Guide For the Drive: How to Register Voters in San Francisco

City & County of San Francisco
Department of Elections
Guide For the Drive:
How to Register Voters
in San Francisco
This guide includes...
 Requirements for circulators
 Who can be registered
 How to fill out a Voter Registration Card
 Requirements for returning the registration cards
 What NOT to do!
Published August 2011
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Guide for the Drive:
Contact the Department of Elections to:
Develop your plan
Receive the materials you need
Distribution Form
Originals of Voter Registration Cards (no photocopies allowed!)
FAQs for potential voters
State Guide; also available at:
Complete the Distribution Form
Schedule a training for your registration drive team!
Request posters or educational materials to distribute
Ask questions or receive other assistance
City & County of San Francisco Department of Elections
Attention Voter Outreach
City Hall, Room 48
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco CA 94102
Monday-Friday, 8:00am—5:00pm
[email protected]
(415) 554-6184
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
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Table of Contents
Who can register voters
Who can be registered
Ex-offender voting rights
When to re-register
Completing a Voter Registration Card
Sample card
General requirements
Step by step instructions
Common omissions
Returning the Registrations Cards
Regulations and possible penalties
Tips for success
Appendix A:
Statement of (Paid) Circulator’s
Responsibilities and Liabilities
Appendix B:
Frequently Asked Questions
(Quick reference for circulators)
Appendix C:
Political Parties’ Statements
(Reference for potential voters)
Appendix D:
Bay Area cities and their counties
(Quick reference for circulators)
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Guide for the Drive:
This booklet reviews how to conduct a voter registration drive in San Francisco. For more
detail on State Election Code or for information on conducting a cross-county drive, please see
the 2011 California Secretary of State’s Guide to Voter Registration Drives, available at:
Who Can Register Voters?
You do not need to be a registered voter to register voters. However, there are laws
(and possible penalties) governing the registration process, so we highly recommend
that circulators are trained before participating in a voter registration drive.
Who Can Be Registered?
Four Requirements
The person you are registering must be:
a citizen of the United States of America
a resident of California
not in prison or on parole for conviction of a felony
at least 18 years old on the nearest Election Day
Please ask people if they meet these requirements BEFORE they begin to fill out a card.
What counts as “residency”?
If a person has more than one address, their primary or principal
residence must be in California.
Students may register to vote either at their hometown address or
their school address—wherever they have “the intention of remaining.”
If a person has no address (they are homeless), they may register by
providing two locations:
the cross streets where they feel they live or reside
(so we can assign them to a precinct), and
a mailing address (where election materials can be sent).
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
What if the person isn’t a resident of San Francisco ?
As long as they are a resident of California, go ahead and register them.
We will forward their registration card to their correct county.
Ex-Offender Voting Rights
Someone convicted of a felony can register and vote if they:
have completed their prison term for a felony, including any period of
parole or supervised release
are on federal or state probation
are incarcerated in county jail as a condition of felony probation or
as a result of a misdemeanor sentence
Someone convicted of a misdemeanor can register and vote even while on
probation, supervised release, or incarcerated in county jail.
When to Re-Register
A person must fill out a new registration card if
they move (change of residential address)
they change their name
(usually due to marriage or divorce)
they change their political party
A person does NOT need to reregister just
because they did not vote in the last election, or
last few elections. Registration remains valid
unless an address confirmation notice is
returned to us as undeliverable.
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Guide for the Drive:
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
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Completing a Voter Registration Card
Two Sections
The registration section is detachable and can be mailed (postage is pre-paid.)
The receipt has a serial number, the circulator’s signature and information
(that’s you!). This receipt is given to the person you are registering.
General Requirements
 Write in non-erasable ink
 Write clearly and legibly (especially numbers)
 Fill out all items completely
 Providing a phone number and/or email address is optional but
very helpful if there is missing information or any other issue
Step by Step Instructions
The next six pages will work through the Voter Registration Form in small
sections, explaining the information required for each item and how to assist
registrants in order to avoid common mistakes.
