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Meeting Information

Elections Commission

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 


City and County of San Francisco

Elections Commission

Approved: December 6, 2006

Minutes of the Meeting at City Hall Room 421

November 15, 2006



1.   CALL TO ORDER.  President Matthews called the meeting to order at 7:10 pm.


  1.   PRESENT: Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Richard P. Matthews, Arnold Townsend. Victor Hwang, Michael Mendelson and Deputy City Attorney Ann O’Leary, Deputy City Attorney Jon Givner, and Director of Elections John Arntz.  EXCUSED: Commissioner Jennifer Meek.


  1. Public Comment.  Luna Yasui,of Chinese for Affirmative Action, gave a brief report of her group’s observations during their poll monitoring. Ms. Yasui said that she will be forwarding the full report to the Commission.  Jade Lai said that the training classes for pollworkers needed to be longer to provide better preparation for the trainees, Roger Donaldson said that he was opposed to the procurement of the voting system chosen by the Elections Director,  Brent Turner passed out folders to the Commissioner that he said contained pertinent information about Sequoia Voting Systems’ background, Jim Soper said that the Commission has more authority regarding the selection of the voting system than is known, Jane Allen reminded the Commission that it needs to approve the October 4, 2006 minutes and include the statement of the ES&S representative who stated, at that meeting, that his company could provide the necessary voting equipment for $3M.  Chandra Friese suggested that the new Secretary of State may make a difference in how voting machine systems and vendors are treated in California, David Pilpel reminded the Commission that it needs to approve the attendance policy proposed by the Board of Supervisors and he congratulated the Department for not having any serious problems during the election.  Chris Jerdonek asked that the 1% random selection audit take place after all ballots are counted, and suggested that this be included in the next Election Plan.


President Matthews commented that usually during the Public Comments at meetings, the Commission listens and makes no response.  He said that he wanted to clarify something that members of the public seem to have “some innocent misunderstanding” about and are continually asking be changed – the contract with Sequoia Voting Systems.   Any June election will not have ranked-choice contests, therefore, there is no need for concern about the system being ready and certified for that election.   The Department is not “rushing into a contract” with Sequoia.  The selection of the winner of the RFP, which was published eighteen months ago and closed twelve months ago, has been made.  President Matthews said that “if public contracting as a progressive good government idea is to mean anything, it means we have to follow the process.  Public contracting rules might lead to outcomes that we don’t necessarily love, but they do protect us from things like favoritism, nepotism, and the tyranny of some Mayor’s cousin who happens to have some shop and can put some equipment together.”  He reminded the audience that there was a  period after the winner of the RFP process was announced for anyone to contest that selection, and that was almost a year ago and no protest was made.


Commissioner Townsend agreed and said that it certainly doesn’t appear that the Department has been rushing to implement a new voting system.  He said the Department went through the selection process in the manner dictated by the City and he reminded everyone that the Commission nor the Director controlled the process.  The system was open and transparent.


4.            Director’s Report

Director Arntz reported that the November 7, 2006 election ran well but there were isolated incidents that were handled at the polling sites, and that voting continued without interruption throughout the day.  All but three precincts were open at 7 am, and two of them had curbside voting at 7 am.  The one that didn’t was #3627 at 330 Clementina Street in District 6.  The workers were locked out for an hour and a half and voting began as soon as the workers were finally able to set up at 7:30 am. 


For this election there were 744 Chinese and 207 Spanish bilingual pollworkers.  The voter guides in these languages, however, were not delivered to the sites, but in the future there will be a checklist to make sure this doesn’t reoccur. 


Ninety-nine percent of the election results were reported at 10:30 pm on election night.   Seven precincts’ memory packs did not retain the data, and the ballots had to be re-read.


Most VIPs (Voter Information Pamphlets) were in the mail by October 10, and the few thousand remaining were sent on October 12.  The 132,000 permanent absentee ballots were in the mail by October 10.  There remains approximately 36,000 absentee and 8,000 provisional ballots to be counted.   Because there was a five-card ballot for this election, the canvassing process will take longer than in the past. 


The one-percent manual tally drawing will be next week, hopefully, or the following week, but the date will be announced on the website.  


