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Meeting Information

Voter Outreach Committee

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Voter Outreach and Participation Committee

Elections Commission

June 15, 2004




  1. CALL TO ORDER:  Chair, John Trasviña called the meeting to order at 5:06pm.


  1. ROLL CALL:  Present were Chair John Trasviña, Commissioner Eric Safire,

Director John Arntz and Deputy City Attorney Julia Moll.  Commissioner Winnicker was absent.


3.         Discussion of the goals of the Committee.  Commissioner Safire reminded the Committee that the Commission President had mentioned his concerns about certain districts in the City having a low voter turnout.  Mr. Safire said he was interested in having Commission meetings in those areas of the City and invite youth groups, student organizations and community organizations.  In addition, he wants to have on the agenda information specific to that neighborhood.  These meetings should happen over the next several months at high schools.  Commissioner Safire said that the goals would be to stimulate more participation in elections. 


            Commissioner Trasviña reviewed the Commission’s resolution for its program on voter outreach and said that it was an appropriate guide for this Committee to begin its work.  Mr. Trasviña asked the Commission Secretary about the status of plans for voter outreach and for holding Commission meetings in City neighborhoods.  The Secretary called the Committee’s attention to the lists of organizations with whom the DoE’s outreach Division has worked in past elections.  She explained that DoE staff asks to be placed on agendas of these organizations and once invited, they make presentations at their meetings.  


            Commissioner Safire asked the Secretary how she was notifying the citizens of the Commission’s intent to hold its meeting in their neighborhood.  Ms. Rodriques  explained that she was working with the DoE Outreach staff to get flyers and information printed to distribute to the centers within two to three weeks before the Commission meetings to be posted on bulletin boards and handed out to attendees at other activities that take place in the centers. 


            Commissioner Trasviña asked about the lists of community groups on the DoE Outreach Division’s list.  The Director Arntz explained that these groups request supplies, such as registration cards, and information which the Department provides to them.  Groups also request DoE Staff to attend their events and meetings. 


            Commissioner Trasviña said he was impressed with how many contacts were on the Outreach Division’s list and suggested that one role of the Committee could be to help build the list. 


            Commissioner Trasviña reminded the Committee that the Commission’s resolution included exploring the possibility of creating a 501(c)3 foundation.  Commissioner Safire asked if it was the intention that the foundation help raise money.  Commissioner Trasviña replied that it was, as in “Friends of the Library” or other similar organizations which are originally sponsored by a government agency but are separate.  The Chair asked the Deputy City Attorney to provide advice whether this is doable, and if so, how it is done. 


            Deputy City Attorney Moll said that many City departments have considered the possibility of creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to raise funds to supplement the department's funding.  But few departments pursue this, in part because City-created 501(c)(3)'s must essentially behave as if they are a City department.  This means that all funds raised by the entity must be deposited in the General Fund and appropriated by the Mayor and Board according to the procedures set out in the Charter.  This also means that the entity is subject to the open meeting and public records laws.  Departments typically conclude that it better serves their purposes to propose that the Board of Supervisors create a special fund.  Special fund legislation typically authorizes a department to raise and accept money for a particular purpose, and spend the money for that purpose without going through the sometimes cumbersome appropriations process.  Ms. Moll offered to provide examples of special funds.  There are a number of 501(c)(3)'s that exist solely to support City departments, such as the Friends of the Library and the Asian Art Museum Foundation, but these are privately created and privately run.  The City does not control their operation or their expenditures.  In rare instances, the City has created 501(c)(3)'s as part of a lease-financing or other arrangement to finance capital projects.     


            Commissioner Safire asked how the money raised by the foundation is to be used.  Commissioner Trasviña said that the primary goal would be to provide services to assist people in learning about elections, registering to vote, etc., and that there were many foundations doing this kind of work on the national level.  He asked Deputy City Attorney Moll for what other purposes City foundations have raised money.  Ms. Moll stated that the Friends of the Library raised money for staff training and for production and distribution of a newsletter about Library programs and events.


            Commissioner Safire said that he would need to identify for what the money was to be used for before he could go and ask people to form an independent non-profit to help raise funds. 


