Relatively few voters turned up at City Hall Tuesday to vote on the local election. Key races on the ballot include district attorney and District 5 supervisor. (Caroline Ghisolfi/S.F. Examiner)

Voter turnout ‘consistent, but slow’ at San Francisco polls

Although voters flowed into San Francisco’s more than 400 polling places at a steady pace Tuesday, elections officials said voter turnout appeared likely to be much lower than expected.

“In the previous three, four years, turnout was around 50 to 55 percent. That’s our baseline as far as planning is concerned,” said Department of Elections Director John Arntz. As of around 4:30 p.m., turnout was still “more like 16 percent.”

Of more than 500,000 registered voters, only about 81,000 had submitted ballots by mail Monday and Tuesday, according to Arntz. And just 3,700 San Franciscans visited the voting booths at City Hall since they opened on Oct. 10.

Throughout the day Tuesday, no more than a dozen people were issued ballots at City Hall at once, staffers said. As of 4 p.m., 854 voters had been issued ballots at the polling location, according to City Hall Campaign Services staff member Shirley Yu.

“It’s been consistent, but slow,” Yu said.

“We had a little bit of rush after people got off work,” added John Ferdon, one of about 20 employees who assisted voters with their ballots during the day. “I noticed there’s also been a lot of first time voters.”

Sebastian Raphael, a 39-year-old first-time voter, said he was thrilled to vote at City Hall Tuesday. “I moved here recently, and it’s the first time voting in my life. I’m very excited. I love this city and I want to see it grow.”

Others came to City Hall with specific issues in mind.

“The DA race was one of the main things I came to vote for,” said voter Forest McKee Reiling. “And the affordable housing bond too. It’s just super important.”

“I came to vote on the cigarette Juul measure. I don’t like the idea of kids getting exposed,” said another voter who identified herself as Dana. “The DA race is also interesting. I don’t really know much about it, but I kind of like the progressive candidate. I don’t think that Mayor [London] Breed should have chosen that interim. That’ll be bad for her.”

Polls are set to close at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and Arntz said he expected more voters to turn up at City Hall before the end of the day.

“It usually happens in waves,” he said. “And it’s been picking up towards the end of the day.”

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