There were 185 calls into the election center on election day regarding assistance needed for the Eagle optical scanners.  This is 33 percent of all the machines at the precincts.  There were 50 calls regarding the AutoMARKS (or 9%) that required assistance from the Department.  This was the first time that the Department has taken over the Logic and Accurancy testing of the voting machines from ES&S.  There was concern over the vendor having too much control over the voting process.  Another reason was to reduce costs.  The vendor had two people assigned to the logic and accuracy process to answer questions and make certain that the equipment was ready for the election.  The machines used on election day passed the testing. 


The Director reported that the number of calls to the election center have increased from the numbers in previous elections.  He said that the response from the vendor, in the past, had been that the pollworkers were not removing the stubs from the ballots before introducing the ballots to the machines, thus causing jams.  During the pollworker training this time, this area was focused upon.  The 185 calls on the Eagles was completely unexpected!  This was a huge draw on the resources of the Department.  Mr. Arntz said that 120 hours of maintenance work had been contracted.   ES&S had 22 technicians in the field on election day – this is the same number as in previous RCV elections. 


One of the IV-C tabulating machines (there are two of them) has been breaking down consistently, since the beginning of tabulations.  It is the same machine that ES&S rebuilt during the June election because it broke down during that election.  Therefore, the counting of ballots has been slower than usual because it is being accomplished with only one IV-C.   Finally, parts from a third IV-C had to be used to repair the Department’s equipment.


Director Arntz said that the Department did the best it could to with the resources available

to make sure that voting continued throughout election day, and to make sure the votes are being counted properly as we continue through the canvas.


Commissioner Mendelson said that these problems were “systemic with ES&S”, that there is a failure to service and their representative, Mr. Lou Dedier, fails to show up at the Commission’s meetings.  He asked if the company has been in communication with the Director about these problems.  Director Arntz responded in the negative.  Director Artnz reminded the Commission that the City bought the Eagles in 2000, and in 1998 ES&S put out its next-generation of optical scan machines, the M-100.  So when the Department bought the Eagles in 2000, there was already a newer piece of equipment on the market that the company had been providing counties and jurisdictions for two years.  San Francisco is the last county in California to be using the Eagle.  These, what the City currently uses, are very old machines.  They were not the latest technology when the City bought them, they are just old and this is exemplified by the 25 to 30% of the equipment braking down on election day.


Commissioner Townsend asked the Director if he changed the maintenance procedure for ES&S from the June election.   Mr. Arntz answered that he had not.  He explained that the contract signed in the year 2000 called for, under ES&S’s suggestion, preventive maintenance to take place every 12 months.


President Matthews congratulated the Department and the Director on the eleventh straight, successful election.  He asked why the under-voted ballots were being kicked back at the polling places in spite of the Commission’s request to have this problem, which occurred during the previous election, resolved.  Director Arntz said that when the policy was set, the Department was in contract negotiations with Sequoia Voting Systems, and that contract demands that the next system has the capability to allow or suppress over-voted ballots.  When it was decided last April to use ES&S for the November 2006 election, the Department asked ES&S if it could suppress over-votes on the Eagles and the IV-Cs.  The company’s answer was that it couldn’t because it would require a change of firmware which would require an additional federal review which couldn’t happen in time for the election.


The President advised the Director that the Commission has been provided copies of email complaints from voters and he asked that the Commission be provided with all responses to these complaints.  Additionally, he requested a break down of the numbers accepted and rejected of the provisional ballots and the broad categories of reasons for rejection of the votes cast.  Commissioner Matthews requested the complaint logs with the Director’s analysis of concerns.  The Director nodded in apparent assent.


Director Arntz’ updated the contracting process and said the contract is expected to be completed this week and signed and forwarded to the Board of Supervisors.  The process needs to be completed right away and moved forward because it has been going on for a long time.  He said that, hopefully, by the next Commission meeting more details about the contract could be made public. 


