Vote by Mail

Person dropping a completed vote-by-mail ballot into a postal service mailbox

 

Any registered voter in San Francisco can vote by mail. Applications to vote by mail must be received by the Department of Elections no later than the legal deadline, which is seven days before an election.

To find out if you are already a vote-by-mail voter, use the Voter Registration Status Lookup tool.

Apply to Vote by Mail

If you are not already a vote-by-mail voter, you can apply to vote by mail for one election only or become a permanent vote-by-mail voter.

Apply to Vote By Mail for One Election Only

There are three ways to request a "one time" vote-by-mail ballot for the next election:

  • Use the Department’s online Vote-by-Mail Application tool*
  • Call (415) 554-4375*
  • Complete and submit a paper vote-by-mail application to the Department of Elections in person, by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to SFVote@sfgov.org. You may download the vote-by-mail application online or complete the application on the back of your Voter Information Pamphlet, mailed approximately 30 days before an election

*This option is only available for voters without permanent vote-by-mail status. Any changes to your permanent vote-by-mail information require your signature.

Become a Permanent Vote-by-Mail Voter

Any voter can become a permanent vote-by-mail voter. Voters with permanent vote-by-mail status are automatically mailed ballots approximately one month before every election.

To apply or make changes to your permanent vote-by-mail information, submit a Vote-By-Mail Application to the Department of Elections in person, by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to SFVote@sfgov.org. Such changes to your information require your signature and must be submitted by the vote-by-mail application deadline, which is seven days before an election.

Information for Permanent Vote-by-Mail Voters

The Department begins mailing ballots to permanent vote-by-mail voters approximately one month before each election, and continues mailing ballots through the request deadline, which is seven days before an election.

Your ballot and other election materials will be sent to your mailing address. If you do not have a mailing address on file with the Department of Elections, your ballot will be sent to your residential address. To find out if you have a mailing address on file, use the Voter Registration Status Lookup tool.

Please note: the United States Postal Service does not forward most election materials. If you no longer receive deliveries at your address, your ballot may be returned to the Department of Elections as “undeliverable.” Follow the instructions below to update your mailing address on file with the Department.

How to Change Your Mailing Address for One Election Only

To change your mailing address for the next election only, submit a signed Vote-By-Mail Application to the Department of Elections in person, by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to SFVote@sfgov.org. If a ballot has already been sent to you, a second ballot will be sent to your new mailing address after the Department processes your application.

How to Change Your Permanent Mailing Address

To change your permanent mailing address, submit a signed Registration Update Form to the Department of Elections in person, by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to SFVote@sfgov.org. If a ballot has already been sent to you, a second ballot will be sent to your new mailing address after the Department processes your application.

How to Remove Your Permanent Vote-by-Mail Status

To remove your permanent vote-by-mail status, submit a signed Registration Update Form to the Department of Elections in person, by mail, by fax to (415) 554-4372, or as a scanned email attachment to .

If a ballot has already been sent, you still have the option to vote in person at your assigned polling place or the City Hall Voting Center.

To vote at your polling place, bring your vote-by-mail ballot and return envelope to exchange for a polling place ballot. If you do not bring your vote-by-mail ballot and envelope to exchange, you can cast a provisional ballot. Your provisional ballot will be counted after the Department of Elections confirms that you are eligible to vote in San Francisco and that you did not cast another ballot.

To vote at the City Hall Voting Center, visit the ground floor of City Hall during early voting hours. You do not need to bring your vote-by-mail ballot to receive a new ballot or vote in person. Visit the Vote at the City Hall Voting Center page for hours and more information

Returning Your Vote-by-Mail Ballot

Remember to return your vote-by-mail ballot on time, either by mail or in person. To be counted, mailed ballots must be postmarked before or on Election Day and received by the Department of Elections no later than Friday, three days after Election Day. Ballots returned in person must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Complete the Return Envelope

To return your vote-by-mail ballot, complete and sign the lavender-colored vote-by-mail return envelope. Be sure to write clearly and accurately and sign your name with the signature you used when registering. The most common reasons that vote-by-mail ballots cannot be counted are:

  • The voter did not sign the return envelope
  • The signature on the return envelope does not compare to the signature in the voter registration record
  • The return envelope is postmarked after Election Day or received later than the Friday after Election Day

If you believe that your signature may have changed since you last registered to vote, you may update your signature on file with the Department of Elections by re-registering.

How to Return Your Ballot by Mail

To return your ballot by mail, fold your ballot cards one-by-one and seal all cards inside the completed and signed return envelope. If you return your ballot on Election Day by using a blue USPS mailbox, check the noted collection time to verify that the ballot return envelope will be postmarked on the same day.

Voters are encouraged to return their ballots early to avoid any potential postal service delays. If you are uncertain whether your ballot will reach the Department of Elections on time, you may return your ballot in person.

How to Return Your Ballot In Person

To return your ballot in person, fold your ballot cards one-by-one and seal all cards inside the completed and signed return envelope. For your ballot to be counted, it must be returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day. See the table below for hours and locations for returning your ballot in person.

  Hours Location
City Hall Voting Center Monday through Friday, starting 29 days before Election Day
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday
(two weekends before Election Day)
10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Election Day
7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Ground Floor of San Francisco
City Hall
Click here to get directions
Drop-Off Stations Outside City Hall Saturday and Sunday
(the weekend before Election Day)

Monday, the day before Election Day
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Election Day
7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Outside two City Hall entrances:
the main entrance at
Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
(Polk Street) and
the Grove Street entrance
Any Polling Place in California* Election Day
7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Polling Places
across California

*Beginning in 2017, California voters are authorized to return their vote-by-mail ballots to any polling place in the State.

Authorize Someone to Return Your Ballot

You may authorize anyone to return your ballot by providing the required information on the back of your vote-by-mail return envelope. The same return deadlines apply.

Tracking Your Vote-by-Mail Ballot

Use the Department’s Ballot Status Lookup Tool to track your ballot as it moves through the nine steps of the election process, from the date your request for a ballot is processed to when your ballot is counted. The tool will also inform you if there are any issues preventing the Department of Elections from counting your ballot.

To request a replacement ballot by mail after a vote-by-mail ballot has already been sent, you can use the tool’s “Replacement Ballot Request” feature.

“Help! I Haven’t Received My Ballot!”

The Department of Elections begins mailing ballots to permanent vote-by-mail voters approximately one month before each election. The Department continues mailing ballots until the deadline for vote-by-mail requests, which is seven days before an election. Ballots typically begin arriving in voters’ mailboxes about three weeks before each election.

If you have not received a ballot in the mail and you think you should have, the Department of Elections is here to help. To receive a ballot, follow these steps:

  1. Use the Voter Registration Status Lookup tool to confirm your registration status and verify that your information is current.

  2. Use the Ballot Status Lookup Tool to check what date your ballot packet was delivered to the post office. Due to the high volume of election-related mail, please allow the postal service at least three to five business days from this date to deliver your ballot.

  3. If you have not received your ballot within this expected timeframe, you have several options:
    • Request a replacement ballot by mail using the Ballot Status Lookup Tool

    • Receive a replacement ballot in person at the or authorize someone to pick up a ballot for you

    • Cast a provisional ballot at your polling place on Election Day. Your provisional ballot will be counted after the Department of Elections confirms that you are eligible to vote in San Francisco and that you did not cast another ballot.