Name (Items 1, 2, and 3)
Print first, middle or initial, and last name in the three sections provided.
Include any suffix (Jr., Sr.; I II or III) with the last name.
A title (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss) is optional
A title of address (Mrs. John Smith; The Honorable Judge Smith, Captain
America) is not valid for voter registration.
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Guide for the Drive:
9 41 2 3
Home address (Items 4 and 5)
This is the address where a person lives or considers their residence,
either permanently or at this present time
Make sure any apartment or space number is listed
Check zip code is complete
Check COUNTY (not country) is given (see Appendix D for Bay Area list by city)
If no street address (the person is homeless) (Item 6)
The person should provide an intersection (two streets that cross) where
they feel they live
This intersection will be used to establish which precinct they will vote in
A mailing address must also be provided where election materials can be
sent (see below)
10 0
999 9 9
Mailing Address (Items 7 and 8)
Anyone may specify a mailing address where they would like to receive
election materials
This could be :
a family member’s or friend’s address
a business address
a P.O. (post office) box
“General Delivery” (+ zip code) —mail will be held for pick up at the
post office assigned to this zip code.
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
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What if the person is living overseas, or will move or be stationed overseas
before the next election?
The person should provide their most recent San Francisco (or California)
address as their home address (Items 4 & 5), and their overseas address as
the mailing address (Item 7 & 8).
They will automatically become a permanent vote-by-mail voter, so the
permanent vote-by-mail request (Item 15) is optional.
Let this voter know they will receive a follow-up survey from the
Department and they may need to fill out an additional form (temporary,
permanent, and military overseas voters all have different requirements).
Let them know providing an email address (item 12) will help us
communicate with them while they’re abroad.
Please flag this card and hand in any cards that will need special attention
as a separate stack.
1 5
1 3
1 2 34 56 7
Date of Birth (Item 9)
To register, a person must be at least 18 years old by or on the upcoming
Election Day.
Place of Birth (Item 10)
If born in the United States, the state or territory of birth is provided.
If born outside the United States, the COUNTRY (not county) is provided.
Identification Number (Item 11)
If the applicant has a California driver’s license or CA state identification
card number, they should provide it.
If they have neither a California driver’s license or ID card, they provide the
last four digits of their social security number.
If an eligible voter has neither form of identification, the State will assign a
unique identifier for the voter (this will lengthen processing time).
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Guide for the Drive:
Phone number & email (Item 12 and 13)
This information is optional-one; either, neither, or both phone & email
may be provided.
If the Department needs to contact the voter, an email address or phone
number is very helpful.
This information is not available to telemarketers, but campaigns may
access it for electioneering or get-out-the-vote purposes.
Political Party (Item 14)
The person registering to vote may indicate which (if any) political party
they prefer.
Currently, there are six qualified parties:
American Independent (not to be confused with “independent”
voters who do not wish to affiliate with any party) Democratic;
Green; Libertarian; Peace & Freedom; Republican
A person may choose not to state a party preference by marking “No Party
Under current State law, “No Party Preference” voters
may vote for any candidate for statewide or congressional office.
may not be able to vote for some candidates in a primary election
for President of the United States or party committees.
Permanent Vote-by-Mail (Item 15)
If initialed, this person will be sent a vote-by-mail ballot for every election.
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
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Previous Registration (Item 16)
If this person has been registered before, they should provide as much of
their previous information as possible.
To indicate a name change, the new name is listed in Box 1 & 2 and the
former name in Box 16.
To change parties, the new party is listed in Box 14 and the previous choice
in Box 16.
Citizenship and Age (Item 17)
The voter must check these boxes to affirm both citizenship and age
What if a person marks one of these boxes “NO”?
