You will, however, need to be a citizen, a resident of San Francisco, 18 years old, and not be serving a sentence or on parole or probation for a felony. Also have your driver’s license or ID or last four digits of your Social Security number handy.
Other options include picking up and filling out a voter registration card at a local library branch, DMV, post office, or at City Hall.
San Francisco has a current total of 441,799 people registered to vote overall – a roughly 5,500 increase from last year, and a little more than half the city’s total population. 2,720 eligible voters have registered since the beginning of this month alone. Now it’s your turn!
Turnout, however, has recently been dismal. Last November only about half of eligible voters did so, and in June of 2014 less than 30 percent of voters participated. The highest turnout in the last ten years was 81 percent in November of 2008.
So why bother? This November 3 Election Day is a particularly important one locally because the outcome will make a significant difference in San Francisco’s housing market.
The election also includes six mayoral candidates, millions in possible affordable housing funding, the Mission moratorium, a disgraced sheriff, and the regulation of short-term rentals. It comes in the midst of San Francisco’s unprecedented housing crisis. You can see some more detailed stories specifically on these issues here.
Developers and tech firms have spent millions of dollars to defeat the Mission moratorium and short-term rental restrictions, while the non-profits and officials supporting the measures are working with very few resources.
All of this is happening in an election year when San Francisco traditionally has a low voter turnout, so getting to the polls will make a difference.
During the registration process you’ll be asked to select a party and be given the option of becoming a permanent vote-by-mail voter.
Party affiliations can be confusing – “Independent” is a party. If you’d rather not be part of any party you should register as “No Party Preference.” That may exclude you from voting in primary elections to select a party’s presidential candidate, since many of those are private to party members, but it depends on the party. More on that here.
Becoming a permanent vote-by-mail voter means you’ll get a ballot sent to you in the mail. You can sit down with it in your home whenever you like, fill it out, and then sign the envelope and send it back or drop it off at a polling station on Election day. You can still request a vote by mail ballot up until October 27.
If you don’t select that option you’ll have to go to your assigned polling station on election day (find out where that is here) and vote in person. Or you can go early – City Hall is accepting ballots (during business hours) outside Room 48 right now.