Ken Coffelt watches the election unfold at Lost and Found bar on Taraval Street. He voted early and seems immune to the nippy weather — thanks, perhaps, to a fortified Parkside Punch. Photo by Annika Hom

Check back frequently for updates all day long and into the night.

Update, 1 a.m. Wednesday: The final ranked-choice voting report of the night is in. And, in contested District 1, the margins are beyond razor-thin. Would that be electron-microscope thin? After ranked-choice permutations have been undertaken, Marjan Philhour is 43 votes ahead of Connie Chan, 13,609 to 13,566.

David Lee’s votes now break to Philhour by about 300. It is unclear how many votes remain to be counted. But 43 votes is about as narrow a margin as they come. This one is figuring to be a prolonged battle. Conventional wisdom would figure that later votes trend more progressive and Chinese American votes would transfer from Lee to his preferred No. 2, Chan — but it’s very much too close to call.

In District 7, Myrna Melgar comes out 1,885 votes ahead of Joel Engardio when all the RCV tabulations are complete. Clearly more votes need to be counted, but that’s a far wider margin. It’d be quite the thing if that result is upended.

No other races appear close. We’ll get back to work tomorrow morning. Be well. — Joe Eskenazi

Update, 11 p.m.: More results. And, yes, 817 deeply problematic people voted for Kanye West in San Francisco.

The Department of Elections has now tabulated not quite 31,000 day-of-election votes. All told, 352,398 votes are in. That’s nearly exactly two-thirds of the electorate. If you figure we’re hitting 80 percent, then not quite 85 percent of all the voting is accounted for.

That means there’s not much wiggle room for people or stuff that’s trailing.

Sorry, Kanye.

None of the candidate races have budged much, though Joel Engardio in District 7 has added some first-place votes. There has been no Ranked-Choice Voting update since initial results dropped at 8:45ish, so it’s not entirely clear how the ping-pong balls settle here. We’re told a new update is coming at midnight. So, we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.

The ballot measures remain unchanged as well. Only Prop. G, which would allow young people to vote in local elections, is trailing. And that’s not by much. The tax measures our elected officials are assuming will balance the city’s budget are winning handily. Taxes have never done so well in San Francisco, and that’s saying something.

By and large, progressive candidates and revenue measures are thriving in a high-turnout election. The wealthy conservatives who mounted an anti-tax crusade and attempted to sully progressive candidates, by and large, appear to have wasted their money.

More stats soon. Onward. — Joe Eskenazi

The Castro Theatre on Election Night. Photo by Hayden Manseau.

Update, 10:17 p.m.: Castro ‘Victory’ Party comes to naught: There was no Election Night Victory Party on Castro Street between 18th and Market tonight. 

Quite the contrary. 

Few people walked down the block between 8 and 9 p.m., when the party was supposedly set to occur. Those who were out in the streets were in no mood to celebrate. Many walked with their heads down, headed home to watch the storm roll in.

Castro resident Josh Pugil, 29, who voted by mail, said he was feeling hopeful but uneasy. For Pugil, there is a lot at stake in this election: the rights of marginalized people, faith in democracy, and representation in government.

Mocha Macabenta, 31, and Alsace Tanzer, 31, two self-identified trans women, walked down Castro street on their way to watch the election results — and play board games to remain calm —  with their household in the Castro. Both women dropped off their mail-in ballots earlier in the day. 

Macabenta and Tanzer described their current mood as anxious. Very anxious. They fear for what another Trump presidency might mean for them as trans women.

Macabenta’s advice: “Breathe, whichever way it goes.”

“Breathe and be ready,” Tanzer added.

Most businesses on the block were closing or already closed. 

Martin Mendoza, 52, the owner of Louie’s Barbershop, the second oldest business in the Castro, was closing up shop at around 8:30 pm. Mendoza voted in person in Twin Peaks where he resides. Mendoza expressed frustration towards those in California who do not vote.

“Just because Biden will win in California doesn’t mean your vote doesn’t matter,” he said. “It took so much blood and tears to get here — use it.”

Unlike some of the business owners on the street, Mendoza decided not to board up his shop windows.

“People thought it would be worse, and that there might be riots,” Mendoza said. 

There were no riots on Castro Street tonight, but Mendoza isn’t holding his breath.

“This is not over. This is just the beginning,” he said. — Hayden Manseau

State Senate candidate Jackie Fielder speaks to her volunteers on Election Night 2020. Photo by Julian Mark.