Please ask potential registrants BEFORE they fill out a card whether they
meet citizenship & age requirements. However, if this happens:
If they mark NO for citizenship:
 Ask the voter to keep and destroy the card.
 If they are going to become a U.S. citizen before the next election,
they may keep the card and submit it once they are a citizen.
 If the voter is gone, you must turn in the card, but please flag it and
hand in any cards with issues as a separate stack.
If they mark NO for age:
 We can retain the card and process it when the voter reaches 18
years old. Please flag this card and hand in any cards with issues as a
separate stack.
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Guide for the Drive:
Declaration, Signature, Date (Items 18)
This is a legal document. By signing, the person is certifying under penalty
of perjury that they are a citizen, at least 18 years old on Election Day, not
in prison or on parole for a felony, and have provided information that is
true and correct.
If someone is unable to sign their name, they can make their mark or a
cross. Have a witness sign next to the mark on Line 18.
Signature stamps, pre-printed labels, and Power of Attorney signatures are
not valid for voter registration.
“Optional Voter Information” Box
The person you are registering may indicate they would like to serve as a
poll worker or polling place owner.
Ethnicity/race information helps us to assign bilingual pollworkers to polling
places and plan production of multilingual election materials.
If a language preference is checked, the voter will
receive election materials in that language (if available for that county).
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
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Mimi Selfridge
Bay Area Voter Boosters
(415) 555-1234
Mimi Selfridge
Bay Area Voter Boosters
(415) 555-1234
“Did someone help you fill out or deliver this form” Box
All this information must be in your own handwriting
Do not use a stamp, sticker, or label
It must be signed at the time you register the voter, not before (but
organizational information can be handwritten beforehand)
Write the information TWICE:
 once on the registration card side
 once on the receipt
Voter Receipt
Give this portion to the person you are registering after you sign and
complete it.
The receipt at the bottom of the card has the card serial number on it,
and your information.
Tell the person that a notification card is sent within 2 weeks to confirm
their registration—they should check the card to make sure their
information is correct.
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Guide for the Drive:
Common Omissions
We frequently receive voter registration cards that are missing information.
To avoid processing delays, double-check that the voter has provided their:
County (item 5 & 16)
(use Appendix D if person does not know which county their city is in
Birthplace (item 10)
Identification number (item 11)
Prior registration (item 16)
Citizen & age boxes (item 17)
Date (item 18)
Signature (item 18)
Returning the Registration Cards
To be eligible to vote in a specific election, a person’s completed voter registration card
(VRC) must be received by us at least 15 days prior to that Election Day.
You must hand in completed VRCs within three days of being collected (excluding
holidays, Saturdays and Sundays), or by the 15th -day deadline, whichever is first.
If someone wants to mail or drop off their own VRC for themselves, you must allow
them to take the card.
If there are issues with any cards (non-citizens, underage, overseas, missing
information) you are still required to turn in ALL cards in your possession. Please flag
any cards with issues and turn in as a separate stack.
Return any unused cards to the Department of Elections at the conclusion of your
drive unless you are planning additional drives.
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
Regulations and possible penalties, fines, or jail
There are penalties for failing to follow registration requirements:
 You can be charged with perjury or subornation if someone you
register provides false information on their Voter Registration Card
and you are aware that the information is made up or untrue
 You may not register someone without their consent.
 You may not knowingly register someone who is not entitled (e.g.,
deceased, nonexistence, fictional, non-homo sapiens)
 You must return ALL completed voter registration cards in your possession
to our office.
Other infractions include:
 interfering with delivery of all completed VRCs to election officials
 altering party affiliation
 failing to provide the completed VRC receipt to a registrant
 refusing to give a registration card to anyone upon request
 leaving the green boxes blank or incomplete
 offering incentives (money, prizes, food, raffles, discounts) in return for a
registration card (however, if ANYONE and EVERYONE can have a cookie,
it’s permitted)
 printing statements on the VRC supporting or opposing a candidate,
measure, or political party
 misrepresenting your information on the circulator section
 disclosing confidential information from the VRC (for example, driver’s
license or social security number.)
