Permissible and Prohibited Election Day Conduct
Election Day activities are open to public observation. San Francisco residents, members of the media, campaigns and candidates, and other interested parties are encouraged to observe the election process.
The Department of Elections reminds Election Day observers of the rules and responsibilities related to observing the election process, and provides notice regarding permissible polling place activities. In compliance with local, state, and federal law, campaign supporters, media, and members of the public are expected to conduct their activities in a manner that ensures a safe and secure voting environment for all.
The Department of Elections is committed to ensuring all voters have a safe, secure, and private voting experience. The Department assigns nearly 100 field staff to monitor poll activities, ensuring voters can cast their vote independently and privately without interference.
Anyone who believes they have witnessed a possible incidence of election interference, voter intimidation, or fraud, please contact the Department of Elections at (415) 554-4375 or the District Attorney’s Voter Fraud Hotline at (415) 551-9507. The Department of Elections will also forward any reports to the District Attorney’s Office.
Media and Observers
Media outlets and other interested parties are welcome to observe Election Day activities. Media and election observers are prohibited from:
- Obstructing the election table
- Interfering with polling place procedures
- Entering the voting booth area
- Observing or recording voters marking their ballot
- Asking voters inside the polling place about how they voted
Cameras and video equipment may be used under certain circumstances, provided such activities do not interfere with voting, intimidate voters or poll workers, or compromise voters’ privacy. For instance, a credentialed media organization may photograph or film a candidate voting at a polling place, as long as no one at the polling place objects.
Exit polling is surveying voters immediately after they leave the polls to ask how or for whom they voted. Pollsters and members of the media are allowed to conduct exit polls, provided they do so in a manner that complies with election law. Organizations conducting exit polling are expected to do so at least 25 feet from the polling place, in a quiet, non-disruptive manner that does not interfere with election procedures.
Electioneering is the visible or audible dissemination of information that advocates for or against any candidate or measure on the ballot within 100 feet of where voting is taking place, either at a polling place or an elections official’s office. Electioneering is strictly prohibited.
Examples of prohibited electioneering activities and materials include:
- Displaying a candidate’s name, likeness, or logo
- Displaying a ballot measure’s number, title, subject, or logo
- Wearing or distributing buttons, hats, pencils, pens, shirts, signs, or stickers with information about candidates or issues on the ballot
- Audible broadcasting of information about candidates or measures that appear on the ballot
- Soliciting signatures for a candidate petition, a recall petition, or any other petition within 100 feet of a polling place
These provisions are set forth by California Elections Code § 18370. Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
If you witness any form of electioneering within 100 feet of where voting is taking place, please inform the Poll Inspector who oversees the polling place. The Poll Inspector will remind the individual or group engaging in electioneering activities of the rules. The Poll Inspector will also alert to Department to the activity, and, if necessary, the Department will dispatch additional field support staff to ensure that electioneering ceases.