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Serve Your Time, Regain Your Vote

regain your vote
Who do you want for D.A.?

By Ruth Geos

Conviction of a felony in California results in a disqualification to vote, but only while the sentence is being served and the parole period satisfied. Once the time is done, those with felony criminal convictions can take up their citizen’s right to vote again. Indeed, the upcoming November 5th Consolidated Municipal Election in San Francisco offers an opportunity to give direct input on criminal justice policies—the race for the San Francisco District Attorney, one of the most contested parts of the ballot. The CA Secretary of State offers an easy, even pretty, step-by-step checklist on regaining the right to vote, along with a link to go forward to register to vote for the very next election ahead and those coming in 2020.

Other states have other rules for suspending or restoring the right to vote to those with felony convictions, ranging from no suspension at all of the right, to the need for a governor’s pardon. Here, though, it is a relatively easy process. The rules are spelled out in the California Elections Code, Section 2101, which sets the details on who is entitled to vote or pre-register to vote, and have been interpreted by the CA Courts as protecting the right to vote except during the period of a felony sentence or parole.

Elections Code § 2101.

(a) A person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election.

(b) A person entitled to preregister to vote in an election shall be a United States citizen, a resident of California, not imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony, and at least 16 years of age.

(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Imprisoned” means currently serving a state or federal prison sentence.

(2) “Parole” means a term of supervision by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

(3) “Conviction” does not include a juvenile adjudication made pursuant to Section 203 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

CA jail prisoners are different. CA prisoners in county jail can still vote while serving their misdemeanor or felony jail sentence, a parole violation, during probation, and under a variety of other circumstances. To check the finer points on qualifications to vote now, and the process for going forward to exercise that right, consult with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Prisoner Legal Services at 415-558-2472.


For more questions, resources, to register to vote, or to vote, call or email the SF Department of Elections at 415-554-4375, SFVote@sfgov.org.
Don’t forget to register to vote by October 21st for the upcoming election.
And check out our elections guide for more information.


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Early Voting Now Open

Early Voting
By Ruth Geos

As of this week, starting Monday, October 7th, you can be ahead of the curve, and walk right into City Hall and cast your vote or drop off your vote-by-mail ballot. Or if you are not already registered, go ahead and do that. You can also take a moment to pause to look around, appreciate the interior grandeur, the famous marble steps, and try to picture it all as a location for movies, including Milk, Dirty Harry, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And there might be a wedding going on.

Until Election Day, Tuesday, November 5th, voting hours are daytime only, with some upcoming weekend dates:

  • Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Closed Monday, October 14, as legal holiday.)
  • Weekends ahead: Saturday and Sunday, two weekends before Election Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Saturday, October 26th.  (enter on Grove Street)
  • Election Day, Tuesday, November 5th: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The City Hall Voting Center is located on the ground floor, Room 48.

Or, if you would rather vote in your pajamas at home, sign up for a Vote by Mail ballot: https://sfelections.sfgov.org/vote-mail

As to what’s actually on the ballot: contests for the SF District Attorney,  District 5 Supervisor, and other candidates, along with multiple city measures on topics ranging from affordable housing to vaping, campaign contributions, and taxing Lyft-Uber rides.  Other ballot information guides include those put together by the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and Spur. Take a look at what matters to you. And then, vote.


Questions: check with SF Department of Elections at 415-554-4375.
Don’t forget to register to vote by October 21st.
And take a look at our elections guide for more information.


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Are You 16 Going on 18?

Pre-register to vote
By Ruth Geos

In 1971, in the full fury of the Vietnam War and anti-war protests in opposition, the voting age in American elections was lowered from 21 to 18 with the ratification of the 26th Amendment. Fearing the impact of the youth vote in his 1972 reelection campaign, then-President Nixon did all he could to blunt that vote, including trying to deport John Lennon and Yoko Ono, vocal anti-war and Dump-Nixon supporters to diminish their influence and the political power of their music. History sometimes is like a movie: some remember that while he was re-elected, he also became the very first President to resign from office as the Watergate scandal engulfed his presidency.

