A huge white tent sits outside of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Friday morning across from City Hall, giving the air of a major event about to take place. A major event is about to take place: Election Day.
Normally held inside San Francisco City Hall, officials are making final preparations to open its Voting Center Monday just outside of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Grove Street between Larkin and Polk streets.
Officials said no matter how voters cast their ballots this year, The City will ensure a safe voting experience safe. Officials have expressed confidence vote-by-mail ballots sent through the United States Postal Service will arrive at the Department of Elections in a timely manner.
John Arntz, the election department director, said Thursday during a press conference that the postal service has already received vote-by-mail materials to ensure that they can be efficiently run through USPS machines.
“I’m fully confident in the post offices’ ability to support the conduct of this election for November.”
Mayor London Breed said that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way residents work, eat out, interact with each other and will definitely change the way how residents will vote for the upcoming November election:
“I’m really excited to be here to announce that although we can’t do what we’ve done in the past and provide early voting in City Hall, we are going to be doing early voting right outside on Grove where it looks like a beautiful party tent.”
A tent covering approximately 200 voting booths has been set up to enable voters to either vote in person or drop off mail-in ballots starting next week, said Department of Elections Director John Artnz.
The Voting Center will open every weekday beginning Monday through Nov. 2 between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On the two weekends before Election day — Oct. 24-25 and Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 — the center will open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Election Day, Nov. 3, the center will be open between the hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Voters still sketchy about sending ballots through USPS can head to one of 588 polling places where they have the option of voting in person on Election Day or dropping off completed ballots voters. Poll workers will be provided personal protective equipment, such as hand sanitizer, masks and gloves, Arntz said.
Equipment, voting booths and work stations will be properly distanced 6 feet apart — voters waiting in line will also be spaced out by 6 feet.
As previously reported by SFBay, The City has also set up locations where voters can drop off their mail-in ballots beginning Oct. 31 through Election Day. Drop-off locations include the Chase Center, Bayview/Linda Brooks-Burton Library and Excelsior Library. Since SFBay last spoke with Arntz last week, a ballot drop-off location was added at Portsmouth Square in Chinatown.
Arntz told SFBay that staff resources had limited the number of available ballot drop-off locations and reminded voters they can still use any USPS mailbox or bring ballots to polling places on Election Day.
The department has set up an online tool where voters can check wait times at polling locations. Voters will also be able to track their ballot status online through the election department’s website or through the state’s website.
While ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3 to be counted, state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said the state extended the number of days the election department can receive Nov. 3-postmarked ballots from three days to 17 days after the election.
“That is a huge change in state law that we’ve made, just to make sure that every ballot can be counted.”
Voters can visit the election department’s website for more information about the upcoming election or can call the department at (415) 554-4375.
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation, City Hall, and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.