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June 4, 2010

City Hall, Room 421
City and County of San Francisco

Minutes of the Meeting Held
Thursday, June 4, 2010

(Approved: __________ )

Call to order at 6:00 pm

1. Roll Call: PRESENT: Commissioner Derek Turner , Commissioner Gerard Gleason (arrived at 6:03 pm), Chairperson Richard Matthews.

2. Discussion and possible action to approve the Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee minutes for February 3, 2010. Commissioner Turner MOVED and Commissioner Matthews SECONDED approval of the February 3, 2010 minutes. The ROLL CALL VOTE was UNANIMOUS to approve.

3. Director’s Report

(a) Director Arntz shall provide a complete and comprehensive report on the production assembly, and delivery of VBM ballots and the response of the Department to errors in that process for the June 8, 2010 election.
Director Arntz introduced Mr. Dave Haines, Senior Vice President of K & H Printers from Everett, Washington, who explained the process for printing and preparing vote-by-mail (VBM) ballots for mailing. Director Arntz said that there are two issues for this election. The first was that 1400 people received two ballots which were correct and identical. When this was discovered, a letter was sent to those voters on May 18th which informed them to vote one of the ballots and to tear and recycle the second one. The other issue was misaddressed VBM ballots. This was discovered when the DoE received two calls from voters on May 12th that complained of misaddressed envelopes. On subsequent dates voters called and informed the Department about these issues.

The Director remained in contact with K & H and on Friday, May 21, 2010, Mr. Haines came to San Francisco to begin his investigation by reviewing the complaints to determine the cause. By the end of that day, there had been approximately 22 calls regarding the misaddressed envelopes by day’s end. There were two calls regarding the duplicate ballots by Tuesday. Mr. Haines and the Director were able to determine the problem regarding the duplicate ballots on Tuesday. The May 18th letter was sent to voters whose addresses were determined to have received two ballots and the calls to the Department after that letter were minimal - just ten calls since Monday of this week. The letter was very effective in informing voters about the issue and what their response should be.

Regarding the misaddressed envelopes, Mr. Haines was able to discern from the approximately 50 calls from voters, where in the sequence of over 175,000 ballots, the envelopes were misaddressed. The DoE was then able to determine which voters would have been potentially affected by this sequence because all ballots are numbered from 1 to 175,000. There were envelopes returned to the Department by the Post Office which assisted in determining the range of the ballots that were misaddressed. The DoE phone bank working overtime, and armed with this information, started calling those voters whose phone numbers were available from their registration forms to let them know there was this problem. Three thousand calls were made over four days to the voters whose addresses fell within the sequenced range. In addition, calls were made to a few hundred voters whose addresses were on the perimeter of the sequence and some random addresses were called. Twelve to thirteen hundred voters were spoken to or were left messages on their phones.

A second letter was sent on May 21, asking VBM voters to check that the information enclosed in their ballot envelope was correct and if not, to contact the Department as soon as possible so that they could be sent a replacement ballot. After the letter, the DoE received 45 calls on this issue.

Forty-three voters’ ballots were returned because the voters voted the wrong ballot because the outside envelope in which they received their ballot was misaddressed. The correct ballots were immediately sent to those voters. There have been no such cases over the past few days. The Director said that if this problem happens over the next week, because the numbers are so small, his staff is ready to go to voters homes (if they cannot be contacted by phone) to deliver a new ballot and explain the situation to them.

To date, there have been approximately 300 voters who have been identified as being affected by this misaddressing problem. This is 300 out of the 175,000 ballots sent to the permanent VBM voters.

The Director responded to a question he received from the Committee regarding the barcodes that appear on the outer envelope of the VBM ballot. He stated that the San Francisco Post Office requires the DoE to send out its mail with information on the envelope that is different from what other Elections Departments are required to do in California. It is the Director’s hope that with discussions with the Post Office, the City can standardize its addressing to that which is required of other counties.

Chairperson Matthews explained that the issue of duplicate ballots being in the hands of voters is not a problem, simply because of the safeguards that prevent voters from voting more than once an election. He did have concerns about the misaddressing of envelopes providing wrong ballot types to voters.

Director Arntz said that because the misaddressing was to the exterior envelope which contains the ballot, the information on the ballot could be incorrect for that voter. That is, the voter could receive the wrong ballot type.

Chairperson Matthews asked if the return envelope could have the wrong voters name on it and not be noticed by the voter when he or she signs and returns the ballot.

Director Arntz responded that this could happen and that this is what is being checked by his staff when the ballots come in. When this happens, his staff is contacting those voters and reissuing their ballot.

Chairperson Matthews asked what would be the legal ramifications of a voter voting, signing and returning a ballot with the wrong person’s name printed on it.

Director Arntz said that if the ballot type is the correct one for the voter whose signature is on the ballot, that ballot is counted. If a voter is not contacted by the Department, did notice the letter sent to them by the Department, does not learn of the potential problem from the media reports, does not go to their polling place, did not vote provisionally, and then sends the DoE back the wrong ballot type, the worst scenario is that some contest in which they were eligible to vote may not be tallied for them. On that ballot, all the votes for the measures will be counted, but the partisan contests will not.