Update, 9:59 p.m.: Jackie Fielder needs a “miracle:” With the first round of votes in the District 11 state senate race showing Scott Wiener with a clear lead over Jackie Fielder — roughly 60 to 40 percent — Fielder and her team all but made a concession speech to the 70-odd volunteers gathered at a Sparks Social in Mission Bay. 

Fielder stepped up on a picnic bench at the outdoor food court and spoke to her volunteers. 

“Tonight, obviously, is not the most ideal result,” the 26-year-old said. “However, we were taking on the most real estate backed politician in California. We were doing it in a pandemic, in the worst economic downturn in modern history. … And still, we did our duty in giving people a choice.” 

She was introduced by Roisin Isner, her campaign director, who also told the group that Fielder was “behind” and she would likely not catch up to Wiener. “This campaign isn’t just about [Jackie],” Isner said. “It’s about a movement.” 

Isner earlier told Mission Local that Fielder raised roughly $770,000 during her campaign — to Wiener’s $3.5 million. 

“We’ve won, either way,” Isner said before results came in. 

Fielder entered the race in December, deciding to throw her hat in only two weeks before her announcement. Her raison d‘être was to give Wiener, who was then running unopposed, some competition.

She appears to have accomplished that — and a bit more. “Politicians across California are terrified,” Fielder said. “And they should be.” 

Speaking to Mission Local following the first returns Fielder acknowledged it would take a “miracle” to overcome Wiener at this point. 

And, although she said she had no immediate plans after the election, Fielder said she was proud of being part of a growing movement of making “no corporate Democrat feels safe in their position” — and hoped they considered that potential opposition when making important votes.

Looking back, Fielder said she was only surprised by the amount of money she raised.

“If I can do it, why can’t anyone else?” — Julian Mark

Update, 9:40 p.m.: San Franciscans watch national results with trepidation

Masked voters of all ages stood by on or sat at tables on Valencia Street outside Manny’s, a restaurant, political bookshop, and civic events space. People seemed happy to be watching the results surrounded by other people, and not at home. 

One of those voters there today watching the CNN tv results with her friends was Vivian Cruickshank, a 31-year-old who lives in North Beach. “I am feeling very anxious, but am trying to be hopeful, as I am seeing that it is tight in battleground states.” Cruickshank says she “knows first-time voters her age, and is trying to remain positive.”  For her key issues include “Black lives matter, LGBTQ rights and taxing the rich.” 

Luis Dominguez, a 21-year-old who lives in West Portal, was biking home when he saw the watch party and stopped by. He feels uneasy. He is “glad about the election results, but worried about the outcome when results are officially counted.”

Tarwin Stroh-Spijer, 38, says he “feels trepidatious.” The Australian, who now lives in the Mission but cannot vote yet, was out at Manny’s watching the election results come in Tuesday night. He said he “felt dread all day today thinking about the election.” For him and others, it is nice to see other people out in the community no matter what the results are. “It sucks we can’t hug each other in celebration or defeat,” but for now, standing together is enough for San Francisco voters. 

Nancy Vera echoes other people on Valencia Street and around San Francisco today in that she is “feeling very anxious, but is trying to use wishful thinking and cannot give up just yet.”  Vera is “hopeful for what’s to come, and no matter what happens, the fight is not over.” Vera also told Mission Local it feels good to be surrounded by people, and not at home watching TV. — Clara-Sophia Daly

Ken Coffelt watches the election unfold at Lost and Found bar on Taraval Street. He voted early and seems immune to the nippy weather — thanks, perhaps, to a fortified Parkside Punch. Photo by Annika Hom

Update, 8:59 p.m.: The first round of results just dropped. As predicted, this is a lot of votes. 

There were 321,880 votes counted in this first round. That’s 62 percent of all the registered voters; if we hit 80 percent turnout tonight, that means 77 percent of the votes are already in. 

That also means we may have fewer than 100,000 votes left to count.

So, being ahead is good. Here’s a quick rundown followed by snap analysis. 

No surprise: Joe Biden has 87.5 percent of the vote to Donald Trump’s 10.8. 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who received three-quarters of the vote in the primary, has 80 percent. Shahid Buttar has 20 percent. 

In the State Senate race, Sen. Scott Wiener has 60 percent to Jackie Fielder’s 40 percent. 

Assemblyman David Chiu, running against Libertarian sex worker Starchild, is ahead by a 91-9 split. Assemblyman Phil Ting is outdoing John McDonnel, 80-20.

In District 1: Connie Chan has 37.6 percent; Marjan Philhour has 34.8 percent; David Lee has 17.3 percent.

In District 3: Aaron Peskin has 55.4 percent; Danny Sauter has 34.9 percent.

