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September 21, 2011 Revised


Elections Commission Meeting

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm

City Hall Room 408


Order of Business

1.      Call to Order & Roll Call

2.      Announcements

3.      Public comment on any issue within the Elections Commission’s general jurisdiction not included in any other item on this agenda.


4.  Director’s Report

The Director will update the Commission on matters pertaining to elections and the Department of Elections, including updates on activities of the divisions, plans and activities for upcoming elections or election-related functions, and budgetary matters.


5.   Commissioners’ Reports
Commissioners will report on any meetings with public officials, or oversight and observation activities since the last meeting.


Old Business


6.  Discussion and possible action to adopt policy related to the release of voting data in ranked-choice voting contests after elections, including the timing of releases and format of data. This topic was referred to the Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee and discussed at the Commission’s August 17, 2011 meeting. (Commissioner Gleason) (Attachment: Draft Policy on Release of Results in Ranked-Choice Voting Contests)

New Business

7.  Discussion and possible action to request a Waiver Allowing City Employees to Assist the Department of Elections with the November 8, 2011 Consolidated General Election, per San Francisco Charter Section 13.104.5. (Attachment: Memorandum from Director to Commission dated September 7, 2011)


8. Discussion and possible action to approve the Election Plan for the November 8, 2011 Consolidated General Election, per San Francisco Charter Section 13.103.5. (Attachment: Election Plan submitted by Director Arntz)


9. Discussion and possible action to approve the Minutes of the August 17, 2011 Commission Meeting.  (Attachment: Draft Minutes of August 17, 2011.)          


10. Discussion regarding items for future agendas.



There will be an opportunity for public comment on each agenda item.

Materials contained in the Commission packets for meetings are available for inspection and copying  during regular office hours at the Department of Elections, City Hall Room 48.  Materials are placed in the Elections Commission's Public Binder no later than 72 hours prior to meetings.  Any materials distributed to members of the Elections Commission within 72 of the meeting or after the agenda packet has been delivered to the members are available for inspection at the Department of Elections, City Hall Room 48, in the Commission's Public Binder, during normal office hours.

Cell phones, pagers and similar sound-producing electronic devices: The ringing of and use of cell phones, pagers and similar sound-producing electronic devices are prohibited at this meeting. The Chair may order the removal from the meeting room of any person responsible for the ringing or use of a cell phone, pager, or other similar sound-producing electronic devices.

Disability Access: The Elections Commission meeting will be held in Room 408, City Hall, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA. The Commission meeting room is wheelchair accessible. The closest accessible BART station is the Civic Center Station at United Nations Plaza and Market Street. Accessible MUNI lines serving this location are: #42 Downtown Loop, and #71 Haight/Noriega and the F Line to Market and Van Ness and the Metro Stations at Van Ness and Market and at Civic Center. For information about MUNI accessible services call (415) 923-6142. There is accessible curbside parking adjacent to City Hall on Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue and in the vicinity of the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue adjacent to Davies Hall and the War Memorial Complex.

To obtain a disability-related modification or accommodation, including auxiliary aids or services, to participate in a meeting, please contact the Department of Elections at least 48 hours before the meeting, except for Monday meetings, for which the deadline is 4:00 p.m. the previous Friday.  Late requests will be honored, if possible. Services available on request include the following:  American sign language interpreters or the use of a reader during a meeting, a sound enhancement system, and/or alternative formats of the agenda and minutes.  Please contact the Department of Elections at (415) 554- 4375 or our TDD at (415) 554-4386 to make arrangements for a disability-related modification or accommodation.

Chemical-Based Products: In order to assist the City's efforts to accommodate persons with severe allergies, environmental illnesses, multiple chemical sensitivity or related disabilities, attendees at public meetings are reminded that other attendees may be sensitive to various chemical-based products.  Please help the City accommodate these individuals.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS UNDER THE SUNSHINE ORDINANCE (Chapter 67 of the San Francisco Administrative Code):  Government's duty is to serve the public, reaching its decisions in full view of the public. Commissions, boards, councils, and other agencies of the City and County exist to conduct the people's business. This ordinance assures that deliberations are conducted before the people and that City operations are open to the people's review. For more information on your rights under the Sunshine Ordinance or to report a violation of the ordinance, contact the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, CITY HALL, ROOM 244, 1 DR. CARLTON B. GOODLETT PLACE, SAN FRANCISCO CA 94102-4689; PHONE: (415) 554-7724; FAX: (415) 554-7854; E-MAIL: SOTF@SFGOV.ORG.

