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August 15, 2012 Elections Commission Minutes

Elections Commission Meeting
Wednesday August 15, 2012
City Hall, Room 408
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

President Gerard Gleason called the meeting to order at 6:04 pm. PRESENT. Commissioners Rosabella Safont, Richard P. Matthews, Gerard Gleason, Arnold Townsend, Winnie Yu, Catalina Ruiz-Healy, Jill Rowe. Also present: Commission Secretary Tachina Alexander, Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee, and Director of Elections John Arntz.

2. Public comment on any issue within the Elections Commission’s general jurisdiction unless otherwise included in an item on this agenda. There was no public comment.

3. Approval of Minutes from previous meetings.
Commissioner Rich Matthews moved to approve the Minutes of the June 20, 2012 Elections Commission Meeting. Commissioner Jill Rowe seconded the motion. No Public comment. The roll call vote was UNANIMOUS to approve the minutes.

Director Arntz presented a draft of the outreach posters, pocket sized brochure, and
the candidate list to the commission for their perusal. Director Arntz presented the
following update on the November 6, 2012 Consolidated General Election.
There will be a 3-card ballot in non Ranked-Choice Voting districts and a 4-card ballot
in the Ranked-Choice Voting districts. There are 2 contests that have only 1 candidate
(District 9 and 11) but there is a possibility that there will be write-in candidates as well.
There will be printed names on the ballot as well as three or four slots for any
qualifying write-in candidates.

Division Reports
(a) Administrative (Budget & Personnel) – Director Arntz said that they’ve made purchase orders and operational planning for the coming election.

(b) Ballot Distribution Division – They have been preparing for this election as well as the retirement board election. Ballots for the retirement board of elections will begin to be distributed on August 23, 2012. They’ve been organizing the ballot order beginning with the Sherriff’s Department in order to have the security organized around the voted ballots, memory devices, and the canvass. They are trying to purchase additional equipment on the machine that sorts and scans vote-by-mail ballots and the purchase was recently approved by the Mayor’s office Tuesday August 14, 2012. Now they’re waiting on the approval from the Controller’s office to have that shipped to them and installed for the November election. The benefit of having this equipment is that it will cut the processing time in half which will enable them to do more in less time and ultimately certify the election more quickly.
(c) Campaign Services Division – The nomination deadline was last Friday so they’ve been directly involved with everything in order to be ready for that. There was an extension for the community college board and the school board which ended today. There were 2 additional candidates that signed up for the school board and you will see them on the candidate list. The deadline for opponent’s argument will be tomorrow August 16, 2012 at noon and for paid arguments it will be next Monday at noon. Therefore Campaign Services will be involved in collecting that information by going through it and dealing with submitters.