In District 5: Dean Preston has 51.9 percent; Vallie Brown has 40.6 percent. 

In District 7: Joel Engardio has 24 percent; Vilaski Nguyen has 21.4 percent; Myrna Melgar has 21.1 percent; Emily Murase has 13.1 percent. 

In District 9: Hillary Ronen, running unopposed, has 99.8 percent of the vote. Call that one. 

In District 11: Ahsha Safai has 50.6 percent of the vote; John Avalos has 41.3 percent. 

Four seats are open on the school board. So far, Jenny Lam, Mark Sanchez, Kevine Boggess and Matt Alexander are in pole position with Alida Fisher and Michelle Parker outside looking in.

Major ballot measures! Lotta money on the table here. 

Proposition A, Mayor London Breed’s pet $487.5 million bond for parks, homelessness, etc. is at 72 percent. It requires 66.7 percent. There was a great deal of uncertainty about this measure and this has to be a good feeling for the mayor and anyone responsible for this city’s budgetary process. 

Prop. B, which would split the scandal-plagued Public Works department and provide more oversight is polling at 61.3 percent. Good to go. 

Prop. E, which would do away with mandatory minimum police staffing levels, is at 73 percent. The Police Officers Association will not be pleased.  

Prop. F — a big one — would overhaul the business tax code. And, not unsubtly, balance the city budget. It is at 69 percent.

Prop. I, the bête noire of the business and real estate community, would double the transfer tax on the sellers of properties valued at $10 million or more. Upwards of $5 million was raised to defeat this, and that money was spread around, Russian Doll-style, to blast progressive candidates. It’s polling at 59 percent. 

Prop. J, a parcel tax for schools, is at 76 percent. It requires 66.7 percent. This outcome will pleasantly surprise many in the city who had given up on Prop. J. 

Prop. L, which would tax companies with CEOs earning 100 times median worker pay, is at 66 percent. 

And, finally, Prop. RR, a multi-jurisdictional measure to establish a sales tax for Caltrain, is at 75 percent. It requires 66.7 percent — in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

And here are some takeaways: If these results hold up, it’s as if there was no Covid, there was no multimillion-dollar business and real-estate-funded antitax crusade and anti-progressive mud sling-a-thon.

Every revenue measure is not just ahead but WAY ahead. Progressives Connie Chan and Dean Preston are ahead and Preston is way ahead (the “high single-digit win” a rival campaign operative predicted seems to be on the mark). The Chan-Philhour race is extremely tight; Chan is ahead in Ranked-Choice Voting tabulations — and Lee’s votes split about 50-50.

It remains to be seen if late voters are not only more progressive, but took heed of Chan and Lee’s 1-2 pact. Regardless, this is a close race.

District 7 is a trainwreck and will also require an expedition into Ranked-Choice Voting land. But, as things stand Myrna Melgar comes out on top.  And in District 11, Safai is up big on Avalos, but it remains to be seen if the predicted progressive shift can lift the challenger — and with a limited number of votes left to count, he can make up a 2,000-vote deficit. That is a very steep hill to climb.

How many votes are left is important — both here and nationally. We won’t know the final count in San Francisco for quite some time. As noted earlier in the day, many voters today returned sealed mail ballots to polling places — which will add to counting times. “I expect there’s still a lot of votes left to count,” elections boss John Arntz told Mission Local’s Annika Hom tonight at City Hall.

The next update is in about an hour. Onward. — Joe Eskenazi

New Harmony Cafe on 20th and Mission boarding up “just in case.” Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Update, 7:30 p.m. 

Many questions, some answers: Polls to soon close, early results looming

Polls close at 8. Early results drop at around 8:45. Everybody who hasn’t voted yet has a little time to find a beverage. Soon we may begin to have answers for some of these questions: 

In District 1, how strong is the Chinese American bloc? How many votes will David Lee get — and, assuming he comes third, how many of those votes will transfer to Connie Chan? 

In District 5, how sticky will the attack ads directed against Dean Preston be? Will we see a difference between votes cast before the Neighbors for a Better San Francisco PAC began its big spending and afterward? If so, did the PAC wait too long? That PAC put a good deal of money and effort into District 5, even though many of the election professionals we’ve spoken with felt that District 1, 7, and 11 were all potentially tighter races.

We’ll soon find out if that assessment was correct. It will be fascinating to explore these spending priorities. 

In District 7, future candidates may find a model on how to behave in a crowded ranked-choice voting race. Is it better to run to the middle and pick up as many No. 2 votes as possible — as Myrna Melgar aims to do? Or is it better to distinguish yourself as the most liberal or conservative candidate — as Joel Engardio is doing and as DA Chesa Boudin successfully did last year? 

