SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Thousands of Bay Area residents have begun the presidential election process by voting early or voting-by-mail this week.

San Francisco residents eager to cast their ballots for the November election can take part in early voting starting Tuesday at City Hall.

Voters can go to the Department of Elections on the ground floor of City Hall between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays to fill out a ballot.

The department is also setting up weekend voting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the two weekends prior to the Nov. 6 election, which includes the presidential race as well as other federal, state and local contests.

City election officials have also started sending out more than 200,000 vote-by-mail ballots and recently finished mailing voter information pamphlets to registered voters.

In Contra Costa County, vote-by-mail began Monday and the Contra Costa County registrar says the process has some definite advantages. With the November 6th election less than a month away, there’s already an expectation of slow vote tallies which of course leads to slow results.

“It’s continuing to grow. In my county about 46 percent of my voters are signed up to be permanent vote-by-mail voters. It’s not growing as fast as it used to, but I think it’s catching on in some other counties that were a little bit slower than the Bay Area counties to pick this up,” said Contra Costa Registrar Stephen Weir.

Weir said, interestingly enough, that in a county that leans more Democratic than Republican that it’s the Republicans who tend to vote more by mail.

49 percent of GOP voters are permanent vote-by-mail versus 46 percent for Democratic voters.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

“In 2008, 24 percent of the ballots that were cast could not be counted election night. You’re talking 3.2 million ballots in California. If there’s a close election, it’s not over election night,”

People wishing to vote by mail must send request to the Department of Elections by Oct. 30.

Weir said vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to a poll or an elections office by eight o’clock election night.

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