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October 30_2012

Elections Commission Meeting
Tuesday October 30, 2012
City Hall, Room 421
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102


President Gerard Gleason called the meeting to order at 6:02 pm. PRESENT. Commissioners Rosabella Safont, Richard P. Matthews, Gerard Gleason, Catalina Ruiz-Healy, and Jill Rowe. Also present: Commission Secretary Tachina Alexander, Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee, and Director of Elections John Arntz. Excused absent: Commissioners Winnie Yu and Arnold Townsend.

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 September 19, 2012 Elections Commission Meeting. Commissioner Jill Rowe seconded the motion. No Public comment. The roll call vote was UNANIMOUS to approve the minutes.

Division Reports
(a) Administrative (Budget & Personnel) – Director Arntz reported that things were going well for the Presidential Election but a bit slow. 215,000 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out for this election; which is about a 14% increase but the rate of return is 14% less than November 2008.

(b) Ballot Distribution Division – The division began opening ballots on Friday, started counting them on Monday, and so far are caught up on the volume. Everything with the Post Office is working out so far. No complaints from voters in regards to not receiving voter guides or ballots.

a. Controversial News Story (“Alleged” Deceased People Voting)
NBC Bay Area started a story about deceased people voting. They paid for a list, compared it to voter rolls for each county in the state, and are saying that thousands of people who are deceased are still voting. However every county that has received it is NOT matching the voter rolls due to middle names, wrong address, no one actually voted after they passed, etc.

(c) Poll Worker Division – Things have picked up over the past few days, however 6 poll worker classes had to be cancelled. They have all the FEDS, all the poll workers, and they have exceeded the number of bilingual poll workers (850 Chinese, 330 Spanish; 1,300 High School Students, 2,300 Clerks, 180 Stand-By Poll Workers) for the polling places. They’re going to have a lot of observers out there on Election Day (Secretary of State’s office, Asian Walk Caucus) so they’ll be well monitored out there.

(d) Precinct Services Division –. Polling place deliveries begin tomorrow. Due to Giants parade they will have to work around deliveries because of city road blocks

(e) Technology Division – Machines are working just fine. They are counting the cards just fine.

(f) Voter Services – They have not been getting any calls from voters inquiring about their ballots. They have received a few calls but nothing that wouldn’t be expected. So far they have received 68,000 vote-by-mail ballots and have had 4,000 early voters who have voted at City Hall. At this point in 2008 they had about 7,000 votes so the numbers are a just a lot less than they were previously.

(g) Warehouse – Candlestick Park will be used for the staging of their vehicles on Election Day and for the FEDS. Before they were at Pier 48 but now they’re going to be at Candlestick because the Giants have taken over Pier 48 essentially. The sales manager of the Giants called before they won the World Series asking if they could use the back ½ of the warehouse for an event they wanted to throw on December 1st so they wanted to move all of the equipment out of the way. Bottom line is that the department’s time at Pier 48 is slowly coming to an end. Director Arntz recently met with the assistant port director and the director of real estate who fervently tried to find ways for the Department to use less space in said building because the Giants are in need of it, regardless of the fact that the Department’s lease is not up until 2015. Director Arntz basically told them that The Department will maintain its lease until 2015 minus the theories or any modifications going forward.

