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Meeting Information

Elections Commission

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City and County of San Francisco

Elections Commission


Minutes of the Meeting at City Hall Room 408

December 16, 2009




1.      CALL TO ORDER.  President Joseph Pair called the meeting to order at 6:04 pm.


2.      ROLL CALL.  PRESENT.  Commissioners Rosabella Safont, Richard P. Matthews, Gerard Gleason, Joseph Phair, Winnie Yu (arrived at 6:09 pm), Deputy City Attorney Mollie Lee, and Director of Elections John Arntz.  EXCUSED.  Commissioner Arnold Townsend.


3.      Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes of the November 18, 2009 Elections Commission Meeting.  Commissioner Matthews MOVED and Commission Safont SECONDED this item.


The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS to approve the minutes.


8.      Report of the Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee (BOPEC) Meeting. 

President Phair asked that Item # 8, The Report of the Budget and Oversight of Public Elections Committee  (BOPEC) Meeting, be taken out of order due to Chairperson Matthews needing to leave tonight’s meeting early.


Chairperson Richard Matthews reported that Deputy Director Aura Mendieta attended the meeting for Director Arntz.  There were several question regarding the initial review of the DRE (Direct Recording Equipment) performance during the November election that the Committee wanted the Director to answer.  Those questions were relayed to the Director after meeting by the Deputy Director.  Director Arntz provided written responses, by memo, to the Committee last week.  Chairperson Matthews will review the responses and provide a memo to the Commission within two weeks regarding his observations of the November 2009 election as it relates to the DRE.  The Minutes of the BOPEC are in the meeting packet for tonight’s meeting.


5.  Director’s Report

Director John Arntz reported that all divisions are organizing budgets for the next fiscal year.  The Mayor’s Office’s mandate is for a 20% cut with 10% of the cut to be on going.  Department of Elections’ (DoE) Division Managers are looking at materials and supplies and temporary staff needs in order to make these cuts.


The upcoming June 2010 election will be the second election in the current fiscal year and will be larger than the November 2009 election because there will be no consolidation of polling places.  In last November’s election there were 409 polling places, in June 2010 there will be 561 or more.  The DoE will plan staffing based on the November 2009 election and build up staffing and materials to what will be needed for June 2010.  The DoE will not cut services but will streamline its operations.  Director Arntz hopes to get a draft budget to the Commission by the second week in January.


Division Updates:


Ballot Distribution is involved in archiving materials from the November 2009 election such as rosters and vote-by-mail envelopes.  Staff will be checking and clearing the storage area at Bill Graham Auditorium where they and other divisions store materials.  This is a large task.  The Division is seeking a high speed scanner to pick up and read bar codes on vote-by-mail ballots instead of the hand-held one currently being used, and upload that information into the system.  The Division is performing a cost benefit analysis for obtaining a new and faster system.  The new system would also verify the signatures on the envelopes, within specific tolerances, open envelopes and sort by precinct. 


The Director reported that he was in Sacramento last week to attend The New Law Conference for California Election Officials.  At this meeting, vendors show off their new products.  One company may use San Francisco as a test county for a new mid-priced ($150 to $200,000) bar code scanner to automate the vote-by-mail process and increase the efficiency of the Department.  There is a $20,000, smaller machine we may purchase as a stop gap which can later be used for other purposes.


Budget and Personnel, which is Administration, is also involved in the budgeting and staffing process.  Audit checks with EDD (Employment Development Department) are being done for all the temporary staff hired before each election and then released shortly after the election.  The DoE separates these workers from City employment, and forwards information to EDD regarding each individual.  This is a large task which must be done with each election.


The DoE is drafting a proposal for an election information management system which is a voter registration data system.  In 2011, California will implement “Vote Cal” a statewide data base program under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) from 2002, in which all states are required to have a statewide database.  We need to get a new system under contract that will interface with the “Vote Cal” system.  DoE has been using the DIMS (Data Information Management Systems) since 1992.  Finding a new vendor will be a large project.  The system will not only involve voter registration, but also: pollworkers, polling places, petitions, candidate information, etc.  The Department hopes to draft a proposal by the end of January 2010 that will go out for bid  several months later because of the various steps that must be taken within the City’s process.


