Blog SF March 2024 Primary: What is the DCCC?

This obscure election is the most important one on the March primary ballot

Feb. 25, 2024

SF DCCC logo

(Note: this post is adapted from Chang's "Principled Agents" blog.)

Primary elections are upon us, and if you’re a registered Democrat, it might be tempting to not pay much attention because of a lack of a competitive presidential primary. In particular, you might be tempted to gloss over the section titled “County Central Committee” with a bunch of names on the ballot. In fact, this is an extremely consequential local election that we should all pay attention to.

If you’re short on time and just want a call to action:

  1. The SF DCCC election is both low-turnout and low information, so individual votes are much more likely to be decisive. Only registered Democrats will see this race on their ballots.
  2. Double-check your voter registration. If you're not currently registered as a Democrat at your current address, you may have to re-register and vote in-person.
  3. I’m voting for the YIMBY-backed SF Democrats for Change slate, because I think they’re the most likely to back pro-housing candidates and ballot measures in future local elections.

What is the DCCC and why is it important?

Local elections and ballot measures tend to be both low-turnout and low-information. This is because the vast majority of voters do not have the time or policy expertise to conduct their own deep dives into every local office and ballot proposition. The net effect is that most voters will often either leave these races blank, or base their selections entirely off of a list of endorsements. During past election seasons, you may have received mailers like the one below:

SF DCCC endorsements from the 2019 election

The SF DCCC is the organization that decides what goes on those mailers. Here, the SF DCCC stands for the SF Democratic County Central Committee, which serves as the official arm of the Democratic Party in San Francisco. Since SF is so heavily Democratic, these endorsements can often have an decisive impact in close races. In the past 4 years, there have been three Board of Supervisors elections that have been decided by less than a single percentage point. Two of those - the 2019 Board of Supervisors D5 Election and the 2020 Board of Supervisors D1 Election - were were decided by less than 200 votes!

Hopefully you’re now convinced of the DCCC’s importance. However, many SF residents with a vested stake in these elections may not even realize what they're missing out on, because...

This election is only open to registered Democrats

That's right; since the DCCC is an intra-party election, only voters officially registered with the Democratic Party can vote. Voters registered with the Republican Party or Green Party will also have this question on their ballots, but with a completely different slate of candidates.

This means that if you lean Democratic and typically vote with the Democrats, but are not an officially registered Democrat, you are essentially forfeiting your vote in an election in which your vote is much more likely to matter.

To clear up some common misconceptions, here's what registering as a Democrat does not mean:

  1. It does not mean that you agree with all - or even most - of the policies associated with the Democratic Party.
    1. In fact, DCCC elections are a great way to influence what policies San Franciscans associate with the Democratic Party!
  2. It does not magically add you to Joe Biden's email list.
    1. Activities like donating to campaigns or signing up to volunteer is what gets you onto email lists, not registering to vote.

How do I make sure I can vote in this election?

Check if you're registered as a Democrat in San Francisco

  1. Go to this voter status checker provided by the California Secretary of State.
    1. Check the "Your political party preference is" section.
    2. If it doesn't say “DEMOCRATIC”, skip to the section below on re-registering.
  2. Check the “Address where you are registered to vote” section.
    1. If this is not your current address, skip to the section below on re-registering.

If you're NOT registered to vote as a Democrat at your current address

The deadline for updating your voter registration online has passed, but you can still register and cast your ballot in-person! You have two options:

  1. Go to your designated neighborhood polling location on Election Day, March 5, anytime between 7am-8pm.
  2. Go to the City Hall voting center on or before Election Day. From now through Election Day, the City Hall voting center is open:
    1. 8am-5pm every Monday through Friday before Election Day
    2. 10am-4pm every Saturday and Sunday before Election Day
    3. 7am-8pm on Election Day

Regardless of which option you choose, tell the staff that you want to register to vote as a Democrat, and make sure you get the Democratic primary ballot.

Who should I vote for?

Rest assured, you do not have to read through each candidate statement in the giant voter information book. For DCCC elections, candidates will form coalitions and run on slates, and different political groups will endorse different candidate slates. Their campaign materials will also often include step by step instructions for how to find this race on the actual ballot.

As a dues-paying member of SF YIMBY, I'm backing the SF Democrats for Change slate for the March 5 election. If you’re curious and would like to learn more about some of the candidates, follow the link above or check out the SF YIMBY endorsements page. For a simple cheat sheet, I’ve included sample ballot images that you can save and use to fill out your ballot. Use the one corresponding to your Assembly district - it should be right under the presidential primary on page 1 of your ballot:

2024 SF DCCC election - D17 sample ballot
2024 SF DCCC election - D19 sample ballot

If you don’t live in San Francisco, don’t worry! Each county has its own DCCC race where your vote could make a big impact. Not every chapter has released an endorsement slate yet, but you should be able to keep an eye out on chapter-specific endorsement slates for South Bay YIMBY and East Bay YIMBY, respectively.