1. Commissioner Ruiz-Healy: Of the 12 deceased voters how many can you not explain?
Director Arntz replied that we have to find if we even have any information before 2009 so I don’t know. But the ones that were after 2008/2009 we have their information. Right now it may be 9 people that there’s a record that they were deceased and we didn’t receive the information from the state’s department of public health or ever. Sometimes you never get the information. Maybe they passed away in Arizona for instance and their information didn’t get back to California. That happens. Right now we have the highest number of registered voters in San Francisco’s history. I believe its 502,000 registered voters and the total pool for the potential pool of deceased people is 362 which are not a lot. We just got it yesterday and I told the reporter that if he was really concerned about voter fraud you don’t wait until a week before the election to say that you know that people are voting and they are supposed to be deceased you’re holding on to information that potentially I think that is in violation of election laws.
Commissioner Rowe stated: Just to be clear you haven’t confirmed that there actually was anybody yet who was deceased and voted but you are still trying to figure out if there was right?
Director Arntz: Yes. Potentially what happen is that people when they’re married and a spouse passes away there are times when a spouse will have a vote-by-mail ballot if we don’t have the information then that’s when it goes to the District Attorney. The District Attorney has been very good through the years about contacting people and following up. Whenever we give them information about potential double voting or someone voting under an assumed named then usually it takes a conversation when we find out that someone in that household has passed away then we cancel the record. But I’ve never seen where there has been a program trying to vote for deceased individuals.
Commissioner Matthews commented that he very much liked the idea that if someone is sitting there on information that is potentially fraudulent that they are themselves are in violation of election laws and is glad that Director Arntz mentioned that to them.
*Director Arntz contacted the District Attorney’s office in February and had a press conference with their office regarding creating a voter fraud hotline. The reason he contacted them was because of the many petitions that were circulating and calls that were coming in regarding the confusion around the subjects of the petitions vs. what the people were actually signing as well as the Petitioners being too aggressive and not wearing badges. Therefore he requested that the DA’s office establish some kind of hotline at that point but they didn’t however the idea must have stuck with them because he received a call the Wednesday before the press conference took place. Thursday they gave him a draft press release which was all about the war on voter fraud which was very aggressive so I had them tone it down and I added my quote and I sent that to them on Friday and the press conference took place on Monday and when I arrived at the press conference I learned what was going to happen at that time. I spoke with District Attorney Gascon at that time and the whole tone of the conference was to let people know that if you see something give the DA’s office a call and here’s a number that will be quad-lingual (Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, English). The conference lasted about 15 minutes and most of the questions were about Rank-choice-voting and I asked DA Gascon if he wanted me to answer them now or off-line and he said go ahead answer them now. So it was probably a 20-25 minute press release and I spoke about 20-25 minutes about Rank-choice-voting. I didn’t see the final press release until I got back to the office after the press conference and I didn’t realize there was going to be an issue with the commission about roles and how any of this was established in the charter. There wasn’t a lot of media there. It didn’t draw a lot of attention and we didn’t send out a press release about it and after I returned from the press conference we added a link to the DA’s website on our website. Actually it’s helpful for us because people call us and they don’t want to tell us what’s going on because they don’t trust us since we’re the one running the election. So if they don’t trust us they can contact the DA’s office directly and they’re taking things seriously so I thought it was a good thing.
Commissioner Matthews stated that he could see all of the good parts and how it would attract Director Arntz attention and support and agreed with all of that. I’m glad to hear that you even had some influence in toning down the press release about it which I still finds pretty reckless in which they mentioned “fraud” four times in the first ten lines. I agree that if people don’t trust the Department of Elections then reporting it through the Department would not be an attractive option for them. As the state election official he would hate for Director Arntz to lose all the oversight of the complaints because he would want him to know everything that happens and not just send it over to the District Attorney’s office. Personally I am galled that he is using as his predicate for setting up this hotline things that were referred to him eleven months ago and he chose to do nothing about and now suddenly he wants to have a press conference which is his M.O. as an administrator. Part of my concern with the Department of Election’s support of the DA’s press activity around this is that in America right now as you know, there is a big voter fraud fraud. However there is NO evidence of in-person voter fraud or voter impersonation and yet 31 states have adopted new rules around voter ID which the only kind of alleged fraud, that doesn’t actually exist that that would address is in-person fraud or