DRAFT Policy on the Release of Results of Ranked Choice Voting Contests

As Set By the San Francisco Elections Commission, September 21, 2011


Factual Background and Findings

1.      Transparency in the administration of elections requires that the disclosure of vote counts be made public as soon as reasonably practicable after the close of polls.


2.      Ranked-choice voting (“RCV”) is a system of voting in which voters are permitted to list, in order, a certain number of candidates if more than two people are running for the same office. In San Francisco, this method applies to elected officers for the City and County of San Francisco. Ranked-choice voting is treated in Section 13.102 of the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco.


3.      RCV tabulation has no effect until all valid ballots which were cast in the election are tabulated – including vote-by-mail ballots, precinct-cast ballots, and provisional ballots that are declared valid.  In San Francisco, RCV tabulation is done on an ongoing basis as ballots are tabulated and processed, with results subject to change until the universe of all ballots to be counted is closed. Because the order in which candidates are eliminated determines exactly which second-choice (and, if necessary, third-choice) votes get distributed to different candidates, any results published before the universe of ballots is closed are subject to change. This is true of any election under any method of balloting, of course: nothing is final until all ballots that were cast have been adjudicated and counted. It should be expected that vote counts and candidate placements will fluctuate until 100% of all valid ballots are counted.


4.      In RCV contests, if no candidate receives first-choice votes totaling of 50% + 1 of all ballots cast, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and that candidate’s ballots are redistributed to the second-choice candidate listed on that voter’s ballot, if any is chosen. If that first redistribution still does not produce a candidate with a majority of ballots still viable, then this process of eliminating the lowest vote-holder and redistributing those ballots to the highest-ranked viable candidate on those ballots continues until a majority-holder is produced. This process is referred to as “the algorithm,” the computational process by which a computer system reads, counts, and sorts the data files (called “ballot images”) which are produced when an optical scanner reads a RCV ballot. The winner of the contest is the candidate with at least 50% + 1 of all continuing (non-exhausted) ballots determined by the application of the RCV algorithm.


5.      RCV elections can only be determined by first counting 100% of all valid ballots cast, and preliminary vote counts of only the first choice selections may not provide an accurate context of the eventual results. An example of this is the 2010 election for mayor of Oakland, California; there, the candidate who was in third place after the first choices were counted went on to be the eventual winner once the RCV algorithm was applied to all valid ballots.  Therefore, the Elections Commission finds that the earliest possible application of the RCV algorithm and the release of those preliminary results as quickly as possible provides important context for preliminary vote count releases, especially for the first few rounds of released preliminary results.


6.      With the RCV voting system currently used by San Francisco, second and third choices are captured in separate components of the existing vote tabulation devices when a marked ballot is scanned. Thus while all first-choice votes are quickly ascertainable on election night as with other non-RCV contests for ballots counted before or on election day, the downloading, algorithm application, and reporting of the second and third choices is not as readily nor quickly accomplished.  The Elections Commission finds that it is not practical for the Department to process these separate components on election night following an exhausting and mission critical workday that, for many people, already exceeds 18 hours.


7.      Because the Department of Elections obtains the second and third choice data sets for RCV elections from separate components of the tabulation devices than the first choices, and because the Department of Elections has numerous important tasks and obligations after the close of polls on election day (including gathering and accounting for elections materials from polling stations, transmitting election vote counts to the California Secretary of State, etc.), the Department of Elections will need a certain amount of time to apply the preliminary RCV algorithm to the vote count.  While the Department of Elections had adopted an informal practice of applying the preliminary RCV algorithm some 69 hours after the first release of vote counts since November 2004, the Director of Elections has advised the Elections Commission of the feasibility of and his intention to apply the first iteration of the RCV algorithm the day after election day and release the results and ballot images no later than 4:00 p.m. the day following election day, barring exigent circumstances that might hinder that.