Also: Who’s gonna, you know, win? This race may take days to shake out. 

In District 11, also, who will win? The incumbent Ahsha Safai? Or the former incumbent, John Avalos? 

And, with all candidates, what predictions can we make about how late-arriving ballots will play? The first round of results will be gargantuan; the game essentially starts in the sixth or seventh inning tonight. It’s good to be ahead because there just aren’t that many votes left to gain. 

But will the votes that trickle in later still lean progressive as they have in the past? That, too, is something we figure to find out.  

Finally, it remains to be seen just how many voters eventually cast a ballot. Will gaudy early predictions be met, or will sluggish in-person totals — and the possibility of significant numbers of people having left San Francisco — tamp down the final total to something in the ballpark of the 80.7 percent that voted in 2016? 

This has been a year like no other and voting patterns have been altered. But an 81 percent turnout in a presidential election year is no anomaly. Nor would left-of-center candidates and measures benefitting from a large turnout and late progressive shift be out of the ordinary. Nor would the Democratic Party slate succeeding be unusual in such circumstances.

We may yet end up in a normal place via an extremely abnormal process. 

Or we may not. So much to find out. — Joe Eskenazi

On the menu at Manny’s outdoor election watch: Anxiety. Photo by Julian Mark

Update, 6:35 p.m.: With the presidential race hanging in the balance, Tuesday night watchers gathered on a blocked-off Valencia Street were anxious, cautiously optimistic, and preparing for a long night. 

Manny’s, a political cafe that has featured a 2020 Presidential Election countdown clock for the better part of a year, erected up a giant screen in front of the cafe, and it is featuring the latest on the future of the country. 

Dozens had gathered by around 5:30 p.m., anxiously watching on tables set up in front of the big TV. They cheered with the news that Joe Biden, for the moment, was leading in ordinarily blood-red Republican Texas. 

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Megan Kilian, 48, who showed up with her young son. She said that it’s hard to gauge what will happen because San Francisco is such a “liberal bubble.” But she believes that President Trump’s behavior during his term will be enough to sway Americans to vote for Biden. “People are just tired of it,” she said. 

Gabriel Boid, 19, who works with a voting non-profit that enables stronger voter participation, was anxious. “It’s going to be a long night,” he said.  

“I was hoping Florida would be more dominant in the Biden camp,” he added. “It looks like it might go to Trump, but that doesn’t mean it’s over.” 

If Trump wins Florida, he said, it will be important to look at other states that are reporting early votes, like Arizona. “It may come down to the midwestern states which we won’t know till much later, possibly a week later,” Boid said. 

He remained “on edge” but planned on watching the entire night. 

Manny’s proprietor Manny Yekutiel said he’s hosting “an outdoor socially distant dining experience” for folks in the community to watch the election together. It’s going until midnight, he said, although “I hope we don’t have to go that late.”

Yekutiel said he’s been too focused on his event to really concentrate on the early returns. “And I’m hesitant to get too emotionally connected to one projection over the other, because there’s still so much that can happen.” 

“I am excited but I’m nervous,” he added. “It’s such an important night for me, you — everyone.”  

The countdown clock he’s featured outside of his establishment will hit zero at 8 p.m. when the polls close on the West Coast. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done everything we could to get to this point.”Julian Mark

Joe, a Tenderloin resident who voted early, poses near the Jones and Ellis intersection. Photo by Hayden Manseau.

Update, 5:55 p.m.: The Tenderloin was quiet — or as quiet as the Tenderloin can be — this afternoon. Observant passersby might notice signs for the Tenderloin’s numerous polling places, a handful of residents with “I Voted” stickers strolling down the streets, and a smattering of “Yes on B” and “Yes on L” signs. However, if you weren’t keeping your eyes peeled, you may have forgotten it was even election day.

It is hard to tell how engaged Tenderloin residents are in this year’s election.

Donna Hilliard, Executive Director of Code Tenderloin, explained that her organization has been trying to drum up voter participation in the community, but they’re up against misinformation and apathy.

“More people seem to be voting here than they have in the past, but a lot of people are still very ignorant about the process. There is a lot of misinformation,” she said. “Many homeless people don’t even realize they are allowed to vote.”

If more people are voting than usual, there is not much visual evidence at the Tenderloin’s polling places. Polling places at Marina Manors, GLIDE Memorial United Church, Crosby Hotel, and Boeddeker Park & Clubhouse were absent of lines.