(d) Outreach Division – They are continuing their “Be A Voter” brand, which started last election, they have received a lot of feedback from that so they’ve decided to continue it. They will add it to the voter guide for this election so that it will be consistent with all of the Department’s materials. So if one goes to a store they will see the “Be A Voter” brand as well as on the voter guide, when they go to the post office so that the message will maintain its consistency throughout the election. They are getting posters together (which were handed out to the Commissioners) as well as a Ranked-Choice poster. For this election they are trying to focus on young voters. Not that they haven’t in the past but they are managing their resources much better this time around. Tuesday they met with 500 college instructors and gave them “Be A Voter” posters and have set up 20 opportunities to go to City College and give presentations to the students this fall before the election. Sunday they will be going to a freshmen orientation at USF in order to register students and hopefully create opportunities for outreach before the election. They will also work with the Job Core at Treasure Island and register folks who are involved with that organization. They have events scheduled at SFSU, The Fashion Institute, and Heald College. They’ve already worked with the California Disability Rights staff to teach them how to register voters. One of their goals this year, more so now than in the past, is to teach others how to go out and register voters rather than have just the Department do it. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to do. We did this with the high school students for this past June election they trained them how to train others how to register voters. They are going beyond the schools and working with other groups such as the California Disability Rights group. They will be going to the public housing sites and post-service coffee hours at local churches. With the online registration, the Secretary of State will be in place for this election. The Outreach Division has been talking with the technology folks about getting the message out about how to register people online. There is a conference call with the Secretary of State’s office with all registrars today and the Secretary believes that they can go live with the online registration just after Labor Day. What will happen is that voters can go to the SOS website, enter their information (i.e. Driver’s license and Social Security number) and that information will be cross referenced with the Department of Motor Vehicles. If it’s a perfect match, the DMV will send the signature image directly to the SOS and they will send it to the Department with the signature attached and that will serve as the record of registration. So if the Department gets a vote-by-mail ballot, provisional ballot, or anything from a voter it will have that signature image from the DMV as a record to compare against what it receives from the voters. So far the state seems optimistic that this is going to happen. The Department had planned to get some apps for the tablets so they could go out and do online registration but it’s probably going to be too late to do it with this election. But they can always direct people to the SOS’s website and have it done, put a link on the Department’s website, and just get the word out. So that’s happening and a lot of it will occur around that idea as well. They’ve already sent letters out to their community based organization list which is 450 organizations that they have in their database. Again just letting them know all of the information that they have and asking them to invite the Department out to their events in order to provide outreach services and do registration drives. They’ve also sent letters to 200 neighborhood associations and merchant groups asking them also to invite the Department to their events and let the Department know what’s going on so that it can provide them with the necessary information. They already have 100 events scheduled and going into November that will probably increase four-fold before we get to Election Day. They are also going to the Bay View Backpack giveaway this Saturday to again try and get out there as much as they can to get as many diverse opportunities as possible. They’ve already sent posters to the schools, recreation centers, to all the libraries, and again provided them with contact information and let them know what the department can do as far as outreach is concerned. The Department is continuing efforts to be invited to events so that it can give outreach presentations.
(e) Poll Worker Division – They have sent out their recruitment letters and Commissioners should’ve received theirs already. Four-thousand potential poll workers have received their letters even though only two-thousand are needed for this election as well as about one-thousand students. The “Intake Room” will open on September 7, 2012 for walk-in business. If anyone comes in and is interested in being a poll worker the Department staff would take them into that room and give them an aptitude test and if they are interested in being an interpreter they will give them a language proficiency test as well. It’s not an onerous test but it’s just to see if they really are bi-lingual. They already have 140 training sessions planned for this election for the poll workers. Last election they had training labs with the equipment. They will expand that out and double the number of labs they have. Director Arntz met with the San Francisco Democratic Club on last Friday. The leader of that group has a sight disability and it took him 45 minutes to vote at the polling place in June. He had a concern about how poll workers handle, approach, and provide The Edge, touchscreen unit, but once Director Arntz explained to him all that the Department does he realized that sometimes it’s just a hit or miss with the poll workers having everything up at the polls and understanding what they have to do. One solution to that is maybe having the video on setting up the Edge and the audio ballot, running continuously as a loop in the lab. Director Arntz goal is to have the poll workers armed with the knowledge of what to do and how to make the Edge usage as seamless as possible. In the end they understood that a lot of effort goes into what the Department does and the services it provides so this eased their fears of having a repeat performance for those with disabilities in the November election.
Poll worker training is based on where the poll workers are assigned. So the poll workers in the Ranked-Choice Voting districts will receive different training than the Non Ranked-Choice Voting districts. If you’re not handling an RCV card at your polling place you won’t receive information about how to handle that card.

(f) Precinct Services Division – They have already sent out letters to confirm polling place sites for November. Currently they need to find 70 additional polling places and 90 places still have yet to respond to the letter. Final maps are being formatted and printed with the new precinct lines since the new redistricting changes. They are also in the process of changing their old precinct numbers to new precinct numbers. Currently if you look at the precinct map, the first number is the assembly district and the second number is the supervisorial district. Before all polling places began with a 2 or 3 other than district 11; it started with an 11. So now it’s 7 and 9 for 17 and 19. All of their tracking of the equipment is based on precinct numbers so they have to check all the tags, records, and materials so that’s been a job for them.

