Transparency is government’s commitment to share information with citizens and is an important part of making sure voters have confidence in the security, accuracy, and integrity of the voting process.

The purpose of an Election Observer program is to allow public observation and input into the election process. This public participation ensures that we maintain our healthy democracy.

IMPORTANT: Appointments are strongly encouraged and recommended prior to observing election activities. Appointments can be made using our online appointment system, by emailing or by calling us at 650.312.5222.  

Election Observer Plan 

Election Observations Rights and Responsibilities from Secretary of State

Check in Procedures
  1. All observers must sign-in at the front counter when arriving and sign out when leaving including lunch.   

  2. An observer badge will be issued. The badge must be worn and visible at all times.  

  3. If an observation area is available, the observer will be escorted to the available area. To be escorted to another available observation area, the observer must notify a staff member.  

General Rules

IMPORTANT: Observers who fail to follow these rules, engage in any misconduct, or interferes in the election process will be asked to leave the facility for the duration of the ballot processing and canvass.  

  1. No discussion of politics, campaigns or candidates is allowed among observers within the facility.  
  2. No observer shall interfere with the judgment of an elections official or the conduct of the election, including touching or handling of the ballots or envelopes.  
  3. Observers may approach sufficiently close to the observed process to determine whether a challenge of the process is warranted but not closer than 6 ft.  
  4. Observers may not directly question staff performing their work.  
  5. You may talk briefly and quietly with your escort but must move all other discussions outside the observation area. Disruptive conversation or comments are prohibited.  
  6. Cell phones must be set to silent or turned off. No phone calls are allowed, except in the lobby.  
  7. All challenges must be logged in the manner provided by law. If a challenge unduly impedes or interferes with the work process, challenges shall be discontinued.  
  8. Photographs or videos of a process are permitted ONLY with prior, written, permission. No photos or videos may be taken of staff members without consent of the individual. No photos or videos may be taken of confidential voter information, including but not limited to voter signatures. No audio recorders are allowed. 
  9. Backpacks, briefcases, and purses are not allowed.  
  10. Only red pens are allowed in the ballot processing areas.  
  11. Operations will continue as scheduled whether an observer is present.  
  12. Observers must remain in the area they were assigned to. If you are found wandering or unsupervised, you will be escorted from the facility.  
  13. Inappropriate or aggressive behavior toward staff or other observers will not be tolerated.  
Observable Activities

To learn about upcoming activities, visit our Election Calendar under “Current Election” or from our Press Releases. Follow us on Twitter @smcvote for updates and information.  

Prior to Election Day 

  • Petitions 

  • Security Measures and Materials 

  • Ballot and Equipment Preparation 

  • Functional Testing of Voting Equipment 

  • Vote Center Representative Training 

  • Vote by Mail Processing 

  • Vote Centers 

Election Day 

  • Vote Centers 

  • Election Division Office Activities 

After Election Day 

The Official Canvass 

  • Verification of voter eligibility for Conditional, Provisional and Vote by Mail ballots 
  • Duplication of unreadable paper ballots   
  • Processing ballots with write-in votes 
  • Resolving ballots with questions about voter intent 
  • Ballot reconciliation and accountability 
  • Random selection of precincts for the One Percent Manual Tally  
  • Post-Election Manual Audit 
  • Returning voting equipment securely to the warehouse.  
  • Recounts (If Applicable) 
Helpful Hints for Observers
  • Wear comfortable shoes, you will be standing for long periods. Seating is limited or unavailable.  
  • Please refrain from wearing strong perfume or aftershave.  
Video: Vote by Mail Processing


Video: Voter File Maintenance