Thaddeus, a 13-time poll worker at the Crosby Hotel polling place, reported that things have been relatively quiet. Predictably, there were fewer walk-ins than there were on previous election days. He estimated that there was about a 3:1 ratio of ballot drop-offs to in-person voting.

The veteran poll worker had bad news for local civic engagement. Thaddeus estimated that about 1 in 10 people who voted left the majority of their ballots blank, only casting a vote for the president. In past years, he believes only about 1 in 20 people did this.

Nearby at City Hall, there were no lines either. In-person voting was lighter than expected, according to Election Director John Arntz. But Arntz isn’t worried.

“Low in-person voting doesn’t mean that turnout is low,” he said. “This is a different kind of election.”

Polls close at 8 p.m. The first round of results drops at around 8:45. — Hayden Manseau

Connie Chan answers the questions as Jackie Fielder looks on. Photo by Julian Mark

Update: 4:25 p.m.: Jackie Fielder is riding all around the city today in her large blue school bus, hoping to educate those elusive undecided voters about why she should replace state Sen. Scott Wiener.

At around 2:30 p.m., she parked her bus on the corner of Arguello and Clement in the Richmond. 

Although many San Franciscans have already filled in their ballots, Fielder says she hasn’t had much trouble finding people to convince. “I’ve met dozens of people who haven’t voted yet,” Fielder said, noting that so far she’s posted up in the Mission, the Tenderloin, Hayes Valley, and the Sunset. 

“There are still thousands of people that haven’t voted and probably will today,” she said. “Our goal for today is to get those last votes.” 

The 26-year-old Democratic Socialist said she has some 200 volunteers roaming throughout the city doing exactly that. 

Fielder kicked off her campaign last December simply because Wiener was running unopposed. Much of her campaign has consisted of phone-banking and virtual meetings from her Mission District apartment

“It’s been strange,” she said. “And at the same time, I’m a first-time candidate, so I have no reference point.” 

Accompanying Fielder was Connie Chan, who Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer has supported to run as her successor. Chan, who grew up in Chinatown and moved to the Richmond in 2011, said she’s also trying to capture the many people who she believes have not voted yet. 

The pandemic, Chan said, will dictate who voters choose in what she described as a close race. “Every vote really does count in a race like this,” Chan said. “We have seen races lost and won by just less than a couple hundred votes.” 

“We’re not going to take anything for granted.” — Julian Mark

First-time voter Carmen Ramos, 19, dropped off her ballot outside the Mission Branch Library. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly

Update, 3:20 p.m.

Four voters at the Mission Library ballot dropbox

Carmen Ramos is a first-time voter. The 19-year-old student at City College lives in Bayview and had just dropped off her ballot at the dropbox outside the Mission Branch Library. Ramos felt more comfortable voting in person with everything going on, since this way she knows “it will actually get counted.”

Ramos said it was “hard understanding some of the propositions,” even though she had to learn about them for her classes. She is feeling “confident that, hopefully, Biden will win.” 

Joe Melendez, 38, is “feeling good and anxious.” For Melendez, “police reform and Covid” are the most important issues. He feels like “we should probably get [Covid] over with, and Biden is the best person to do that.” Melendez voted for Rep. Nancy Pelosi because he “didn’t recognize the other candidate” and thought “she put up a decent enough fight the last four years.” 

Although Melendez originally wanted to mail in his ballot, he procrastinated and felt better dropping it off in person so as to not tax the postal service. “Let’s hope for a peaceful transition of power,” he adds. 

Chris Grant is a 30-year-old musician and producer who lives in the outer Mission.  He is “feeling positive because he feels like people have caught wind of how important this election is. It’s scary to think Donald Trump could be our president, but I’m optimistic about the outcome.” Grant voted in person today, because he was “busy the last couple weeks and lives close.” 

For him, the biggest issue is that there are “many groups which are being automatically marginalized in our system.” He thinks this election will determine if those marginalized groups get help. 

Marta Vega, is a 21-year-old Mission resident who also studies at City College. Vega is “kinda emotional because there’s a lot at stake.” She voted in person today because she “wanted to make sure that her ballot got delivered, and I was scared to do it through the mail.”

She dropped off her ballot today with her mom, who is from Mexico and could not vote. “It is really important to get informed and go out and vote, not just for me but for people who can’t.” — Clara-Sophia Daly

Western Addition residents Caroline Goodman and her grandchildren Eddie Maldon, 6, and Malia Woodruff, 10, pose with Vallie Brown and Sen. Scott Wiener. Photo by Annika Hom

Update, 2:45: It’s hard to miss the sherbet-colored cluster of 10 or so Vallie Brown and Scott Wiener supports huddled on the corner of Hayes and Divisadero. Wiener’s placards are jailbreak orange and Vallie’s are Pepto Bismol pink.

