Observing the Process

The Department of Elections (Department) conducts all public federal, state, district and municipal elections in the City and County in a manner that is  free, fair, and functional.

While conducting elections under the rules and regulations established by federal, state, and local laws – notably, the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the City’s Language Access ordinance, the Department of Elections strives to maintain an open and transparent process that increases the public's confidence in San Francisco's election process. Therefore, prior to each election, the Department will invite representatives from political parties’ central committees, the Civil Grand Jury, League of Women Voters, advocacy groups, and the media to form a panel of Official Election Observers. Each Observer of the election is invaluable and helps strengthen the democratic process. By facilitating observation, the Department hopes to encourage voter participation and build confidence in elections, ensure the integrity of elections, and provide an avenue for public input.

Panelists serve three key functions: providing an avenue for public observation of and input into election processes; assisting in ensuring the integrity of election processes; and encourage participation and build voter confidence in election processes. Panelists are invited to observe various election processes, such as Logic and Accuracy testing of voting equipment, processing of vote‐by‐mail ballots, poll worker training classes, voter outreach presentations, Election Day activities, Election Night ballot tabulation and reporting, and post‐election Canvass, including the 1% manual tally of ballots cast. 


The Department will host an introductory meeting, about a month before the election, to provide Panelists an opportunity to learn about the Department and the observation process. If you and/or members of your organization are interested in serving on the Election Observer Panel, please complete and submit the application below. Once your application is reviewed, you will receive additional information and an official invitation to join the Panel.

For more information regarding observable activities, please contact Matthew Selby at (415) 554-4375.

Secretary of State Memorandum regarding Observer rights and responsibilities

Observer Guide (PDF)

November 8, 2016 Schedule of Observable Activities (PDF)

Observer Panel Application (PDF)