(g) Technology Division – They have been inundated with a lot of database work. The Secretary of State’s office will come to the office and test the query that they used in November 2011 to make sure that all the Ranked-Choice Voting information has moved over into the tabulation module. In 2011 they had a mapping file issue where it didn’t tell the tabulators to send all the files to the Ranked-Choice Voting module. The vendor created a query to ensure that the mapping file is functioning as it should this time around. In order to use the mapping file they must receive approval from the Secretary of State’s office so they will be here tomorrow to observe the process and make sure that everything will run properly.

(h) Voter Services – This year the number of petitions has been unreal and they have finally finished reviewing them all. They had to do a 100% check (make sure that they all matched) of 20,000 signatures on a state petition and that was recently completed as well. They also did an email blast for all of the overseas voters whom we had email addresses letting them know that they could send their ballot via email as opposed to hard copy ballots. They are not trying to push the email ballot but they do want them to know that it is available if they choose to use it. There has been a concern that if you mail a ballot in from overseas that it may take longer to get to the USA so they want to let them know that they have another alternative.

In regards to the ballots they’ve started much earlier than in the past. They already have the shelves, instructions, contest labels, fonts, borders etc. All of it has been approved and they’re done with that. Now it’s a matter of inputting the ballot content. Now that they have completed the nomination process today we will get a finalized list to the vendor on Friday. Next week they will get the final proofs of the ballot back from the vendor for review and then 60 days before the election they will begin sending out ballots to overseas voters not just working to get them out by E-45. They will also be working with the print vendor to automate the process of getting ballots out. They used to hand-stuff the envelopes but now they will have the vendor print out hard copies of the ballots, insert them into our official envelopes, and send them to overseas voters First Class mail. They can do that all the way up to E-45 and even after that the vendor can send a supplemental request for overseas voter ballot, which is a big change. They’ve made a lot of progress in regards to the overseas voters and Director Arntz does not foresee any issues and would be surprised if there were any. Since they’ve started so early Director Arntz does not see the Department leaving any candidates off the ballot like they did last year for the Peace and Freedom Party Central Committee.

(i) Warehouse – They are working on where they can beef up the RFID program system that they have. Again that is something that is not funded because they don’t know what they’re going to do or what they can do. They are still trying to do a pilot program and simultaneously acquire the equipment. So they are getting things figured out for November and still find some funding and get approval to spend money on the RFID. They are also putting together a spreadsheet and database of the items they consume for each election. They finally have a centralized database that they developed for all of the materials, supplies, and equipment that goes out to the polls and that the Department uses. Previously it hadn’t been organized in a way that it’s by election so they’ve had a bunch of stuff in our database but not organized by what goes out or what comes back so the Director is trying to get an idea of rate of usage. Is there something we can plan for and include in the budget verses taking a guess at it? They have several thousands of things they use but they’re essentially trying to automate tracking and ordering processes around the material, supplies, and equipment that goes out to the polling places. Same thing with the voting equipment. They have a database and spreadsheet of the history of each piece of equipment. The equipment is tagged with a bar code and it goes through several stages for each election such as maintenance, testing, delivery, retrieval, and then shelved. Every step of the way they track what happens with the machine to the best of our ability even at the polls on Election Day. So if there is a call on a card reader they track that information. Again they’ve had the information but it wasn’t partitioned by election. It seems intuitive that you would do it that way but the original idea was “Let’s do it! Let’s get it done!” because there was so much information but now they’re going back partitioning by election to see if there are any trends that they can identify. Director Arntz’s concern is that since the equipment is older that they’ll start to see some trends and types of problems with the equipment as they move forward and they’ll have to address that somehow.