Public Comment.  Brent Turner said that he has the “badge of honor” for being thrown out of the San Mateo County Logic and Accuracy Testing for using profanity (which he admits was non-appropriate) because he noticed that the tests were fictitious.  Chris Jerdonek asked if the public would be able to have input in the procedures for the RCV systems in the future.  Jim Soper thanked the Department for the tour he received of the facilities at City Hall.  Roger Donaldson said that, “for the record” he and many others have been opposed to the purchase of equipment from Sequoia for a long time.  He said that there is a “termination for convenience” for government contracts, and that section 21.7 of Chapter 21 of the Administrative Code covers rejection and re-advertising for proposals prior to award in the City’s best interest.   Mr. Donaldson added that the 120 hours of maintenance work contracted for in the contract amounted to only 12 minutes per machine.  Carol Bella reminded the Commission that the ES&S quoted price for the new scanners, which are 2007 compliant, was $3.5M at the October 4, 2006 Commission Meeting.  David Pilpel said that he knows that no system is perfect and that hopefully things get better over time and that the system the DoE is looking at is better than what was offered in 2000.  He said it is the nature of things to improve. 


5.      Commissioners’ Reports of their activities and observations of election held November 7, 2006.  Commissioner Gleason and Commissioner Hwang presented their reports in writing and which are attached to these minutes.  In addition to his written report, Commissioner Hwang reported that he encountered breakdowns during usage of the AutoMARKS at some of the sites he visited.


Commissioner Meek, who was absent from this meeting, will give her report at the next Commission meeting.  President Matthews reported that the Commissioner observed several precincts on election day.


President Matthews reported that on the Sunday before election day he observed the early voting at City Hall, and that the DoE was working in full force.  On election day he observed 18 precincts in 6 different supervisorial districts paying particular attention to those districts using RCV.  He said that overall, the precincts were effective, efficient and working well.  Twelve of the eighteen precincts had problems with the Eagle, including one with 3 ½ hours of downtime for its Eagle.  Half had AutoMARK problems including a couple that the Commissioner observed were not turned on or were on but not “booted up” correctly.  He said that he experienced two voters who spent 45 minutes or more trying to use the AutoMARK but gave up and marked their ballots in the conventional manner instead.  He noticed that three precincts lacked their disabled access postings.  In addition to the precincts, the Commissioner visited the amazing work by the people at Pier 29 in preparation for the canvas.  He also had high praise for the training done by the Pollworker Division.  President Matthews reported that the incoming Commissioner (who has not yet been sworn), Tajel Shah, visited the activities at Pier 29 as well.


President Matthews said that the ultimate paper trail of votes in San Francisco is that our voters, themselves, are marking their ballots on paper and that this will probably always be the case.  He invited the public to observe the 1% manual tally and said that he has observed the tally for several elections.  The tally verifies the final vote count.  The President reported that in those elections, which now over the course of his observations must total several hundred thousand votes, the machinery has not reported any error.  He said that if in those many votes there was no mistake, this means that the hand-marking of ballots and having a separate device (a machine) tabulate those ballots is working correctly.


Commissioner Townsend reported that although his doctor advised him to rest, 

he had to come down to City Hall in the late afternoon to observe the election day activities.  He said that he feels that the most important thing that he can do on election day is to “stay out of the way” of the people who are doing the election.  He said that he is impressed with the work the DoE does each election.


Commissioner Mendelson said that the Commission’s job “is not looking over the shoulder of Director John Arntz and making comments that would probably be more appropriately made in his office”.  He said he would present his video report, which he has been compiling from the last three elections to the Commission at the end of this year, and added that will be a report of the last “five years of San Francisco elections”.


Commissioner Gleason said that he understands Commissioners Townsend and Mendelson’s concerns, but that it is important that the Commission knows as much as possible about elections.  The one thing that the DoE was criticized for at this election was that the bilingual VIPs were not delivered, but because he has worked and observed elections, the Commissioner said that he “know(s) exactly what happened”.  The Commissioner said that anyone can come into a meeting and make any charge, but because of his experience working at the polls, he knows what happened.  He said it is helpful when other Commissioners can add to that information.




  1. Discussion and possible action to approve the Elections Commission minutes for the meeting of October 18, 2006. Commissioner Townsend MOVED and Commissioner Mendelson SECONDED approval of the minutes. 