 26th Amendment:

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The times have changed, but the right endures. And to match the times, 16 is even better than 18: 16 triggers the right in California to leap ahead to pre-register to vote once you turn 18. If you are a California resident at least 16 years old, you may register now and vote for the candidates and ballot measures on the ballot of the very first election that comes up after your 18th birthday—of course as long as you meet all other voter qualifications. You can Pre-Register to Vote online through the CA Secretary of State. So, in real terms, anyone with an 18th birthday before March 3, 2020, can register now to vote in the upcoming California Primary to choose the Democratic candidate for President, and anyone with an 18th birthday before November 3, 2020, can register now to vote in the next Presidential election. And all 16-year-olds can register to vote for the next opportune moment. In 2018, only 9.83% of the total registered voters in San Francisco were in the age range of 17.5-25 years old, and only 1,692 individuals pre-registered to vote here.

Greta Thunberg, climate activist, who is challenging the world and its leaders to take immediate action to stem global warming, is now 16, and she, too, would qualify to pre-register to vote—if she were an American—and a California resident—to select the best candidate to carry these priorities to the fore. Every election offers choices in public policy and direction, and the 2020 American elections are a pivot to key approaches to climate change and every other global and local issue that needs immediate attention, and the votes of all.

New voters may have to show a form of identification or proof of residency the first time they vote. For more information, contact the San Francisco Department of Elections at  415-554-4375 or look at their resources, including working as a High School Ambassador to advocate for full youth suffrage.


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Are You a District 5 Resident?

Are You a District 5 Resident?
All the more reason to vote this November!
By Ruth Geos

District 5

Only one San Francisco Supervisor spot is on the ballot this fall, and that’s yours, if you live in District 5: winding across the Inner Sunset, Haight-Ashbury, Cole Valley, Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, Alamo Square, Fillmore/Western Addition, Japantown, Cathedral Hill, Lower Pacific Heights, North of the Panhandle, and Tank Hill.

The District 5 contest is between incumbent Vallie Brown—who was appointed to serve by Mayor Breed in 2018 to the seat she vacated on becoming Mayor—and 3 challengers: Dean Preston, Nomvula O’Meara, and Ryan Lam.

Voting is open to all who live in District 5:  homeowners, renters and roommates, and those without a fixed street address, including homeless persons who can specify intersecting cross-streets within the district boundaries for a registration address.

Not sure if you’re in District 5? Try this: the District Lookup tool from the SF Planning Department.


Other questions?
Call the SF Department of Elections at 415-554-4375 or take a look at their voting resources, at https://sfelections.sfgov.org/
Registration for the November ballot continues to October 21, 2019
Early voting starts October 7th at City Hall.
Visit our Elections Guide for more details.


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Votes for Women: A (Relatively) New Prize

Votes for Women: A Relatively New Prize…and Harder Won Than We Remember
By Ruth Geos

Votes for Women

From the Smithsonian and National Museum of American History

To continue our Road to the Election series, we now look at votes for women:

In 1911, California became the 6th state to recognize women’s right to vote—and it was no walk in the park. In that election, San Francisco voters, all men, mostly voted against it.

A similar California referendum had failed in 1886 and a constitutional court challenge failed in 1872. The California Supreme Court, in Van Valkenburg v. Brown, 43 Cal. 43 (1872), had supported the refusal of the County Clerk of Santa Cruz County to allow Ellen Van Valkenburg to register to vote, finding that neither the 14th or  15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution established the right to vote by women.

The push for voting rights for women in the U.S. was initially state to state. Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Washington all came before California in winning women’s right to vote. Each state effort built on the next, and not all campaigns were successful.

It was not until 9 years after California suffrage, that the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would be fully ratified, on August 26, 1920.  This next year, 2020, will be not only the next Presidential Election but the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, which is quoted here:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Even with that landmark Constitutional accomplishment, and its plain and forthright language, still not all women could vote. African American women, who had equally fought for suffrage, had another 45 years ahead until that right was legally protected, with the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To see a glimmer of what it took to make U.S. women’s suffrage a reality, take a look at the National Portrait Gallery’s, Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence, along with the exhibition from The National Museum of African American History and Culture, Five African American suffragists you should know, and the evocative array of archived objects in the Smithsonian collections, including campaign buttons worn throughout all.


Next Election: November 5, 2019: SF Consolidated Municipal Election

Still need to Register to vote? Check with the SF Board of Elections.
You can also Register to Vote at the San Francisco Law Library.
Confused about the new SF voting system? Come to our free program on Friday 9/27.
See our Election Guide for more details.