Mr. Haines added that the ballots were assembled in mailing order. This is the order in which the post office requires that they be assembled. The chances are high that the voters who had these problems live in close proximity. The ballot type will probably not be a problem, but the partisan issue might be a problem because this is a primary election.

Mr. Haines gave a computer presentation in the form of a slide show and video about his company, its history and client list, a process overview, what happened in this case and what are the solutions. He explained that his company is the largest mailer of ballots, probably in the U.S., but definitely on the west coast.

Mr. Haines explained that the problem of voters receiving multiple ballots was due to the system removing problem or mismatched ballots from the assembly/insertion process and placing them in the area where these ballots are kept for review. It is probable that someone mistakenly placed these quarantined ballots into the mail stream.

For the November 2010 election, the quarantined ballots will be shrink wrapped with red colored plastic to prevent them being picked up and placed with the clear wrapped good ballots.

Solutions discussed were: to meet with the San Francisco post office and try to get an agreement to allow ballots mailed to voters to be printed with the voters address on the reply envelope (which is allowed in all other California counties) this will eliminate the additional step now required to address the outer envelope; add an exit-scan camera to the K & H ballot assembly line that will read an additional bar code and match it to the address on the envelope.

Director Arntz added that because the City’s ballot is so large and has a large window on the front of the outer envelope, there are challenges not just for K & H but for other vendors. The large size ballot gets grabbed and often the window bulges and becomes torn.

Chairperson Matthews asked the Director if the media interest had resulted in any candidates/campaigns contacting him with concerns about the possibility of there being a tight race where a few votes might affect the outcome. Director Arntz answered that he had not heard from any partisan campaign but had heard from a campaign for a judicial contest that was concerned and asked for a list of potential voters who might be affected by this issue. The DoE sent this campaign a list of the voters whose addresses fell within the range of the ballots that might have been involved. That campaign wanted to make calls to the voters themselves.

Chairperson Matthews asked the Director about a concern regarding the zip codes on the VBM envelopes and were they part of the problem. Director Arntz responded that there is a bar code that has a voter’s complete mailing information which could replace all voter text information on the outer envelope. The post office could get all the information it requires from the bar code that is located just above the main line of the voter’s text address. This is called a “post net bar code”. Director Arntz said that the San Francisco post office does not want this bar code or the voters address on the envelope because it would cause a mail loop – that is, the mail to be returned. Director Arntz said that this is the issue.

Commissioner Gleason said that the DoE needs to work with the San Francisco Post Office as a partner to resolve these problems with the mailings.

Mr. Haines said that some counties, in order to prevent mail loops, make the return VBM ballot a distinctive color and the local postal carriers know that the envelope is never to be returned to the voter and always goes to the county. This is important because ballots are time sensitive.

Chairperson Matthews said that it seems intuitive that the postage side of any envelope is the side the carrier should read as the addressee. Mr. Haines said that it is the post office machinery that causes this problem of looping and it would a good idea to explore what kind of machines are being used. He added that most post office machines do not sort the envelopes of the size in which San Francisco’s ballots are mailed. Mr. Haines said that he would get his mail experts to come to San Francisco and meet with the representatives of the San Francisco post office. He said the “post net bar code” is all that is needed to get the mail to the right voter, however, the carrier likes to see the name because he or she knows who lives where.

Mr. Haines said that if the S. F. post office says “no” to the DoE regarding its suggestions and/or requests to solve the problem, then the DoE can just remove the bar code and leave only the text address. He said this would result in the Department paying a premium, but that would probably amount to about $3000 total per election.

(b) Director Arntz shall report on preparations for the June 8, 2010 election including any other issues or concerns that have arisen about the election, if any.
Director Arntz reported that there are no significant issues. The poll worker and Field Election Deputies training continues, ballots will be going out on Sunday. Staffing schedules are in place. VBM ballots are arriving and are being processed. Testing of the voting equipment has been completed. There is so much information on this ballot that Sequoia has had to add RAM to the touch screen voting machines, and memory cartridges with a larger capacity were borrowed from Riverside County for San Francisco to use. The Director advised that when a county borrows equipment from another county the state election code requires the Board of Supervisors from the lending county to approve the transaction. There is no cost to the borrowing county.

There was a concern in the press that a sex offender whose mailing address was the same as a polling site. The DoE has removed the high school poll workers from this location and another with a similar concern. Chairperson Matthews said the Department’s response was reasonable and all that the Department could really do. Director Arntz said this situation has never been an issue in the past. The City Attorney’s office has contacted the Attorney General’s office for guidance.

Chairperson Matthews asked the Director when he was made aware of the RAM issue since it does not appear in the Election Plan. Director Arntz replied that it was just before the equipment testing which was after the election plan was approved. This will not effect the election and the machines tested successfully. The Director said he hopes that Sequoia will provide cartridges with more RAM in the future.

Commissioner Gleason suggested that an addendum be added to Election Plans that would cover updates for things that occur after a plan is approved. In addition, the state should look into there being a state centralized authority from whom counties could borrow equipment when necessary instead of borrowing between counties.

ADJOURNMENT at 7:35 pm

Last updated: 6/11/2010 7:11:07 AM