Public Comment.  David Pilpel said that page 2, needed a spelling correction to “Noelle”, and the following line should read “that the DoE needs permanent staff and he that he is in favor of sending a support memo”, on page 6 the second to the last paragraph “Deputy City Attorney O’Leary” to be inserted.


A Roll Call Vote CARRIED to adopt the minutes with the corrections suggested.


(b) Discussion and possible action to approve the Elections Commission Annual

Report for 2005-2006.  President Matthews asked that this item be carried over to the next Commission meeting because the members had just received the draft at the start of today’s meeting. 



Public Comment.  Commissioner Townsend asked for a moment to vent.  He said that he understood that the public is concerned about security and he was concerned about it too.  But he wanted to remind people that the DoE has been using voting equipment and there has not been a “bad election”, or votes stolen from anyone.  It wasn’t a voting machine in Florida that robbed people of their vote, it was corrupt people and racism.  The Commissioner said that the biggest threat to democracy is not voting machines, it’s still racism – people who tell African-American males that if they show up to vote there will be warrant checks, to Hispanic voters that they are going to be checked for green cards.  He said it was not “some hacker stealing votes”.


      David Pilpel suggested that the past practice of the Annual Report covering a fiscal or calendar year be continued because the current report appears to be covering an 18 month period. Additionally, he suggested a summary of the “big issues” with which the Commission grappled, or the challenges it faced, and whether the Election Plans proved beneficial.  Jim Soper commented on the statement by Commissioner Townsend about racism and voting, and said that there is movement to rectify this problem especially with the new Secretary of State.  Brent Turner said that the scientific conclusions of all the reports he has presented to the Commission are valid.  Roger Donaldson recounted his experience protecting the voting of minorities in Florida, and added that money should be spent to improve outreach. 



ADJOURNMENT at 9:07 pm



ATTACHMENT:  Commissioner Gerard Gleason's Election Day Observations


To:        Election Commissioners

To:        John Arntz, Director of Elections      cc: Linda Tulett

To:        Ann O’Leary, Deputy City Attorney


From:            Commissioner Gerard Gleason


Subject: Observations of November 7, 2006 Consolidated General Election


This memorandum details my observations of the November 7, 2006 Consolidated General Election conducted by the Department of Elections.  In order to save time, I will forego verbally reporting these observations in detail at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Elections Commission on November 15, 2006. Therefore, I ask that this memorandum be added to the minutes of that meeting.  Thank you.




General Observations


Overall, once again, the Department of Elections did an excellent job in preparing for and conducting the election based on the portions of the operations I came into contact with. Pollworker Training continues to be a high quality program, well organized and conducted by excellent staff members. Precinct supplies and materials were generally well organized, however frustration with the functionality of supplies is discussed below.  Ballot distribution has extremely clear paperwork trails. Cooperation from other city agencies such as the Sheriffs Department as well as Parking & Traffic is extremely helpful to the smooth operation of the election.


The Department’s operations appear to be consistently improving upon previous successes and adopting those procedures as best practices.  The Department is also adding new innovative approaches to training pollworkers and communicating with voters.  The Department’s continued focus on delivering customer service in noticeable.


Compared to elections I have observed at the precinct level for the past several years, this election appeared to be the busiest I have witnessed, including the October 2003 Recall and November 2004 Presidential elections.  The Department made the excellent call of adjusting and increasing the number of pollworker staff needed when it was determined that turnout could be expected to increase.  The length of the ballot and number of cards needed for this election created numerous challenges that the Department handled with superb organizational skill.


We need to continue to be aware of the fact that elections in general are under increased public scrutiny since November 2000.  The Department of Elections and the Elections Commission should strive to meet this challenge.



Pollworker Training


I attended the Department’s Pollworker Training class on Saturday November 1.  The class was for Experienced Precinct Inspectors and was attended by approximately 25 people who have had previous experience as Election Day Precinct Inspectors. As has been the case in the past, the Experienced Inspector class went fairly smoothly.  Because the attendees have attended similar training numerous times, the DOE staff conducting the training needed only a limited amount of time to refresh everyone on most basic procedures.