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What Does it Take to Vote?

By Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

Maybe you woke up to a campaign pitch for a Ballot Measure hanging from your front door, or were stirred by the Democratic candidate debates this week–or every day as you walk in the city, wish you could weigh in who should be making policy and setting up priorities for the future of San Francisco. If so, the time to vote is very soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2019
Vote in the Consolidated Municipal Elections
Registration by October 21, 2019

Can you vote?

To vote you must first register to establish your voter qualifications; and to register to vote in San Francisco for all candidates and measures, these are the checkmarks:

  • A United States Citizen
  • A San Francisco resident
  • At least 18 years old before or on the day of the election
  • Not be in state or federal prison, or on parole for the conviction of a felony
  • Not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court

Aren’t I already registered?

It’s simple to find out. Use the Voter Registration Status Lookup with the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Voter Image

If you’re not there, even if you remember voting sometime in the past,  you may need to update your address through a Registration Update. You can scan the Update and return to  SFVote@sfgov.org. or, if you like, mail it back:

Department of Elections
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
City Hall, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102

And if you are registering for the first time, or using this moment to declare your party preference in advance of the State Primary in 2020,  you can Register online or use print options, following the clear instructions, links and even video demonstration, all provided by the SF Department of Elections:

While you’re filling the page out, in whatever mode you choose, you might as well select other options you might like. Want a large-print Informational Pamphlet? Want to skip the print altogether and receive the Pamphlet as a pdf?  Prefer to vote by mail? To do all this in a language other than English? No problem. Just do it before October 21st: 15 days before the election: or then, it is not so easy at all.

Other questions? Call the SF Department of Elections at 415: 554-4375 or take a look at their voting resources, at:  https://sfelections.sfgov.org/


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National Voter Registration Day at the Law Library

NVRDlogoThis year the Law Library is participating in National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), the only holiday that helps register people to vote. It’s celebrated on the fourth Tuesday of every September, so we’re a few weeks away, but leading up to September 24th we will have a series of posts related to NVRD and elections. Be sure to check for new posts, and also stop by or tell people you know to stop by the library on September 24th to register to vote!

Our first post features information on important dates for the upcoming November 5, 2019 Consolidated Municipal Election:


Are you Registered? Are you sure?

Yes, it’s true, all eyes it seems are pointed towards November 2020 for the General Election that stars the Presidential contest. But first, there’s more: the Presidential Primary coming up in March 2020—the very first time California will have an early primary, so that CA voters will be in play to help determine the opposition candidates.

But before that, it’s local. And as they say—all politics is local. Next up is the November 5, 2019 Consolidated Municipal Election. If, in the bluster of national and international news, this one has so far this one has escaped you, we are voting for the San Francisco Mayor’s first full term, for a new District Attorney, a new Public Defender (San Francisco is the only county in the state of California that elects its Public Defender) and a few other local offices, all which affect our own civil society.


Key Dates:

Next Election: November 5, 2019
Register To Vote By: October 21, 2019

Registration to vote ends 15 days prior to the election, so this is the moment to check your current registration status with the San Francisco Department of Elections, and do a full update for this election and those just ahead on the political horizon.

  • To check if you are currently registered to vote in San Francisco, use the Voter Registration Status Lookup tool.
  • To update or makes changes to your Registration, as for example, change of address, choice of party affiliation, or request to go green for an online version of the Voter Information Pamphlet instead of the bulky paper version, some changes can be done online and others by mail. Take a look at Make Changes to Your Registration Record.
  • Or, Registering for the first time (old ways or new): If you have a signature on file with the CA DMV, you can register online using the California Secretary of State’s Online Registration Application or by requesting a paper application, through the SF Department of Elections contact form or by calling (415) 554-4375.
  • Or, if none of this is working for you, plunge ahead and just email the San Francisco Department of Elections: SFVote@sfgov.org or give them a call at (415) 554-4375

And for those who may love San Francisco and wish it all good civic fortune, but live in another California county, take a look at what elections may be brewing in your own backyard this November, and how to sign up for this one—and everything that comes in 2020: https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/upcoming-elections/county-administered-elections/


Look for upcoming posts, as well as a lunchtime program that will help make sense of San Francisco’s new voting system.