People line up to drop off their ballots at the Voting Center at Civic Center on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

People line up to drop off their ballots at the Voting Center at Civic Center on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF turnout high so far in early voting

With exactly 13 days remaining before Election Day, San Francisco voters had cast more than 150,000 ballots as of Wednesday and continued to maintain a strong precedent of voting by mail.

The number of ballots collected so far this year is about four times higher than in the Nov. 2016 election, according to John Arntz, the director of the San Francisco Department of Elections. So far, 31 percent of registered voters have weighed in.

“Ninety percent of ballots come back to us in the mail, and on Election Day we’ll have a large amount of people going to polling places,” Arntz said. “San Francisco does trust the vote-by-mail process, but there’s still a large number of people who drop off ballots at voting places and people who like voting on Election Day for the community experience.”

Arntz said that of the ballots received on Tuesday, about 124,000 were brought in via local mail, 3,000 were sent in by military or overseas voters, 2,800 were counted in-person from the Voting Center at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the rest were drop-offs.

For the 2020 presidential election, there are 521,068 San Francisco voters registered and 388,528 of them are permanent vote-by-mail voters, according to San Francisco Department of Elections data.

In response, The City has issued 542,505 voting ballots – a record number exceeding the 376,736 ballots issued last year and the 367,462 ballots in 2018.

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom in May, every registered voter in the state received a vote-by-mail ballot.

“Expanding vote-by-mail, coupled with ample in-person voting on and before Election Day, is the best formula for maintaining the accessibility, security and safety of our election,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

A task force of election officials, advocates and stakeholders also worked through how voting would work under COVID-19, making adjustments such as processing vote-by-mail ballots 29 days before Election Day, providing sanitary in-person polling locations and expanding the “Where’s My Ballot” tracking service statewide for increased transparency, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.

Since the primaries in March, 72.08 percent of Californians have trended in the direction of voting by mail. Historical absentee ballot use from California Secretary of State data has shown this percentage to be higher than than 2018’s 67.70 percent, 2016’s 58.92 percent or any other year dating back to 1962.

At the time of publishing, Department of Elections statistics revealed Democratic and no party preference voters are the two groups that have participated most in early San Francisco voting.

About 105,000 Democratic ballots have been accounted for, along with nearly 36,000 no party ballots. Republicans make up another 9,000 and American Independent voters came in fourth place with 1,900.

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