Most of the training program focused on new procedures and stressed the correct operation of precincts, interactions with voters and requirements that were found to be lacking during the

June 6, 2006 Primary Election.  Again, the DOE has shown that addressing and correcting any encountered past deficiencies is a priority.


Among noteworthy observations of the Pollworker Training class:


  • The pollworker training class was conducted by Kelly Hines and Tony Hui who did a very thorough and professional job of conducting the class and explaining procedures. This is the second election in which I attended training conducted by Ms. Hines, who I understand is not a DOE staffer. Ms. Hines conducts the training by focusing on necessary requirements and appropriate reactions to scenarios. All of this is done with knowledgeable information about elections, respect and appreciation for the pollworkers, and with a delightful sense of humor. I found that Ms. Hines gave some of the most clear and concise explanations for specific precinct functions I have ever heard during the numerous trainings I have attended. Continuing to have excellent training staff such as Ms. Hines return each election should be a priority.


  • DOE training staff emphasized the need for proper awareness and concerns for language needs and being sure that all inspectors at precincts requiring bilingual staffing know to have the necessary bilingual clerks on Election Day and to quickly let DOE know if bilingual staff is not available.


  • DOE training staff covered issues relating to assisting voters with full access to voting, particularly in assisting persons with disabilities. Obviously DOE sought out and obtained input from individuals and/or organizations that are experienced with proper and respectful interactions with people who may need assistance. As with the effort DOE has undertaken in improving language related issues, DOE should be commended for the important work that has been done to improve access to voting for those who have had limited access in the past.


  • DOE training staff emphasized the need to inform all voters about the availability of assisted voting (via the AutoMARK) and that this opportunity needs to be offered to every voter. The focus was placed on being sure that pollworkers know not to make assumptions about voters’ needs or capabilities. DOE created a simple and concise statement that was noted on the “job card” for the precinct Ballot Issuing Clerk. “We have a new assistive device—The AutoMark—which marks a paper ballot for voters who would otherwise need assistance. Please let me know if you prefer to use the AutoMark.”  The statement, if correctly understood by pollworkers, covers the who, what and why of the reason precincts are equipped with the AutoMARK device. Whether all pollworkers clearly understand the statement is another matter.  I believe DOE put forward best efforts on this issue and should continue to focus on this in future elections.


  • There was again this election, some limited hands-on training with the new AutoMARK devices, however the AutoMARK used during my pollworker training class was plagued with numerous and varied malfunctions, including failure to boot, nonworking “touchscreen” functions and printer/paper ballot jams. The DOE training staff member was left to remark “This is not supposed to happen.” While all of this was a great source of entertainment to some of the pollworkers witnessing the malfunctions, it also raised concerns among many about how the AutoMARK device would perform at the precincts on Election Day.


  • The pollworker training class ended with a quick quiz on procedures and scenarios that can be encountered at the precincts. Some of the questions were quite tricky.  This is an excellent way for DOE to gage how well the pollworkers really understand key issues related to properly conducting precincts and voting.




  • During the pollworker training, many of the experience inspectors made comments, asked questions and offered suggestions about the operations of the Department of Elections.  Many of these comments have merit. I will cover some of these issues later below.



Precinct Ballot Pickup


After Pollworker Training class, I went to pick up the ballots I would need at my precinct on November 7.  As always the ballot pickup station at 240 Van Ness was professional, organized and fast.  I was able to pick up the ballots and supplies I needed within minutes and the process involved complete and accurate paperwork trails.



Election Day


I was the Polling Place Inspector at Precinct 2713 located in a residence garage in the inner Sunset District (Golden Gate Heights). Typically when I have been a pollworker, the location has been in a school or other large public area.  It has been a number of years since I have been at a precinct located in a residence garage.  Precincts located in residence garages present numerous challenges that I will address later.


In addition to myself, I was assigned four clerks to staff this precinct. I was assigned an experienced clerk who was also the bilingual pollworker required at the precinct. I was also assigned three student pollworkers.


I phoned the precinct location the day before November 7 and spoke to the homeowner who told me that DOE delivered the supplies and confirmed that she would be there to open at 6:00 A.M. on Election Day. 


I called my assigned clerks on Sunday evening to confirm that they would be there at 6:00 A.M on Tuesday. All four confirmed that they would be there. 