8.      The “ballot image,” the data file produced by the scanning of each individual ballot that links any first, second, and third choice votes and permits the specific redistribution of each ballot to subsidiary choices if a ballot’s higher-ranked candidate is eliminated, is a digital file that many researchers and observers wish to download and tabulate with their own RCV-counting software.  The Elections Commission finds this to be a valid form of public observation of elections and a potentially useful check on the operation of the counting equipment and software provided by the Department’s vendor. The Elections Commission further finds that according to the Director of Elections, the posting of these digital files poses no significant difficulty, and indeed the Department intends to post them on the internet on a daily basis along with the daily updates of the ranked-choice results, as it has done in the past.  The Elections Commission finds that the posting of these ballot images on a daily basis along with the RCV updates is an important element of transparency.


9.      Often, the formatting of election results, even preliminary ones or counts in progress, will use boldface font for the candidate currently in first place. The Elections Commission finds that there is some reason to believe this forms a public that the current leader is somehow in first place in something more than a preliminary manner. This impression can then lead to confusion and suspicion if that candidate is later overtaken by a candidate who ranked lower at an earlier part of the process. The Elections Commission does not necessarily believe that this is a large problem, but that it is greater than zero and worth changing if possible.

NOW THEREFORE IT IS ADOPTED AS POLICY FOR ELECTIONS IN THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO  by the Elections Commission pursuant to Section 13.103.5 of the Charter of the City and County of San Francisco,

That the Department of Elections shall apply the RCV algorithm as early as possible following election day and that vote counts with preliminary RCV algorithm as well as the ballot images be released as soon as possible, ordinarily expected to be the day after election day unless the Director finds exigent circumstances that prevent that and communicates those facts to the Elections Commission, and

That the Department of Elections shall update the RCV counts and accompanying ballot images as regularly as possible, ordinarily expected each afternoon unless the Director finds exigent circumstances that prevent that and communicates those facts to the Elections Commission, and

That the Department of Elections shall work with its vendor for election systems and software as well as operations under its own control to use best efforts to ensure that the formatting of preliminary results does not unduly reinforce a candidate’s current ranking until the entire vote count is complete and the results are final.


            Elections Commission

From:  John Arntz, Director

Date:  September 7, 2011

Re:      Waiver Allowing City Employees to Assist the Department of Elections with the November 8, 2011 Consolidated General Election

This memorandum requests that the Elections Commission approve the Department of Elections’ (Department) request for the Board of Supervisors to waive the prohibition under Charter section 13.104.5 that disallows City employees from assisting the Department in the conduct of elections.  The Department seeks a general waiver of this prohibition so the Department is able to utilize the services and expertise of City personnel when necessary; however, the Department presently expects to require the assistance of approximately 10 people from other City departments.


The Department will require technical assistance to upload the vote tallies contained in the memory packs that will be transported from each polling place to City Hall, as well as preparing the information for results reporting.  The memory packs record the voting that occurs in the polling places on vote tabulation machines.  The City personnel will assist in uploading the voting information contained inside the memory packs into the central count system located in the Department’s computer room in City Hall Room 48.


While the uploading of the voting information from the memory packs will last a few hours after the polls close, the Charter prohibits City personnel from providing such assistance to the Department.  (13.104.5).


Except as provided below, no City employee or officer, other than the Director of Elections, an appointee of the Director of Elections or a member of the Elections Commission, may in any capacity perform any function relating to the conduct of an election that this Charter places under the Department of Elections.  This section prohibits City personnel from providing to the Department of Elections services that are unique to that department. . . . The Elections Commission may, upon the recommendation of the Director of Elections request from the Board of


Supervisors a waiver of this prohibition so as to allow City employees and officers to assist the Department of Elections.  The Board of Supervisors

shall approve or deny such requests from the Elections Commission by motion.


The Department does seek to conduct elections exclusively with its permanent and temporary staff, but we find it necessary in some instances to utilize the skills of City personnel who work with other departments.  Thus, after considering staffing needs for the November 8, 2011 Consolidated General Election, I recommend that the Elections Commission request from the Board of Supervisors a waiver of the prohibition of City employees performing election-related tasks and allow City personnel to assist the Department of Elections. 