Several divisions are working on a grant through the Secretary of State (SoS), under HAVA, for accessibility.  The Department made a request last July, and finally received notice that it is eligible to receive a grant of $249,000.  Director Arntz, with the City Attorney’s help, has drafted a resolution to accept the funds.  These funds will go quickly.  A large portion will go to buy chairs so voters can sit down.  Through the years chairs have broken.  The DoE will also be creating materials to explain and demonstrate, via video, accessibility to voters.  In addition, funds will be used to make the front counter of the Department more accessible.


Redistricting as a result of the 2010 census is being planned.  The DoE will have links on its website with census information to be disseminated through Outreach events.  The Commission’s role will be to recommend who will occupy three seats on the Voting System’s Task Force in 2011.  It is expected that members of the public will contact the Elections Commission regarding these seats.  The redrawing of the lines that make up the voting precincts will happen sometime between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.


Campaign Services Division handled a filing to recall the Supervisor of District Ten last week.  The Supervisor has seven days to file a response, then the petitioners should issue a notice and then the collection of signatures begins.


In addition, the Division is working on the guides for the June election, declaration of policy ordinance, Charter Amendments, Central Committee Guides – the Central Committee is a very large part of the primary elections and information for the November election.  There are currently 49 candidates – that is people who have taken out a declaration of intent to run for Supervisor.


Outreach Division has released a report regarding Voter Outreach and Education which was given to the Commission Secretary earlier today.  Work is being done on a booklet for ADA, along with the Mayor’s Office on Disability and The Light House for the Blind and Sight Disadvantaged. 


Publications Division is working with vendors to streamline printing and working on templates that are consistent from one election to the other so that the vendors can have a better understanding of our needs. 


Poll Locating and ADA Division is working on the accessibility grant that the Department has received for materials and is making determination of how best to use the monies.  One of the primary duties of this Division is to work with the Director to plan out the redistricting for the City.


Pollworker Division is developing the training schedule for the June election, and identifying and securing locations for the training, and reviewing the performance reports from the FEDs (Field Election Deputies) of the workers from last November’s election to assist the Division in returning only the best workers for upcoming elections. 


Technology Division is working on a database for the Outreach Division, in addition to databases for canvassing and warehouse inventory tracking.  With Pier 48, the Department now has one location to centralize activities, but it still needs to refine how we inventory and replace our materials and supplies at that location.  With the help of Administration, the Technology Division is working to help Divisions work together on supplies and inventorying those supplies at the warehouse.  Additionally, the Technology Division is readying another file server transition.


Voter Services Division is working on changes and cancellations of voter registrations.  The Division reviewed a state initiative and finalized it yesterday.  Staff is working also on creating efficiencies in how they handle their responsibilities.  One example is the large volume of information the Department receives every election.  The amount varies with each election.  The Division is comparing the information historically, with time studies to determine how much each staffer can accomplish and in what amount of time.


Commissioner Matthews asked if the successor to the DIMS system will be able to mask certain fields of registrant information if the state changes the election code to permit masking, and could the Request for Proposal (RFP) include this masking requirement.    Director Arntz responded that this would not be difficult, and in fact, the Department could now do this with its current equipment.  The Director added that he completed the outline of the performance specifications for the RFP today, and has required that if new requirements of state law arise, the equipment be able to comply. 


Commissioner Matthews asked if the problem of having potable water at Pier 48 had been resolved.  Director Arntz answered that it had and that a filtration system was installed last year.