1. Commissioner Gleason: Expressed that he liked the logo on the flyer handout. He believes that the outreach division should be visiting colleges because their minds are currently not on the election. He recently dropped off his son at college and his mind was on other things rather than an upcoming election. In 2008 they had about 150-160 provisional ballots that were uncounted at the USF campus. To put it into perspective it was like 1/3 of the vote difference in Florida. It’s just a phenomenal number and he brought that up to a Political Science Professor at San Francisco State. In fact last November the Department opened up a precinct at SFSU and there were only 3 voters, which was odd but maybe it’s just the nature of college voting. Perhaps it can be explained to them that we’re here for you but we need you to do your part by registering and voting at the precincts.
Commissioner Gleason asked Director Arntz if he could elaborate on the meeting he had with Mr. Leons of the FDR Democratic Club. Commissioner Gleason forwarded everyone a copy of the letter but I was curious as to what was actually the nature of what happened? Because, two things he’s thinking of, and one is if the machine is not set up properly usually the Feds come through and they spot that. On the other end of that spectrum, he has set up the machine and have never had anyone come in, but can imagine, even the number of years that he’s been a poll worker that when someone comes in and actually needs to use the machine that he might flub it! Like he knows to put the card in the reader but was it a case where the machine failed, it wasn’t set up, or what?
Director Arntz replied that he believes Mr. Leons arrived in the morning and the machine was not set up yet and it was supposed to have been set up before he walked in the door. Then also with the primary election when you put the card in the card reader it’s counterintuitive because for the general election if you put the card in the card reader it’ll ask you is this correct. Then you would press yes. But for the primary election there was a menu taped along the side of the card reader on the Edge for the party cards. So instead of pressing “yes” you were supposed to press the corresponding party number and Director Arntz believes that intimidated the poll workers. The Edge is rarely used and when they do use it and there’s a change from when it was used last he thinks that throws them off a bit. As you know it’s an old machine and it takes a while just to turn it on due to its need to cycle through its programs. So not only is it taking a long time to set up the machines but you have to wait for it to cycle through all its programs and get ready for voting. He thinks that the poll workers were unsure of what buttons to push on the card activator so we had to call someone in to help with that, so that’s what happened with that polling place.
Commissioner Gleason asked if Mr. Leons voted there regularly and Director Arntz replied: “No, he didn’t say and his concern was not so much that he was frustrated but that he didn’t want anyone else to have that same experience that he did on Election Day.” He came in to the meeting thinking that we didn’t do enough around the machine and we actually put a lot of effort into the machine. We try as much as we can to instruct the poll workers on how to operate the equipment. We have the videos online and technology where people can either go on our website or YouTube, as well as in the manual but the machines are just not used often enough. It’s not a muscle that the poll workers exercise often but with this election we are going to do whatever we can emphasize that without violating the commission’s policy on the use of the Edge. We don’t want it to appear that we are pushing for the use of the Edge, so like I say at the lab we’re going to put a little bit of focus on the Edge. It may seem silly but it’s like the infomercial that won’t go off at night; they keep replaying over and over again. I’d like to have it set up at the lab where the 10-minute video just keeps playing over and over again. Maybe 5 people with catch the message I don’t know but that will be just 5 less problems that we have out there on Election Day. We can tune in the Feds and District Leads more on what to look for on the Edge on Election Day. It would probably be more of a morning issue than the afternoon or evening really because we’ll go out there and ask them if they know how to use the Edge. We will make sure the Edge is set up and ask them what’s going on. So again, I think it would be more of a morning issue and if there’s a higher turnout there may be a rash of other issues but it will rapidly decrease as the morning goes on.
Commissioner Gleason said that the one thing that struck him about it was when you talk about someone’s experience with this, there are 560 precincts and that’s 560 experiences. It strikes me when I’m in a precinct where I know I need a translator that we know about that but we don’t know about who may come in these places. My thought is that if we know who’s coming in we’d make sure that’s known and put the “A Team” in those places; it’s like re-double the efforts but I still think it’s difficult to have all 560 precincts be top notch. Like I said if the ball gets passed to me I may flub it once or twice because I haven’t dealt with it. But after one or two times I would probably be an expert at it. It’s one of those things, that’s counterintuitive to what we want to be able to provide; which is people walk in and it’s there. We seem to know at some level about language requirements and needs in certain areas, and I don’t know if there is some way that we could look at this, working with an organization like this to let it be known that hey someone is going to need help here.
Director Arntz stated that they do. “For instance, the Lighthouse for the Blind, we work with them before every election. We tell them that if there is anyone who works with their organization and they think they will need help on Election Day, to call us. There are already many polling places where we know that people who come there will need the Edge in place, so people are sent there in the morning to set things up. So we already do that. The same thing with the assistive devices that are associated with the Edge machine, it’s in our materials, on the website, and we tell them and any other associations like that, if you’re going to need help on Election Day please call ahead and let us know and we’ll make sure it’s there and set up before you arrive. Mr. Leons didn’t realize that himself that it was already set up for him upon his arrival and it will be again going forward. This Election we had 80 votes on the Edge and 36 of those votes I think were at City Hall so there was a total of 44 votes citywide on the Edge for this election.”
2. Commissioner Gleason asked if there were any additional comments. Commissioner Ruiz-Healy said that she was really pleased that they’re doing specific outreach to young people and being thoughtful about that.
3. Commissioner Gleason asked again for any additional questions or comments from the general public. There were none.
No reports. No public comments.
Commissioner Gleason requested a report from BOPEC (Budget and Oversight of
Public Elections Committee).
(a) Commissioner Jill Rowe reported that on August 1, 2012 BOPEC met and voted unanimously that the full commission find that the Department of Elections substantially complied with the June 5, 2012 election plan. BOPEC discussed fairly extensively with Director Arntz, various aspects of the Election Plan including the disability access that we just discussed, including RFID, use of the Tablets, and were satisfied that the election plan had been complied with. There was only one issue that needed to be improved for next election that didn’t come out in the election plan, was the timing of the overseas ballots which the Director discussed at the last full commission meeting but that was not a part of the election plan.
(b) Commissioner Gleason stated that at this time based on the recommendation of the BOPEC Committee is there a motion to find that the Department of Elections was in compliance and had an effective election plan for the June 5, 2012 election. Commissioner Safont so moved. Commissioner Ruiz-Healy seconded it.
(c) Public Comment regarding motion: None.
(d) Vote was UNANIMOUS to approve.