On Election Day, all pollworkers were at the precinct by 6:00 A.M. All of the clerks were well trained, very helpful and extremely familiar with the election procedures.


Throughout the day we conducted voting with no exceptional occurrences.  In the evening there were a large number of ballot jams with the Optec Eagle, which slowed down voting.  We were able to clear the jams, however several of the jams required lifting the Eagle tabulation unit to remove the jammed ballot, which in my experience has been a rare occurrence prior to this.


Because of high turnout we had lines of voters waiting at various times of the day.  Due to the length of the ballot and the number cards, most voters needed between 10 and 15 minutes at the voting booth to make their choices. Because there were only 6 voting booths and limited space in the garage to improvise other options, with many voters anxious to either get to work (in the morning or during lunch hour) or return home (in the evening), we did the best we could to accommodate voters.




The ballot issuing clerk advised all voters of the availability of assisted voting via the AutoMARK voting device. As of the close of the polls that day, no voter at that precinct had expressed interest in actually using the AutoMARK device to vote. Several voters inquired if using the AutoMARK device would be faster than marking the manual Eagle ballot, as a option to waiting for an open voting booth when crowds were present.  Our honest assessment was that waiting for an open booth and using the manual Eagle ballot was the quickest option.


Accessible Voting


Precinct 2713 appeared to be voter accessible.  There was a slight lip at the garage entrance that required a voter who arrived in a wheelchair to back over it to enter.  Space limitations in the garage did not allow for great room to maneuver.  The new DOE provided “blue top” tables are much better suited for unassisted access for voters who use wheelchairs. The under access and height were much better than previously supplied tables and booths. The lower, accessible “suitcase” voting booth was not as well suited nor as comfortable for a voter who needed better access, so I moved the AutoMARK and made room for that voter at the new table.  Upending the privacy screen used for the AutoMARK provided a functional voting booth.



Ranked Choice Voting


I was not at a precinct in an even numbered Supervisorial District that had an election this year.  I did expect some confusion among voters with understanding the Ranked Choice Voting ballots for the city-wide offices of Public Defender and Assessor/Recorder which were uncontested but nevertheless had the single candidate’s name for each office listed three times.  Surprisingly to me, very few voters had questions or stated they did not understand how the election worked.  The few questions I did have were easily answered and understood by the voter.  As San Francisco voters become more accustomed to Ranked Choice Voting, the various scenarios of ballot combinations and layout under Ranked Choice Voting will likely become even more familiar.


Supplies & Materials: Language Specific Voter Information Pamphlets (VIPs)


DOE is aware some precincts did not have copies of the Chinese and Spanish language SF VIPs. When I picked up my ballots and precinct supplies at 240 Van Ness I was given one copy of the English language SF VIP.  In previous elections I was given the English, Chinese and Spanish language SF VIPs with the rest of the supplies at the 240 Van Ness pickup.  I inquired about the language specific VIPs at the pickup and I was told they would be at the precinct in order to reduce weight at the ballot pick up.  This seemed reasonable in that the language specific VIPs, if not containing a sample ballot, are likely produced with fewer ballot types and therefore not requiring the individual delivery along with the ballots.


At the precinct on Election Day, I found the State of California language specific VIPs but not the language specific SF VIP copies.  I looked again for these copies of the VIP after voting started.  I forgot to mention to the FED that these language specific VIPs were missing when he stopped by. From media accounts, I understand this issue was discovered by election observers and DOE was notified.  A delivery of copies of the Chinese & Spanish language VIPs by DOE was made to the precinct later that day. These VIPs should have been verified by DOE supply staff as having been included.  However, as precinct inspector, I was also at fault for not following up with the FED to see if he had copies.


Supplies & Materials: Other


Previously, in my experience, DOE provided sufficient and well-organized materials to operate a precinct. I would like to believe this is still the case, however it needs to be stated that operating a precinct in a garage has serious limitations that I had not encountered when running a precinct in a larger facility, which has numerous and readily accessible electrical outlets, reasonable lighting and adequate space to post all required signage.  Below I will list some problems and suggested remedies, not to make a list of shortcomings by DOE in providing supplies, however I do admit that the lack of reasonable supplies to do the job was a source of frustration for me throughout the day. I can only appeal to the Director of Elections and his background as someone who can appreciate how having the proper tools makes the job easier and better.


