524 Connecticut Street isn’t your average polling site. It’s a garage outfitted with four voting booths.
When the Department of Elections asked Sam Palmer if he’d be willing to use the space as a polling site. He wasn’t enthusiastic at first. But said, “Knock on my door if you can’t find anyone.” They came knocking not long after.
“This is a ridiculously large garage, but it’s perfect for voting,” said Palmer.
Palmer told election officials, though, that if they were going to use his garage, he wanted to be there. So not only does he lend the space — he sets up and breaks down the equipment (along with three other poll workers) and guides some 140 voters through the process.
The day was mostly smooth in Palmer’s garage. But between a quarter and a third of voters made mistakes over the course of the day. Palmer blamed the confusion of ranked-choice voting.
“It’s not a big deal,” he said. “But if there were long lines and a lot of people were fouling [their ballots], that could be problem”
The crew will be there until at least 10 p.m. — that’s after starting the day at 5 a.m. “It’s bureaucratic,” said Jenny Caulfield, one of the poll workers at 524 Connecticut. “But you have to deal with that.” The Department of Elections lays out hyper-specific rules for managing ballots designed to guarantee election integrity. That all takes, time, though.
The June 2018 election was the first time he volunteered the space — and he expects to be back for more. And Election Day has surprised him. “I’ve met great people,” he said. The half dozen first-time voters he met today were especially inspiring.
“It’s more than about voting,” said Caulfield. “It’s about coming together. The idea is that we’re practicing our civic duty.”
Campaigns collided at the corner of Missouri and 20th in Potrero Hill. Theo Ellington sported a two-piece suit. But it was the co-chairs of the San Francisco chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America that turned heads. Outfitted in full-body tiger and dinosaur suits, respectively, Shanti Singh and Faiq Raza waved signs for District 10 Supervisor candidate Tony Kelly.
Singh had been up since 3 a.m.; Raza roused himself by 5 a.m. Both spent the day distributing literature, phone banking and hitting the streets — in costume.
“I’ve been slamming Pepto all day,” said Singh. They’ve also been campaigning for Prop C and Prop 10.
Raza called more voters than he expected who had already voted and had said they supported both measures. He says he was working from a list of voters considered unlikely to show up at the polls at all. “Turnout is jaw-dropping,” he said.
The last-minute support for Prop C from Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff both encouraged and weirded out Singh and Raza. “I never thought we’d be in a position where we’d be being retweeted by billionaires,” Singh said. Seeing that kind of support for a measure she, and DSA, had pushed for was thrilling, if odd.
“DSA has put in a lot of groundwork and people have really seen that,” said Singh. Since the June elections, the San Francisco chapter of the organization has been growing and developing, Singh and Raza said.
“I’ve seen a lot of volunteers develop their leadership skills,” Raza said. “That’s really heartwarming, I love seeing people growing.”
And Singh and Raza’s work doesn’t end tonight. “Electoral is one part of what we do,” Singh said. “We’re not a democratic club.”