At 6-foot-7, Wiener is never hard to spot. Perhaps this is what consultants mean when they talk about a candidate’s visibility. Similarly, Brown’s magenta blazer is perfectly in sync with the bright pink signs bearing her name.
When Mission Local asked if campaigning was going according  to plan, she laughed and joked, “You think I have a plan?”

Leading a march with Wiener down Divisadero as their campaign teams and close supporters trail behind, they stop every once in a while for a few surprise entrances into nearby businesses. The owners usually stop to take a selfie and exchange warm greetings with Brown, while Wiener quietly observes and nods along. This is probably the best either can hope for in terms of in-person canvassing during a pandemic, and it’s been different for both candidates.

Brown said she’s been phone-banking in addition to knocking on doors in the Western Addition, but being unable to do so earlier in the campaign season has been especially challenging.

“Were in this giant experiment of campaigning,” she laughs. “So we don’t know. We didn’t do any door-knocking because we were told not to until the last two weeks, and even then only if it was a door with a lot of space.”

Wiener is in complete agreement with campaigning being strange, especially given that many voters opted to mail in their ballots this time around.

“You have two categories of voters: absentee voters and Election Day voters. And you know who they are,” he said. “Now everyone is an absentee voter, so you don’t know who voted right away or who is in the end.”

He said even mailers have changed — normally they’re sent in two waves, similarly for absentee versus Election Day. Now people do it all at once.

That didn’t stop Wiener from dropping off door hangers today at 5 a.m., though he admitted he was unsure how many of those people already voted or who had filled out a vote-by-mail ballot and were waiting to drop it off later in the day. Wiener said he still was able to catch a few voters, but the majority of the people he encountered today had already performed their civic duty. Still, a bit after 3 p.m. Scott felt “comfortable” in the race.

Overall, he likes the idea of universal mail-in, because he said he thinks it spurred this record early-voter turnout. If it continues in future elections which he hopes it does, campaigners and politicians will just have to “learn how to fine-tune.” — Annika Hom

Stormy Henry, a Vallie Brown campaign manager, serenaded passing motorists with her pitch. Photo by Joe Eskenazi

Update at 1:05 p.m.: Pedestrians’ “I Voted” stickers served the same role as the blood of the paschal lamb in the tale of Passover: Politicians, eager to get out that last-minute vote spotted it on lapels and purses and masks and Passed Over.

Supervisors Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen wandered along Haight Street near Masonic in mid-morning; they received some nods and right-ons, but they did not find much in the way of undecided voters.

In what stands to be a recurring theme, pretty much everyone has already voted.

Both Preston and Ronen had dropped by polling places in the morning to find poll workers outnumbering voters. Many day-of voters are, in fact, merely walking their sealed vote-by-mail ballot to the polls. This renders a potential last-minute pitch from a campaign into an impotent thank you for voting.

“I figured I’d go to bus stops early and talk to essential workers,” said Preston, who did plenty of that in his successful 2019 run. “But it was dead. Dead!”

It was, in fact, a bit dead for any random Tuesday let alone Election Day in a city where eight of every 10 registered voters figure to cast a ballot. There weren’t a whole lot of people for Preston and Ronen to interact with, and those they did approach had invariably already voted.

Well, there was one non-voter. A street kid named Thomas approached Preston and handed him an ornate, homemade pin (Preston politely returned it). Thomas hadn’t voted yet. Preston and Ronen both gave him the spiel — you can register on the day of the election at a polling place; you can cast a provisional ballot.

Thomas smiled. It’s not entirely clear what his plans were, but it seemed pretty clear what his plans were not.

“Look, when I win this thing by one vote, I’ll come back here and find you,” Preston told him. Everybody laughed

Exit Thomas. Enter Preston volunteers.

“Man, everybody’s voted,” said one.

Supervisors Dean Preston and Hillary Ronen took a moment for a campaign selfie at Haight and Masonic. Photo by Hillary Ronen

This was, again, a recurring theme. Earlier in the day Preston had walked onto the 1400 block of Waller; a gas pipe had been ruptured and firefighters were knocking on doors and asking residents to vacate.

Preston refrained from making his case to people fleeing a potential disaster. In any event, they probably already voted.

While Preston wandered down to the McKinley memorial sculpture in the Panhandle to meet perhaps two dozen volunteers inhaling pizza slices, his opponent Vallie Brown was knocking on doors in the Western Addition — where Preston had started his day.