voter impersonation. The more “fraud” talk that occurs the more it undermines public confidence, rightly or wrongly, in the results and that’s sort of the only thing in a first world country that makes elections work and there is an orderly transfer of power because we more or less trust the results of an election. Here we are undermining for this one person’s, I believe, thirst for press coverage infringing into our area so that’s my big concern. I was further concerned once I called down and re-read everything that in his own press release his example of fraud isn’t fraud; it’s campaign finance irregularity! So the self-appointed police of Election Fraud doesn’t even know what fraud is or is subsuming other things are the topic of voter fraud and trying to use the Department of Elections or the Director of Elections as a prop to enhance legitimacy for his own publicity. The discussion of voter fraud is different about the discussion of the kinds of crime because just talking about voter fraud itself if there is no real basis for believing it exists itself causes problems.
Director Arntz said that’s true but my reading of the situation didn’t rise to that level because I have a bigger issue with NBC talking about dead voters voting in this election. Yes there are angles there that can be read a lot of different ways. If you notice Sherriff Mikirimi didn’t call me into his press conference about how he’s registering voters in the jails and making progress but we’ve been doing it for years before he even showed up on the scene. There has been no movement on this at all since it happened and I figured that there wasn’t going to be any on it after it occurred but I’m glad that the hotline exists because it helps people get information to the investigators more quickly and that’s what I want. The DA’s office has never been one to withhold information from me and it has been my experience that they will continue to keep the lines of communication open as they have in the past.
Commissioner Matthews asked Director Arntz is that your understanding with their office that if they hear something through this hotline that they will at least brief you on it?
Director Artnz said yes plus all the other people involved. I’ve known these people for years and they get their information from us.
Commissioner Matthews commented that one case pertaining to the supervisor’s election (siting an article in the Examiner newspaper – Commissioner’s personal copy) that “Gascon said his office received one complaint in a Board of Supervisor race he declined to discuss the matter since it’s under investigation” I’m not asking you what that’s about I’m just asking yes or no did they inform you of it were you aware?
Director Arntz replied No I don’t know anything and at the same time there has been nothing at all that has come my way. People take a shotgun approach. How I found out about what was going on in Chinatown wasn’t from the DA’s office or even from a voter but from the Chronicle calling me saying “Hey? What do you think about this code section?” So there’s no clean way to get the information about what’s happening out there for any election but I like the hotline because the DA is now on the spot. They now must be engaged if something happens or if something potentially improper occurs for this election. They put themselves out there; it’s not just me. They made a point that they are going to get involved and I’m fine with that and for me the bigger issue is the media. If you see something wrong happening on Election Day call us. I understand where you’re coming from but operationally my bigger concern more than politics is the media.
Commissioner Matthews agreed with Director Artnz that the media is definitely a bigger problem but still feels that the DA’s office used him as a prop but does not feel that he personally did anything wrong.
Commissioner Ruiz-Healy stated that she sees it as he has more eyes and resources during the election.
Commissioner Rowe stated that the terminology is important and worth being cautious. What I hear you saying is that you appreciate having a means for voters to directly access the District Attorney if they have issues with election irregularities. I think that’s very different than election fraud which has taken on its own meaning in this political environment and I would just say it’s worth being cautious about your presence when that term is being used. It could be an opportunity to say hey “we run very fair elections and we don’t have any examples of voter fraud in San Francisco.”
Director Arntz agreed with Commissioner Rowe’s stance and confirmed that he stated at the press conference that there was no cascading occurrence of election fraud in San Francisco and that’s not why we’re here. Honestly the media was more interested in Ranked-choice-voting because we are going to do Ranked-choice reports on election night. Maybe Gascon wanted it to be that way but it didn’t turn out that way in that environment.
Commissioner Gleason asked if any other commissioners had any questions or comments on the director’s report.
Commissioner Rowe wanted to follow-up on the overseas ballots; did they go out on time?
Director Arntz confirmed that they did go out on time.
Commissioner Gleason wanted to know if there was a way that one could override email solicitations.
He went to poll worker training and there were 6 things explained that poll workers should deliver. Then he saw an unexpected surprise; the commission secretary appeared in the training video.
Director Arntz stated that the Secretary of State’s office is supposed to show up on Election Day at Elise Kennedy’s polling place and give her an award. Commissioner Gleason said that Carl Norte of the SF Chronicle ran a story about Bonnie Jones and he told him “If you really want to cover something cover Bonnie.” So if you have something I’ll forward it to him and say again if you really want to write something…
No Public Comment