Commissioner Gleason asked if there was a possibility of sharing the expense of the vote-by-mail equipment with another City Department, considering that the DoE only needs to use the equipment during elections.  Director Arntz said that it would be difficult to agree to the proportion of the cost each department would be paying and there is the issue of custody of Election Materials.  If the equipment is housed somewhere else, the ballots would need to be transported to that location.  The machine does not have to be a large one, and the Director said that he would like to have it housed in the DoE.  Then there is the problem of the maintenance contract for the machine. 


President Phair asked the Commissioners to review the Voter Outreach report that the Director provided earlier in the day and be prepared to discuss it at the next meeting.


Commissioner Safont asked if the Outreach report could be broken down to show the percentage of registered voters targeted in the Outreach Presentations and the percentage actually reached in the language categories. 


Director Arntz estimated that 23,000 voters request information in Chinese, and 3,000 voters request information in Spanish.  He said country of origin, surname, and requests on election day are all considered when materials are distributed in languages other than English. 


Commissioner Gleason was concerned that personal information of voters and campaigns was included in the report of voter communications about the election.  He felt the information should be redacted, perhaps by the Commission Secretary, before it is forwarded to the members.


Commissioner Turner said that he was pleased to see the DoE’s report on communications from the November Election voters and was not concerned about the small amount of personal voter information it contains. 


Commissioner Matthews said he felt that redaction would increase the burden on the Department when it provides this information to the Commission.


President Phair said he agreed with Commissioner Matthews.  If a particular Commissioner felt that he didn’t want to see the information, he could destroy or discard it. 


Commissioner Yu asked about the graph of outreach by supervisory districts on the Outreach Report.  She suggested that the report show “outreach events by supervisory districts”, “community outreach by target communities” and asked if where the chart shows “Chinese 85” is events or people reached.  Director Arntz asked the Commissioner to email her comments and he would provide answers.  Commissioner Yu said she would like to see voter turnout in the districts covered by outreach, including a voter profile to see if there is any comparison that can be made with the outreach efforts in those districts.  Director Arntz responded that the DoE does not do demographics, and only the number of requests for language information is known.  Commissioner Yu asked if those requests are divided by district.  Director Arntz said that they are not, but it would not be difficult to do so.  Director Arntz asked Commissioner Yu to send him a draft of the information she would like to see on a chart and he would work to produce that information.


President Phair reminded the Director to provide the Commission the usual reports it requests after each election as soon as those reports are available.  Director Arntz said that he would do so and reminded the Commission that some of those reports are not available until the election is certified.


9.  New Business Business


   (a)    Discussion and possible action regarding evaluation of the effectiveness of the Election Plan for the November 3, 2009 General Municipal Election.   Commissioner Safont MOVED and Commissioner Turner SECONDED approval of the effectiveness of the November 3, 2009 Election.  The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS to approve the item.


      (b)    Discussion and possible action to amend the Elections Commission’s by-laws as regards the Commission’s annual report (the “Report”) to conform the period to be covered by the Report to the Commission’s practice of a calendar year report and to revise the timing for preparation of the Report by the Commission President and approval of the report by the Commission all as set forth on Attachment A to this Agenda, and to authorize the Commission Secretary to prepare an amended and restated Commission by-laws to reflect the current state and content of the Commission’s by laws.


         President Phair asked that action on this item be postponed until the next full Commission meeting and that the Commission Secretary provide an updated and complete copy of the By Laws to each Commissioner.


         This item is held over until the January meeting.


         Deputy City Attorney Lee reminded the Commission that its By Laws require that any amendments be circulated ten days before voted upon, and if any Commissioner has changes to this amendment, it must be made at least ten days before the next meeting so that it can be posted for public review.


10.  Discussion regarding items for future agendas


      (a)    Discussion of materials presented regarding the November 2009 Election Outreach activities report.


       (b)    Amendments to the Elections Commission By Laws regarding the Annual Report.


       (c)     Suggestion by Commissioner Derek Turner that the Commission review the howsfvotes.comwebsite, which has a precinct by precinct mapping of election results, and at the next Commission meeting, the Commission discuss data openness and ways to support community innovation with election data.