  • Lighting in many garage precincts is substandard. For years, I have carried with me to precincts on Election Day, my own halogen desk lamp, which is available retail for about $12.  Most years I have not needed it, however this year in the garage, it would have been impossible for many voters to read and sign the roster had I not brought it. Some voters commented how having the desk lamp was quite an improvement over their previous experience with not being able to see when signing the roster. I am glad to show DOE the desk lamp as a sample of what is needed in many garages.  I am aware of and have used the lighting provided by DOE in precinct supplies, however the harsh lighting provided by the DOE supplied lamps creates an ambience more conducive to an interrogation by Dirty Harry than to a welcoming experience we should strive to convey. 


  • Electrical outlets in many garages are distant and few. This year DOE did provide a heavy-duty 3-prong extension cord, a marked improvement over past years when a small 2-prong extension cord, better suited for a sting of Christmas lights, has been the only option.  While I did try to use the 3-prong extension cord provided by DOE, I also brought my own identical style heavy-duty 3-prong cord—mine was 3 times as long and the length was needed to reach the only option for the Eagle machine location.


  • I did secure the extension cords to the floor, which ran by and under the roster registration table, in the manner shown on page 7 of the Pollworker Training Manual.  However the masking tape provided is quite useless for the task and is further useless in securing signage to bare wood, fog-dampened stucco and various other surfaces. The FED had a roll of duct-tape that did do the job for the extension cord. But the one roll of duct-tape supplied to the FED appeared to have been purchased at a Walgreen’s rather than a reasonably substantial roll of tape from a Home Depot or such. It would have been nice if there had been enough duct-tape that the FED could have left a roll. Additionally, I would have killed to have had more pushpins other than the 6 provided.


  • Space limitations aside, as noted about the ballot length and number of cards creating voter lines, it would have been nice to have had more than 6 voting booths.  Many larger precinct facilities create improvised voting booths.  I was able to utilize the cardboard screen for the AutoMark to create an improvised voting booth option that was made available to voters in the evening when lines were long. Voters were made aware the improvised booth was only an option being offered and they could wait for one of the six voting booths.  Many voters gladly and appreciatively took up the offer of the improvised booth.  DOE could provide additional voting booth space without the expense of the current “suitcase” voting booths by designing tri-fold corrugated screens such as are currently used for the AutoMark. Any reasonable flat surface can then be an additional voting booth when needed. There are certain to be issues concerning an equal number of voting booths in all precincts, however it has been my experience that large turnout during general elections has generally lead to many precincts creating improvised voting booths or locations to accommodate those in line.  Voters in a hurry to get to work, double parked—sometimes with infants and small children in carseats, voters seeing long precinct lines and questioning if it is worth the wait…these are situations DOE should realize exist because of the lack of voting booths in high-turnout elections.  Currently these issues are dealt with in improvised ways and on various levels at individual precincts.


Again, these issues and situations are not presented to point out fault by DOE, but mostly due to the frustration of being asked to perform a task and then discovering the little things needed are lacking.  I personally had forgotten about the difficulty of operating a precinct in a residential garage.  Not every garage is a difficult situation, but enough exist that DOE should strive to provide additional support for those locations.


For years, many experienced precinct inspectors have told me of the supplies they personally provide and bring to their precinct on Election Day.  From them, I have learned to bring my own equipment…desk lamp, 25 foot heavy-duty 3-prong extension cord, bungee cords, flashlight (to show voters the empty Eagle machine bins at the start of voting), calculator (to count signature totals and ballots), screwdriver, pliers, scissors…next time I will bring duct-tape and push pins. I have no problem supplying these items.  However, I wonder about the precincts with pollworkers who do not or are not able to provide these items.


I am not advocating enormous expenditures here, and I realize caution should be exercised in situations such as risk of property damage that may be caused by the improper use of duct-tape. A well-supplied (and timely) FED could carry these items and make judgments as to when they are needed and used.