If you or your company/organization are paying people to help register
citizens to vote, be aware:
 You must maintain a list of everyone who is being paid.
 You may compensate only those who comply with the requirements of
Election Code.
 You must submit all VRCs as directed by Elections Code.
 All paid circulators must provide written acknowledgement that they
received a statement of personal responsibilities and liabilities. (see
Appendix A on pages 17-18 page for form).
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Guide for the Drive:
Tips for Success
Choose a high-traffic event, area, and time.
Be visible and near the flow of traffic:
Lunchtime in a food court
Street fair in the main lane or near food/music
Lobby near the exit/entrance
Attract attention
Stand up and be loud
Use balloons, signs, decorations
Dress up!
Offer something free to EVERYONE, not just those registering
(food, coupon, pen)
Get the word out before the event
Thank You!
The Department of Elections recognizes the time and effort necessary to learn
and comply with these detailed regulations, and is grateful for the service you
are providing to potential San Francisco voters!
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
Statement of Circulator’s Responsibilities and Liabilities
(Elections Code § 2159.5(a))
By signing this statement, I acknowledge that I am being paid to register voters in compliance with the
California Elections Code and that I have received a copy of this statement. Specifically, I understand and
I am required to return any completed voter registration cards I receive to the voter’s county elections
official or to mail the cards within three days of their receipt, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and state
holidays. (Elections Code § 2138.)
On the day of close of registration for any election, I will immediately return all completed affidavits of
registration in my possession to the voter’s county elections official. (Elections Code § 2139.)
For every voter that I help register, I will identify myself in the circulator section of the voter
registration card by writing my full name, address, telephone number, date, my signature, and the
name and phone number of the party that pays me, and will give the receipt to the voter. (Elections
Code §§ 2150, 2158(b)(1), 2159.)
I am required to provide a registration card to anyone who requests one. (Elections Code § 2158(b)(2).)
If I mail voter registration cards to people who have not requested them, I will include a cover letter
with the card instructing recipients to disregard the card if they are currently registered to vote.
(Elections Code § 2158(b)(3).)
Voter registration fraud is serious and could be prosecuted as a felony. I further acknowledge that I
may be prosecuted for any of the following offenses:
1) Registration of a person that I know to be ineligible to register to vote or registration of a
fictitious or non-existent person. (Elections Code §§18100- 18102.)
2) Interference with the prompt transfer to the county elections official of, or the retention of, a
completed voter registration card without the voter’s consent for more than three days, excluding
Saturdays, Sundays, or state holidays. (Elections Code § 18103.)
3) Denial of the voter’s right to return his or her own voter registration card to his or her county
elections official. (Elections Code § 18103.)
4) Writing or affixing to a voter registration card any statement urging or indicating support or
opposition to any candidate or measure. (Elections Code § 18105.)
5) Alteration of a voter’s party preference declaration contained in an executed, or partially executed,
voter registration card. (Elections Code § 18106.)
6) Failure to complete the receipt on the voter registration card and provide it to the voter; failure to
provide a voter registration card to anyone who requests it; and failure to include a cover letter when
mailing voter registration cards to people who have not requested them. (Elections Code §§ 2158,
18107.) 18111.)
7) Failure to identify myself in the circulator section of the voter registration card by writing my full name,
address, telephone number, date, my signature, and the name and phone number of the party that
pays me. (Elections Code § 18108.)
8) Misrepresenting that I helped a voter register by writing my information in the circulator section of the
voter registration card, knowing it to be false. (Elections Code § 18108.1.)
9) Failure to acknowledge receipt of this written statement of rights and responsibilities. (Elections Code
§ 18108.5.)