            Commissioner Trasviña asked the Director if the DoE had ever considered seeking private funds.  Mr. Arntz answered that it had not and that it would be difficult to seek outside money because elections are involved.  Accepting money from some groups would be uncomfortable.


            The Director said that if money was being raised, it should be used to help the Department move into a more appropriate facility where it would have all or most of its activities under one roof at one site.  This is not the current case and the fact that everything is spread all over the City is more costly, in time and money.  The Department would be able to reach out and provide more services if it could operate more efficiently at one site. 


            Commissioner Safire agreed that this would be a better way for the Committee to spend its time and resources.  He asked the Director to whom the Committee needs to speak to get this started.  Director Arntz said that the Mayor’s Office is the key.  Commissioner Safire asked who is the Department’s liaison to the Mayor’s Office.  Mr. Arntz replied that the Mayor’s appointee to the Commission could be that liaison.


            Commissioner Safire said that he wants the Committee to report to the Commission at its meeting tomorrow that in exploring voter outreach priorities, the Committee determined that it should first help the Department resolve its space issue, that is to facilitate a single location from which the Department can function. 


            Commissioner Trasviña asked if the Committee agreed that the work of the voter outreach committee needs to be consistent with needs of the Department and the Department has identified as its top priority the resolution of the space issue.  Various City agencies, including the Civil Grand Jury, have examined this issue and reported its findings.  However, the issue remains unresolved.  Commissioner Safire agreed and asked that this be reported to the full Commission at its next meeting.  Commissioner Trasvina asked the Director and the Deputy City Attorner to provide the Committee copies of relevant reports and analyses on the DoE site issue.


            Public CommentDennis MacKinsey said the issue of space is also a security issue as well as efficiency.


4.         Report from the Department of ElectionsGeographic areas of low voter turnout – Director Arntz presented a chart of areas of low voter turn out and explained that the term “low voter turn out” has not been defined.  He said he used those areas with turnouts below the average for the purposes of his chart.  Mr. Arntz suggested that the Committee decide its definition of low voter turnout.  He added that San Francisco has the highest percentage of registered voters for a City or County of its size in California.  Getting people to turn out may be a better objective than increasing registration. 


            Department’s current efforts to increase voter participation – Director Arntz reminded the Committee that the Department contacts community organizations and attends meetings when invited.  Registration cards are sent, when requested, and the DoE does follow up on the cards to see if they were used.  Cards are sent to all the libraries and post offices.


            Opportunities for residents and organizations to assist the Department – There is a High School Poll Worker recruitment program in all the schools from which up to one thousand students are recruited to work during an election.  These students are motivated and have become the DoE’s most reliable source for poll workers.  A large percentage of the bilingual poll workers come from these students.  Director Arntz said that opportunities for organizations to help the DoE are in registration, elections awareness and recruiting poll workers.  He said it would be great if organizations took ownership of polling places, such as providing their building as a polling site and their members as workers.




            Commissioner Trasviña asked the Director about implementation of a new state law registering high school students to vote at graduation ceremonies.  Mr. Arntz replied that the cards are being sent to the schools by the state.


            Department’s current efforts to educate residents about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) – Director Arntz will give an update at the full Commission meeting being held June 16, 2004.



Commissioner Trasviña reported that the Commission’s Community Meetings will occur on the third Wednesdays of each month until the November election.


5.         Discussion and possible action to select venues and dates for upcoming Elections Commission Meetings in various City communities, particularly those with low voter turnout.  The Commission Secretary will give an update of scheduled venues and meeting dates.  Ms. Rodriques reported the following dates and locations:  July 21 at SOMA Recreation Center, 270 – 6th Street (District 6);  August 18 at Horace Mann Middle School, 3351 – 23rd Street (District 9);  September 15 at a location in District 11 to be identified with the help of Supervisor Sandoval’s office;  October 6 at South East Community Center, 1800 Oakdale Avenue (District 10).


Announcement of next meeting:   The Voter Outreach and Participation Committee will meet Tuesday, July 20, 2004 at 5:00 pm in City Hall Room 421.


ADJOURNMENT at 6:00 pm.