SF Politics 101 > San Francisco Elections


I Voted

When are the upcoming elections? | Qualifying for the Ballot | What is the legislative referral process? | What is the initiative process? | How does a candidate qualify for the ballot? | Post-Election | Is there a legal way to challenge the results of the election? | Special Elections | Campaign Finance

In this section, we dive into the electoral process in San Francisco – from how many signatures it takes to put an initiative on the ballot, to what triggers a special election.

Given what we know of your professional need for information about San Francisco’s electoral and legislative processes, we have chosen to provide you with a high-level summary. (Should you desire further information about these laws, and details surrounding this subject matter, you can find the entire set of guiding rules and principles in the City Charter and Administrative Code, Board of Supervisors Rules of Order, the Board’s Legislative Process Handbook, and the Department of Elections Candidate Guide: Board of Supervisors (Odd-Number Districts Only), Candidate Guide: Board of Education, Community College Board and BART Board (Districts 7 & 9), and Guide to Qualifying San Francisco Initiative Measures.)

When are the upcoming elections?1

Election Dates San Francisco

Qualifying for the Ballot

In order to be placed before San Francisco voters, ballot measures can take a variety of paths towards confirmation, including the charter amendment system, the legislative referral process (backed by the Mayor or four or more Supervisors), and the signature-powered initiative process.

I Voted Stickers

How does a charter amendment make it to the ballot?

Any proposal to make an amendment to the City Charter must be submitted to the electors by the Board.

What is the first step?
The proposed charter amendment must be introduced to the Board of Supervisors at a regular Board meeting no less than 168 days prior to the election, where it will then be referred to the appropriate legislative committee for public hearing. However, before the proposed charter amendment can be heard at committee, the City Attorney must sign it and provide a legislative digest before the 30-day rule commences.

What happens after reference to committee?
After its reference to committee, the proposed charter amendment is filtered through various offices in City Hall, including:

  • City Attorney: If the amendment has not been approved to form yet, the Clerk of the Board transmits the amendment to the City Attorney for preparation or approval as to form. Within ten days after receipt from the Clerk of the Board, the City Attorney must prepare or approve as to form, or provide a negative report in lieu thereof.
  • Controller: After its reference to committee and approved as to form, the Clerk of the Board refers such proposed amendment to the Controller. The Controller has ten days to submit to the Board a written statement pursuant to the Charter, analyzing the proposal as to its cost.
  • Mayor and Other City Officials: After its reference to committee and approval as to form, the Clerk of the Board refers such proposed amendment to the Mayor, appropriate department heads, and appropriate boards and commissions for comment as to the effect upon any matters within their respective jurisdictions.


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