The Department requests that this be a general waiver in order to provide flexibility in planning for the election.  Still, at this time the Department has identified the need for the assistance of approximately ten people from other City Departments.  The personnel work in the departments listed in the attachment to this memorandum.


I will be glad to answer any questions you might have on this matter.



Encl; waiver request list



September 7, 2011



Re: Waiver Allowing City Employees to Assist the Department of Elections with the November 8, 2011 Consolidated General Election




Technical Support

Number of City Employees: 10

Departments: Department of Technology, General Services Agency, and City Attorney’s Office.



DEPARTMENT OF ELECTIONS City and County of San Francisco

John Arntz














I.           Introduction

Election Plan Consolidated General Election November 8, 2011



The Department of Elections (Department) drafts an Election Plan prior to every election as required by San Francisco Charter section 13.103.5.  The Election Plan provides information on how the Department will conduct an election in a manner that is free, fair, and functional. Afterwards, the Elections Commission will assess whether the Election Plan allowed for elections that are free, fair, and functional.  Following is the plan for the November 8, 2011

Consolidated General Election.


This Plan is organized according to the subject matters listed below. II.            Dates and Deadlines

III.       New Practices

IV.       Voter Outreach and Education

V.        Pollworker Recruitment and Training

VI.       Voting Equipment VII.            Polling Places VIII.            Ballots

IX.       Election Night

X.        Vote Counting

XI.       Remaking Ballots

XII.     Reporting Election Results

XIII.    Canvassing of Election Materials


II.          Dates and Deadlines

     September 12: Preparation begins for mailing ballots to overseas voters

     October 11:

§     Early Voting begins in City Hall, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

§    Mailing of Vote-By-Mail ballots begins

§    Deadline to mail Voter Information Pamphlet to people registered to vote by

September 23 (San Francisco Municipal Elections Code 500)

     October 15: Chinese and Spanish Voter Information Pamphlets mailing target date

     October 24: Deadline to register to vote

     November 1: Deadline for voters to request Department to mail Vote-By-Mail ballots.

     October 29 and October 30; November 5 and November 6: Weekend Early Voting at City Hall, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

     November 8: Election Day

     November 10: Official Canvass period begins

     December 6: Deadline for Department to certify the election








Voice (415) 554-4375

Fax (415) 554-7344

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 48

San Francisco CA 94102-4634


Page 1 of 19

Vote-By-Mail Fax (415) 554-4372

TTY (415) 554-4386








III.        New Practices

A.    Release of Preliminary Ranked-Choice Results on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday

Following Election Day

On Wednesday, the day after the election at approximately 4 p.m., the Department will release

the first set of preliminary results for the ranked-choice voting contests: Mayor, District

Attorney, and SheriffThe Department will also release preliminary results for the ranked choice contests on Thursday and Friday, also at approximately 4 p.m.  The Department will also release ballot image files on these dates as well.  Further releases of preliminary results for ranked-

choice contests will be announced at least one day prior.


B.    Automating the Scanning and Sorting of Vote-by-Mail Return Envelopes

The Department will continue to use equipment that allows for the automation of the scanning of

bar codes on the return Vote-by-Mail envelopes and the sorting of these return envelopes according to precincts after signature verification.  The Department purchased theAgilis” machine from Runbeck Election Services after the equipment operated successfully during the pilot program for the November 2010 election.


The equipment captures the signature on each returned Vote-by-Mail envelope and then allows Department staff to compare these captured images side-by-side with the signature files scanned from every voter’s registration card.


C.    Extra Bar Code on Vote-By-Mail Ballots

The Department will have an additional bar code printed on each Vote-by-Mail ballot card.  The

bar code identifies only the technical information associated with card and cannot be used to connect cards with specific voters.  For example, the bar code contains information indicating the precinct, ballot type, and if the card is the first or second card of a ballot.  The Department will use the bar code when the optical scan machines located in the Departments City Hall office to process Vote-by-Mail ballots cannot read cards during processing.  Using the bar codes will

allow the Department to better track the number of cards that the machines were unable to read and which require manual review.