10) Knowingly disclose a driver’s license number, identification card number and/or social security
number from a citizen’s voter registration card to someone other than an elections official or the
person or organization in charge of the voter registration drive. (Elections Code §§ 2138.5,
Signature of Employee
Voter Registration Drive Representative
Print Name
Form copied from 2011 California Secretary of State’s Guide to Voter Registration Drives
by City & County of San Francisco Department of Elections
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
APPENDIX B: Frequently Asked Questions
Who is eligible to register to vote? Anyone can register to vote if they are:
A United States citizen,
A resident of California,
18 years of age or older on Election Day,
Not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction, and
Not found by a court to be mentally incompetent.
Must a person provide identification when registering to vote?
Yes. When registering or re-registering to vote, the voter must provide a California driver’s
license or state ID number, if they have one, on the registration form.
If the voter does not have a California driver’s license or state ID number, they must provide the
last four numbers of their social security number.
If the voter does not have a California driver’s license, a state ID card or a social security
number, the voter can still register. The state will assign a unique identification number to the
Item 16 of the voter registration card must be completed if the voter has been previously
registered to vote.
Can inmates register and vote?
A person who is convicted of a felony loses the right to register and vote during the term of the
prison sentence and the parole period. Once the parole period is completed, the person’s
eligibility to register and vote is restored. For more information on the rights of people who have
been incarcerated, please see the Secretary of State’s Voting Guide for Inmates at
When must a voter re-register to vote?
A voter must re-register to vote:
Whenever there is a change in residence address.
However, the move is temporary, the voter can continue to use their permanent
residential address. The voter should provide the Department with the temporary address
in order to receive election materials but can do so via email, fax, phone call, etc.
To change their political party preference.
To change their surname.
Upon re-registration, Item 16 of the voter registration card must be completed with as much of
the voter’s previous registration information as possible.
When is the last day to register to vote for an election?
A person must submit a completed and signed voter registration card to their county
elections office no less than 15 days before an election to be eligible to vote in that election.
If a voter just moved within their county, do they need to re-register to vote?
If a voter moved to a new address within the same county, they can either re-register to vote or
they can update their registration with a written notice to their county elections official.
If a voter did not vote in the last election do they need to re-register?
No. In general, a voter is registered for as long as the voter lives at the same address. However, if a
voter has not voted in the last several elections, they may be sent a request to confirm that they
have not moved.
If a person does not vote in a primary election, will they be able to vote in the following
general election?
If a voter is away at school, what address (college or parents’) can they use?
A voter may use whichever address they consider to be their domicile, but not both.
If a person is on parole for a felony, can they register to vote?
No. The person can register to vote when their parole period is completed.
If a spouse is out of town but he needs to register, may the other spouse register for him or her?
No. The registrant must sign their own card, under penalty of perjury. He can complete the voter
registration card and mail it from wherever he is. He may also download a registration card via the
Internet at the Secretary of State’s website at
If a voter registers to vote can the voter be called for jury duty?
Jury duty lists are compiled from a variety of sources, including the Department of Motor Vehicles
records and the voter registration file.
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
Appendix C: Political Party Statements of Purpose
Taken from June 2010 State Voter Information Guide
Taken from June 2010 State Voter Information Guide
Taken from June 2010 State Voter Information Guide
Taken from June 2010 State Voter Information Guide
Taken from June 2010
State Voter Information Guide
Taken from June 2010
State Voter Information Guide
How to Register Voters in San Francisco
Appendix D: Bay Area cities and counties
For a complete list of California cities by county, go to and click California Counties/Cities within each county
The San Francisco Department of Elections is responsible for conducting all federal, state and local
elections in the City and County of San Francisco. Serving a registered voter base of more than 450,000
citizens, the Department of Elections manages approximately 560 polling places and more than 3,000
temporary pollworkers during each election. Voters can vote early at City Hall, by mail or at the polls.
Currently, the Department of Elections uses optical scan voting machines, which scan ballots
at the polls and at the Department's processing center in its offices in City Hall.