Brown’s volunteers were easy to spot with their Pepto Bismol-pink placards. A pair bookended the intersection on Webster and McAllister. Stormy Henry, a Brown campaign manager, sang to drivers as they sped by.

Vote Vallllllllllie BROWN! The supervisor who’s ON-YOUR-SIDE! 

Brown knocked on doors in the morning before returning home, showering, and heading out for a 2 p.m. rendezvous at Divisadero and Hayes with Sen. Scott Wiener.

Voters may be hard to spot at this point but San Francisco Election Day lore is replete with tales of candidates who took their foot off the gas too early.

Nobody wants to add to that list. — Joe Eskenazi

Update at 12:04 p.m.: Well, one by one, local and state politicos arrived at Manny’s to phone bank or text-bank to Pennsylvania.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and State Senator Scott Wiener. Photo by Lydia Chávez

Gov. Newsom had some thoughts on the general election and voter turnout.

And, Mayor Breed had some thoughts on the local elections and what she would like to see happen.

Lydia Chávez

Update: 9:51 a.m.: The polls are open and moving slow — at least in the Mission District.  One tradition lost to  Covid-19 – campaign workers handing out material at the 16th Street BART. This morning, it was empty.  Instead, what distinguished the plaza was the construction worker at Wells Fargo boarding up the bank’s windows in anticipation of possible demonstrations later tonight. 

Oy vey. 

Nearby, Manny Yekutiel, the owner of Manny’s at 16th Street, was readying the place for the entourage that will convene there at 10:30 a.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor London Breed, Sen. Scott Wiener and others. We will be there.  

“I’m feeling very light,” said Yekutiel, who wore his I Voted sticker. Election day “feels very holy, very sacred. … There’s a lot of prayer and hope.”

Already, Mike Ingrasci, who worked on Obama’s two campaigns and was with Hillary Clinton on the night she conceded defeat in 2016, was working the phones at one of a dozen phone banking stations at Manny’s. 

“I’m just doing as much as I can,” he said before starting his calls to Florida. “It’s going to be positive. It may actually end early with Georgia and North Carolina. If it doesn’t and moves to the Great Lakes, then it will be a nail-biter.”

He remembers 2016 well. Early in the evening, he said, “there was a lot of energy, and it felt like something big was going to happen.”  Then, it was just sad.  He expects tonight to be different. — Lydia Chávez

Creativity Explored on 16th Street. Photo by Lydia Chávez

12:01 a.m.

“I love winning, man. You hear what I’m saying? It’s, like, better than losing.” — Nuke LaLoosh

The last push: What to expect today

As of Monday, 62 percent of all ballots had already found their way back to San Francisco City Hall. That number will grow higher throughout today and the coming days; it is well possible San Francisco will cross 80 percent participation and head toward the gaudy sort of turnout you’d only expect to reach in realms where leaders erect gold statues of themselves in the capital square or have their family members executed with anti-aircraft artillery. 

Or, perhaps, significant numbers of erstwhile San Franciscans have skipped town but remain on our voter rolls. We shall see. Regardless, they make voting very low-barrier and easy in San Francisco. This is not the most well-run of places. So, every municipality or state could do this. If they so chose. 

They’re not, of course. High barriers to voting, post-facto challenges of valid ballots, the specter of armed loons LARPing with live ammunition and insecure election systems are on the front, center, and back of everyone’s mind. As it should be: But we still have an election to carry off today in San Francisco.  

The fireboat Phoenix at sunrise. Photo by David Hawkins

Here’s what you can know going in — in a year where it’s hard to know much. 

San Franciscans are used to lengthy, agonizing elections. That’s not the fault of ranked-choice voting, though people do complain about that every election cycle. Rather, it’s that even before Covid, the vast majority of San Franciscans voted by mail — and counting mail ballots takes time (Counting lengthy mail ballots takes even more time). Waiting days for all the ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 to be delivered takes time. Counting all the votes, in general, takes time. 

But the big change this year is that the majority of ballots are already here — and they’ve already been tabulated. We should know the results of that vast stack of early votes by evening — and, by late evening, we may have a good bit of today’s in-person voting in the can as well. By Wednesday, we may have a good idea how things are going. 

But how things will go is anyone’s guess. As we wrote last week, traditional voting patterns — early absentee, late absentee, day-of — have been scrambled in the Covid era. Traditionally, more conservative voters sent in their ballots early and more progressive voters sent them in late or voted in-person. But that pattern seems to be off this year, in San Francisco and most everywhere else. 

Rather, what’s important in San Francisco is that the first batch of votes announced at roughly 8:45 p.m. tonight will be huge.

