall Voting Center is open to all San Francisco voters starting 29 days before every election and offers the same accessible voting options that are available at San Francisco polling places, including accessible voting machines, page-sized magnifiers, foam pen grips to make the writing instruments easier to grip, wheelchair accessible voting booths, seated voting, curbside voting, materials in large print. In addition, the Department offers American Sign Language Interpretation via video at the City Hall Voting Center.

The City Hall Voting Center is located on the ground floor of San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 48 and is accessible from all four entrances. Visit the Vote at the City Hall Voting Center page for more information.

Voting by Mail

Approximately one month before the election, the Department mails ballots to permanent vote-by-mail voters and those who have requested one-time vote-by-mail ballots. Along with their ballots, voters receive voting instructions with information about election deadlines, ballot return options, and a reminder that voters can track the status of their ballots using the Ballot Status Lookup Tool.

Voters can return their voted ballot to the Department using the postage-paid return envelope enclosed in the Vote-by-Mail ballot packet. Ballots can be returned in person to the City Hall Voting Center beginning 29 days before the election, or to any polling place in California on Election Day. Voters may also return their ballots to the curbside drop-off stations outside City Hall or authorize someone to return a ballot on their behalf. For more information about voting by mail, visit the Vote by Mail page

Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail System

Enacted in 2016, Assembly Bill 2252 makes statutory changes to state election law to establish a remote accessible vote-by-mail system. The system must allow voters to receive a blank ballot to mark electronically, print, and then cast by returning the printed ballot to the Department, and is meant to improve accessibility for voters with disabilities by providing an electronic means of marking a ballot outside of a polling place.

For the remote accessible vote-by-mail system to be used, the system must be first certified by the California Secretary of State. For information on the voting technology status, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

Ballot pickup and/or Delivery Program

Starting 29 days before the election up until Election Day, the Department facilitates ballot pick up and delivery. Any voter may authorize a person to pick up and return a ballot on his or her behalf. Voters may use the Ballot Pickup Authorization Form or submit their own written authorization. The written authorization must be signed under penalty of perjury and include the voter’s name, date of birth, residential address, and the name of person authorized to pick up the ballot.

Upon request, if the voter is homebound, in the hospital, in a residential care facility, or otherwise unable to go to the polls, the Department can deliver or pick up a ballot for the voter. On Election Day, the Department organizes personnel dedicated solely to delivering and picking up ballots for voters who find themselves unable to make it to the polls.

If you require additional assistance to receive or return your ballot, please contact the Department using the contact form, or call (415) 554-4375.

Residential Care Facility, Hospital, and Inmate Voting Programs

The Department has targeted programs in place to provide election-related services to people in convalescent and residential care facilities, hospitals, and detention facilities. These programs include voter registration, vote-by-mail ballot application, ballot pickup or delivery, assistance in reading and/or marking the ballot, and other services as needed.