D.    Posting of Ballot Counts

Starting approximately 60 days before the election with the preparation for mailing of military

and overseas ballots, the Department will post on its website daily reports of the total number of ballots issued.


Starting 28 days before the election with the mailing of domestic vote-by-mail ballots and the opening of early voting, the Department will add to this report the total number of vote-by-mail ballots issued and received.


Starting the day after the election, the Department will add to this report the number of vote-by- mail ballots counted and remaining to be counted.


The day after the election, the Department will include the number of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots received on Election Day, as well as the number of vote-by-mail, precinct, and provisional ballots counted and remaining to be counted.







Ballot counts will be updated and posted on the website by 10:00 a.m. daily until the election is certified and results are official while the reporting of results will continue to occur at 4 p.m.


E. Scanning of Returned Provisional Envelopes

The Department will use the Agilis equipment to automate the scanning of bar codes preprinted

on returned provisional envelopes and sort the envelopes according to their precincts and districts.  The equipment will capture the image of the front of each envelope including voter’s name, address, date of birth and signature. The Department staff will then compare the image captured from the provisional envelope to the signature image file captured from the voter's registration card to verify voter eligibility.


To meet the specifications of the Agilis machine, the Department reduced the size of the provisional envelopes.


F. Ballot Processing Schedule

Vote-by Mail Ballots: On Election night, the Department plans to have processed the vote-by-

mail ballots that it receives prior to Election Day.  By the Friday after Election Day, the

Department plans to have tabulated the vote-by-mail ballots received on Election Day.


Touch Screen Ballots: Also, at the Departments warehouse on Pier 48, the Department will review the votes cast on the touch screen equipment starting on the Thursday following Election Day.  At this time the Department will begin to also transfer the votes recorded on the Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails attached to each touch screen unit onto paper ballots which will be tabulated in the Departments computer room in City Hall.


Provisional Ballots: With the partial automation for the processing of provisional ballots, the Department plans to complete the tabulation of accepted, or, valid, provisional ballots by Monday, November 21.


G. Consolidation of Precincts

For the November 8, 2011 election, the Department will consolidate precincts (i.e., some polling

places will serve two precincts) and will support 406 polling sites compared to 567 sites from the November 2010 election. In making the consolidations, the Department sought to eliminate inaccessible and smaller sites and to obtain sites with a minimum of 500 square feet. The Department also considered topographical impacts and natural barriers such as hills, freeways, reservoirs and parks while not crossing district lines.


Voters living in a consolidated precinct will receive a postcard notice prior to the election, which will include the location of their new polling place as well as a vote-by-mail ballot application if they prefer to vote by mail. All voters will still find the printed address for their polling place along with a vote-by-mail ballot application on the back cover of their Voter Information Pamphlet, which is mailed to every voter 29 days before an election. Further, the Department

will post signs at the location of previous polling sites to direct voters to the correct location for this election.


Vote totals and voter turnout in consolidated precincts will be reported as a single precinct.





Elections Commission Meeting

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm

City Hall Room 408


Order of Business

1.      Call to Order at 6:00 p.m.

Present: President Richard Matthews, Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Arnold Townsend, Jill Rowe, Catalina Ruiz-ealHealy HHealy.

Excused absence: Commissioner Winnie Yu. 

Also present: Director Arntz and Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee


2.      Announcements: None

3.      Public comment on any issue within the Elections Commission’s general jurisdiction not included in any other item on this agenda:  None


4.   Director’s Report:

Director Arntz reiterated that for the November 8th election the filing deadlines have passed for mayor, sheriff and the district attorney.  There are currently 16 candidates for the mayor’s race, 5 for the district attorney’s and 4 for the sheriff’s plus 8 measures, 2 bonds, 2 charter amendments, 2 ordinances and 1 declaration of policy.


Front Office- The department is now involved in providing material for public inspections,

the time that the public has the opportunity to obtain candidate information. The public will also

have time to go over the draft ballot and voter information pamphlet descriptions of ballot

measures provided by the Ballot Simplification Committee. Challengers can petition the superior

courts to obtain a writ to force any changes to this ballot language if they desire.