We may not be able to predict the ideological leanings of whose votes are being tabulated in earlier vs. later rounds, but we can do the raw math: In 2020, as of Nov. 2, 322,000 ballots had been amassed. In 2018, 118,000 had been returned at this time. 

In short: If you’re trailing after Tuesday night’s  announced first round of results at around 8:45 p.m., the pressing issue isn’t so much the ideology of the remaining voters, but that there aren’t that many of them left (especially if a fair amount of people have skipped town). 

For the candidates or measures trailing after the first round’s tally, the opponent becomes mathematics. That’s a hard opponent to beat. 

In their final push today, candidates will try to maximize their visibility. But with most ballots already accounted for, and a goodly number of voters walking their sealed vote-by-mail ballots to a polling place, waving a placard in someone’s face will only be so effective. 

Mission Sunrise. Photo by Kathleen Narruhn

Questions to be answered

Four years ago, two District 5 residents out of three voted against Proposition Q, which was marketed to voters as a means to roust homeless encampments. 

This year, District 5 residents are being urged to vote against the incumbent Supervisor Dean Preston by a heavily funded Independent Expenditure campaign featuring lurid images of tent encampments and menacing homeless dope fiends. Challenger Vallie Brown has, herself, harped on tents and homeless issues. 

Is this the political messaging equivalent of World War I trench warfare, in which wave after wave of soldiers was made to futilely charge into machine-gun fire because that’s the only strategy the generals knew? Or has the electorate’s mood soured with the onset of the pandemic and increased street homelessness? 

We’ll soon know. 

San Francisco voters have, in the past, spurned big-money independent expenditure campaigns bankrolled by wealthy, right-leaning and often out-of-town donors — and these operations have, at times, been undertaken in a manner that seemed to maximize consultants’ ability to spend clients’ vast sums of money rather than produce effective political messages. And, at times, they’ve galvanized the opposition, such as a ham-fisted 2019 Police Officers Association attack on candidate Chesa Boudin paradoxically assisting in his ultimate election

But this year could well be different. People are at home a lot more, on social media a lot more and struggling with the mental and physical burdens of the pandemic — all while being besieged with a gaudy number of attack mailers. The traditional, grass-roots, Get Out The Vote efforts normally deployed to counter this impersonal big-money spending have been mitigated during a plague. 

It really is anybody’s guess how voters react — we just know lots of them are voting. 

In high-turnout election years such as this one, the conventional wisdom is that a place on the county Democratic Party slate mailer is a tremendous boost. A hefty percentage of the people swelling turnout to potential Turkmenistan levels are what political professionals might refer to as “low-information voters.” San Francisco has about 9.5 registered Democrats to every Republican, and “low-information voters” are wont to vote the straight Democratic ticket. 

So, it remains to be seen if the ersatz slate mailers funded by big-dollar donors and mimicking the Democratic Party slate, the Tenants Union slate, and others peel off a significant number of voters or merely serve to line the city’s bird cages. 

And, finally, it remains to be seen if the multi-million-dollar anti-tax campaign footed by the city’s developers and business interests unseats not only Proposition I — which would ding sellers of real-estate priced at $10 million or higher — but also dooms the more innocuous Proposition F and the bond Prop. A, on which your elected officials are counting to balance the budget. 

We can begin to piece together these answers starting tonight. Knowing for certain will take longer. In the meantime, check back often, as Mission Local covers the last efforts of Election 2020, and then begins to answer what happened — and what happens next. — Joe Eskenazi

Support Mission Local

Follow Us

Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

Join the Conversation

No comments

  1. Campers,

    I got up early and went and bought one of those big trays of sliced mixed chocolate cheesecake at Safeway for poll workers at my local precinct.

    Plus, two bottles of Sauzo Gold Tequila pour moi.

    Go Progs!


  2. Thanks for your reporting! Always know I can come here for good information.

    I just registered a complaint at 866-OUR-VOTE for the experience I just had leaving the St Mary’s dog park.

    Poll workers came outside to say hello to my dog, I thanked them for their work, and they started feeding me a bunch of crazy lies about the election. When I left, I passed a white couple in a Cadillac SUV harassing a young BIPOC man with a sign while he was more than far enough away from the polls. All of this in the presence of Park Police, but he was busy (?)

    Please do not hesitate to call the number if you see or experience anything even remotely off.

    I am still hoping for a Y2K kind of night. Fingers and toes crossed.

Leave a comment
Please keep your comments short and civil. We will zap comments that fail to adhere to these short and very easy-to-follow rules.

Your email address will not be published.