Commissioner Gleason stated that this item was put on the agenda at the request of Commissioner Townsend so I’m going to turn this over to him.
(a) Commissioner Townsend stated that based on what is happening with the
Elections in San Francisco, the last election, even though I recognize that it
was a midterm primary and that California doesn’t factor into the Presidential
Primary as much. Considering that this is a Democratic city there was no real
fight on the Democratic ballot, at the same time, I just find it depressing and
dangerous that we have such low turnout as we do and as we did in that
election. In some communities it is just abysmal so I have always felt that there
should be something the Commission could do in some way in regards to voter
outreach to try and maximize voter turnout. I recognize that anything we do has
to be non-partisan and should not be activist in that way, but certainly working
in that department trying to do what we can do. So I thought that, legally if we
can do it, there was a way for us to create a committee that would engage the
public or at least try. I attended the Department’s voter outreach and it was
extremely well attended and the people were very active and concerned about
voter outreach. There were a lot of communities that were well represented
such as the Veterans and Disabled, which brought to our attention that the
levels of the shelves should be accessible to them. I was unaware of
that particular need but have now become cognizant of it in terms of how
it impacts those individuals. There were also advocates there who were
concerned about the homeless voter’s rights. I have another friend of
mine who is very active and concerned about the voting rights of
prisoners in county jail and making sure that they vote. So I was
wondering what other commissioners thought about this issue because I
previously introduced this idea about 4-7 years ago but it wasn’t met
with great appreciation or concern. I think we’ve seen, except for the last
Presidential Election, a problem with voting. I recognize that sometimes
the lack of involvement is a vote as well. It’s a statement as well as what
people are being offered to vote on. If that’s it, I have no problem but I
think that our job becomes one to make sure that if people don’t show
However if there are other reasons for low turnout then we ought to be

Commissioner Gleason asked if there was a question on something we should do as an organization?
Commissioner Townsend said ultimately let me tell you what I’d like to see us do, and our capable city attorney will have to tell me where I am on this. I would love to see us meet to have a meeting to create an outreach committee and that committee would then work with the public. My dream would be to encourage public interest to create a body outside the city, like a non-profit, that is something like “The Friends of the Public Library, Friends of the SF Voter” who could then pursue corporate and or foundation funds to increase voter registration then voter turnout. However that would have to come from the public. They would have to see that and want to make that happen because it would not work as a city function of this commission but the commission could work with folks that would like to make that happen.

Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee stated that there are limits to what the commission can do in terms of direct voter outreach. The charter assigns responsibility for voter outreach to the department and to the extent that the commission wants more information or has ideas or suggestions for voter outreach, it should engage with the department in its normal oversight and policy functions. The commission could establish an outreach committee but the kinds of things that the committee could do are the kind of things the commission does normally. Commissioner Townsend is correct that if you are envisioning a body itself out doing outreach, that body should either be the Department of Elections or an outside group.

Commissioner Townsend then stated that he does not want to put any cumbersome work on people and people coming to meetings to engage the public and the public doesn’t come to. I don’t want to do that to anyone. I’m just being realistic. We can’t get them to vote and getting them to coming to meetings would be a challenge. Although, based upon what I saw with the department, I think we could get people to come to a hearing at an appropriate time. What I would like to suggest at this time, if it’s okay with people, that I talk about it more with the department and see how we can create a way to get it done. I would then bring it back to you all and if we did need to do some work then maybe we could do that as a commission at a designated meeting or a special meeting and invite the public to that. In hearing Ms. Lee I may be a bit premature in trying to put this committee together at this time. I’m not saying that wouldn’t flow later but what I want to do might could be done without us creating a committee but I just think we ought to be focused and concerned and in whatever legal way we can with the department engaged in trying to do something with the 33% turnout we’ve had at our elections.
Commissioner Gleason asked if Commissioner Townsend needed an authorization for a discussion.
Commissioner Matthews said that he didn’t think we needed an authorization but that Commissioner Townsend would go and do some research and investigation and then we’ll come back with whatever.
Commissioner Townsend agreed that he would bring it back.
Commissioner Catalina Ruiz-Healy said that she’d be more than happy to help Commissioner Townsend with the outreach piece as well as help figure out what the department might need. Since this is a very rich field of folks who vote and register and do the outreach but I think there is some room for us to begin figuring out how to can start measuring stuff.
Commissioner Townsend said that he would get in touch because what he’s thinking about is engaging groups that I know are already concerned with this and see if we can bring some consensus to see if we can go to work on this issue. I just think that that would probably be one of the energizing voters ought to be something that the city is concerned with not only in this department but in the Mayor’s office on down to the Board of Supervisors. They just ought to be concerned because I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again like a broken record. It doesn’t matter if my side wins all the time, but the 33% 15% is really not democracy and it’s potentially dangerous. Item continued.
Commissioner Gleason agreed to continue this item for a future meeting that Commissioner Townsend agreed to inform him of in advance.
Commissioner Gleason asked if there was any public comment. None

Commissioner Gleason stated that he had this item on here as a reminder. He asked if we had a draft at this moment or is this a continued item?

Commissioner Matthews stated that it is still in draft form so by our next meeting I will have it to you.

Commissioner Gleason agreed that we would have this item on our next agenda.
Commissioner Gleason then asked if there was any public comment on the Draft Annual Agenda 2011. There was no public comment.

Commissioner Gleason stated that our next meeting is on September 19, 2012 and BOPEC will meet on September 5, 2012, is that going to be scheduled? Because we should have the election plan; we will have the draft election plan enough time prior to the September 5, 2012 meeting of BOPEC and then we will have the election plan on the September 19, 2012 meeting. We will also deal with the public employee waiver at that time too.
Are there any other items that we need for future agendas? There was none.

Commissioner Gleason asked if there was any public comment. There was none.
Commissioner Gleason asked if there was a motion to adjourn. Commissioner Townsend moved to adjourn.


Last updated: 1/10/2014 10:57:02 AM