Workers – The department hired back some of the experienced temporary workers that have

been already trained in various jobs.  The department has approximately 100,000 signatures on

petitions that all require verification.


Precinct Services - The department is moving to a new data base called Elections Management

System (EMS), which has been installed during the last few weeks.  Employees have been

training and the system is scheduled to go live next week.


Ballot Distribution – Department is currently working on two special elections the Fillmore

Community Benefits Election and the West Portal.  The Fillmore Community Benefits election

will last until 9/13/2011 and West Portal until 9/27/2011, these elections are for property owners

that are voting for taxes to provide extra services in the community.   In the process of having the

procedures for Vote By Mail to have the report in by the following Friday after elections day.


Canvass – The department’s plans are to have the election certified by Thanksgiving, which is

earlier than usual. 


Public comment:  Public speaker David Kerry suggested it is important to have

transparency.  He feels that the public should be given prompt information when it pertains to

voting totals . Public speaker Roger Donaldson of San Francisco Voting Systems Task Force

suggested that more disclosure is better and transparency is what the public should have. The

Department intends to release results on election night that includes all the Vote by Mail ballots

received before Election Day. 


Campaign Services – The department is focusing on nomination process the deadline to submit

paid arguments is August 22, 2011 at noon.  Secretary of State will assign the random alpha

drawing to the measures tomorrow.


Outreach – Ranked Choice voting will be including advertising on billboards, bus stops and

other types of media.  We are attempting to reach the voters to educate and dispel

 misinformation they have regarding ranked choice voting (RCV) that its best to mark the same

candidate as  1st, 2nd and 3rd choice.  The department has expanded the use of modern technology

to allow the public to use their smartphones to get various kinds of information, including their

precinct information as well as whether their VBM ballot was mailed out or received back at the

department.  The Department’s vendor has developed software that allows tracking of Vote by

Mail ballots which indicates when ballots were assembled, mailed and received by the

department.  Commissioner Rowe inquired if this will allow others to get information on other

voters.  Director Arntz replied that that is the case, that this is not confidential information.  


5.  Commissioners’ Reports

Commissioner Gleason gave a brief recap of the August 3, 2011 Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee Meeting.  Steven Hill of the New America Foundation spoke at the BOPEC meeting regarding RCV and when totals should be released.  Commissioner Gleason stated the Commission’s view of when and how this information should be released. Currently, there is no policy set which dictates when it must be released.  Director Arntz explained that the department is not prepared to release anything about RCV contests on elections night beyond the first-choice results, that it is possible information can be released the following day by 4:00pm saying this is preliminary.   Commission Rowe states that at the BOPEC meeting it was discussed that to release information regarding 2nd and 3rd choice this may be confusing to voters.  Commissioner Matthews inquired exactly what information could be released on elections night.   Director Arntz says the 1st choice these totals are on a different module, all other 2nd and 3rd choice must be run through an algorithm and totals can be released on both Thursday and Friday.  The department will have a large screen on display outside the office that he can show the totals that are most current keeping in mind that any information must be made to at the same time. All votes should be counted by this time with the exception of some provisional votes. Commissioner Matthews inquired if there was anyway not to have the candidates listed in bold print until it has been determined that they are the winner.  Director Arntz was not sure if this could be obtained, it may be hardwired by the vendor it may or may not be possible he will have to research and get back with this information.  


President Matthews said that there would be a draft policy about the release of results in RCV contests ready for the September meeting.


Old Business


6.      Discussion and possible action to adopt policy related to the release of voting data in ranked-choice voting contests after elections, including the timing of releases and format of data. This topic was referred to the Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee. Commissioner Gleason reports that BOPEC meeting that it was suggested to move Friday back to Wednesday for reporting totals and have the website final summary investigated or discuss the way the information was reported at last election.     


New Business

7. Discussion and possible action to approve the Minutes of the June 15, 2011 Commission


Vote taken and was unanimous to approve minutes of June 15, 2011            


8.   Discussion regarding items for future agendas.  None

Adjourned at 7:01 pm.


Last updated: 4/1/2014 2:56:16 PM