Commissioner Ruiz-Healy stated that she spoke with David Carey about what was happening this cycle and he was very happy.
Commissioner Rowe reported that she spoke with a judge at an event and that he and all of his judge cohorts always say that they have had good experiences with the Department of Elections and he wanted her to convey the message that’s their common consensus and the process has been very smooth for them.
No Public Comment


6. Discussion and possible action regarding San Francisco District Attorney's recent creation of a hotline and resources devoted to possible election-related irregularities. The District Attorney or his designee will be invited to appear at this meeting to brief the Commission and respond to questions the Commissioners might have about the creation of this hotline *(SEE INSERT IN DIRECTOR’S REPORT ABOVE)

Additional Comment: Commissioner Gleason contacted David Pfipher, the Deputy DA in charge of operations, and explained to him some of this. He stated that the DA respectfully declined the invitation to attend commission meetings as a policy as they are not responsible to answering to commissions or any operations outside of their own or selected DA. There is nothing in the press release that deviates from their normal operations; they just haven’t made this information public. If anyone has any questions about prosecutable offences or violations of elections codes they put it together here so it could be answered; what is voter fraud; what is voter interference, etc. It’s nicely put in one spot because when I previously looked at this it was buried in election code. One of the things that I experienced from this is that there is a place for people to go. Maybe a lot of this is from the experience of last year where there wasn’t an operation set up where people could go with this. Now they have a viable way of being heard with the hotline and an accountability mechanism in place. Some of the instances are spelled out in here like the 18371 and I did mention that. I asked if there was anything in here that I should know about. Is there any voter fraud active right now? Because one of the things that happens when you throw out the word fraud, as Commissioner Matthews brought out, is there anything actionable right now and he said no. I said what about the thing mentioned in the Examiner and he said they can’t discuss that but it has to do with campaign operation which is one thing I brought up to him. You rolled voter fraud in with election operations and campaigning which has been a problematic in San Francisco and he understood that and he said yes that actually has fallen under ethics and other departments and it was unfortunate that that got put into one stew.
Commissioner Matthews wanted to know if he understood that or if he understood it only after Commissioner Gleason said it?
Commissioner Gleason said no he seemed to know right away that he understood it. I told him that that was one of the things that we were sensitive to. I asked him about things that have happened in the past and what kinds of things that they look for. Things like people who are registered to vote at their businesses and are not residences of San Francisco. He brought up, as voter fraud, the gentleman who took the ballots which I don’t know if it was voter fraud or voter interference but anyway…The short of this is that they don’t feel that there is nothing going on that is different than what normally happens.
Commissioner Matthews stated that one of the reasons that he supported inviting the
DA or his designee is to find out his actual intentions. It is clear from the press release that he doesn’t know what voter fraud is as distinct from other kinds of legal violations that happen to pertain to elections. I am totally not surprised to hear about the poll worker who stole the roster and storage cart out of the eagle would be called fraud. That’s a smash and grab crime that happened to occur in the context of an election so the fact that they are throwing this term around which is incredibly inflammatory, incendiary, and not just that but affirmatively harmful.
Commissioner Ruiz-Healy asked if Commissioner Matthews wanted to write a statement since the statements have already been made.
Commissioner Matthews would like to see that the District Attorney’s office be made aware of their gross misuse of the terminology “fraud.” He mildly suggested the subpoenaing the DA’s office but wasn’t sure if that was the “best” way to go and was open to suggestions of the other commissioners.
Commissioner Ruiz-Healy suggested writing a letter as having some proof of specific documentation that this has been brought to their attention.
Commissioner Safont suggested that a response letter encouraging them to be careful of the terminology used would be helpful. Remind them how hard we’ve worked to build faith and trust in the election system.
Commissioner Rowe stated that we don’t want to add to the furor by subpoenaing the DA which would give press to the very issue we are trying to avoid giving press to in the first place.
Deputy District Attorney Mollie Lee stated that if the commission wanted to pursue the subpoena she would have to do some more research to see if that was within the commission’s subpoena jurisdiction.
Commissioner Gleason stated that his two cents would be to send someone to sit down and go over these issues with them in person may be worthwhile.
Commissioner Rowe stated that she is a believer in the power of the written word so perhaps we should do both. Commissioner Ruiz-Healy agreed with her.

Commissioner Matthews volunteered to draft a response letter to the Press Secretary to the next meeting. (TABLED TO NOVEMBER MEETING)
No Public Comment


Commissioner Matthews Inspector at George Washington High School
Commissioner Gleason Inspector at Sutro School
Commissioner Rowe Inspector at Fire Station on Leavenworth
Commissioner Ruiz-Healy out of town
Commission Secretary at City Hall

No Public Comment


A. Commissioner Matthews will draft response letter to the District Attorney
regarding the blatant misuse of the word “fraud” in the DA’s “Election
Related Irregularities Hotline” press release.
B. Draft Elections Commissions Annual Report 2011

Last updated: 1/10/2014 10:26:58 AM