I will spare everyone the descriptive experience of using the DOE provided Port-a-Potty for pollworkers that was placed in front of the garage at a noticeable angle on a steep hill.  I spent much of the day hoping to avoid using it.  Most of the other pollworkers likely exercised other options.


Finally, I want to once again acknowledge the DOE staff that delivered the voting machines and other materials to precinct I was assigned to. They had pre-assembled the voting booths and set up the AutoMARK device before the election. This made the opening of the precinct smoother and I am extremely appreciative of the time DOE staff took to set up those items.



Sheriff & PCO Pickup


The pickup of voting material by the Deputy Sheriff and PCO after the close of the polls was well organized.  In previous years the Deputy Sheriff came by and introduced himself a few hours before the polls closed.  That did not happen this year.  While I did not experience any delay in pickup this year, the pre-closing visit allowed to the deputy to size up which precincts were likely to have their operation closed and ready. That situation had its advantages. Regardless, the PCO and Deputy were timely and our precinct was cleared and staff left before 9:15 PM.


Field Election Deputy (FED)


The FED assigned to our area, was well trained.  He stopped by right before the 7AM opening of the precinct and again later in the morning. He went through a checklist to see that materials were in place and that procedures were being followed. (Does the check list include the language specific VIPs?) 


Unlike pervious years, the FED did not come by frequently.  On his second stop by in the morning I took custody of the additional ballots for the precinct. From a quick conversation with him, I gathered he found our precinct to be well run and he needed to focus his efforts on a couple of problematic locations. 


Precinct Clerks


The precinct staff I worked with were well trained. The bilingual clerk assigned to the precinct was very knowledgeable about precinct operations and assisted several voters in their language. The student pollworkers were exceptionally helpful, eager to take on tasks and pleasant to the voters.  Many voters commented on how nice it was to have young people working at the polls. This was one of the first elections as a precinct inspector where I have not had to have constant hands-on over the operations.  This crew really knew what they were doing and all numbers for the ballot statement at the end of the evening appeared to easily balance.


DOE Command Center


I did not need to communicate with the Command Center on Election Day. Nevertheless I am glad to know the DOE staff was ready to help out if needed and I was given clear instructions about contacting the Command Center and FED if needed.


Election Turnout at Precinct 2713


845 Active Voters on the Roster

293 Active Voters requested Absentee Ballots (34.7%)

293 Active Voters Signed the Roster and Voted on November 7 and

   2  Inactive Voters on the Roster Signed the Roster and Voted on November 7 (34.8%)

  7  Provisional Ballots issued

45  Absentee Ballots delivered to Precinct


Of the Provisional Ballot voters, most were due to voters being out of precinct and not opting to go to the precinct location where they are registered.  Much of this occurred in the last half hour of voting. Two voters said they registered while at DMV many months ago, however their names still were not on the roster.






During my pollworker training class, a precinct inspector with 15 years experience stated that she was concerned that she was being assigned one adult clerk and three student clerks and questioned if staffing the precinct with a majority that were not registered voters constitutes a proper Precinct Board under California Elections Code.   This is an interesting issue.


This election I was also assigned one adult clerk and three student clerks. In this situation, taking into account required break schedules; there are not two adult pollworkers who are registered voters present in the precinct for almost 40% of Election Day. 


Under California Elections Code, student pollworkers assigned to a precinct, if they meet certain criteria, are in fact full appointed members of the Precinct Board.  The only restriction seems to be that student pollworkers cannot participate in hand tabulation of ballots if that were to take place at the precinct. 


While the student pollworker program has been a boon to precinct staffing, most elections officials seem to be focused on the functionality of operating an election but are forgetting the principles and concepts of the public conduct of elections.  As we do not similarly assign minors to trial juries simply because they may be a ready source for jury pools, we should not forgo the requirement to staff precincts with registered voter-citizens when possible.  This is the concept of the Precinct Board.  The preferred shorthand among elections officials may be “pollworkers”, but the duties, requirements and function are grounded in the fact that elections are conducted by and for the citizen public and that the election is conducted at the precincts by the Precinct Board.


Contradicting this viewpoint is the fact that I have been very pleased with almost every encounter I have had with the student pollworker program and I appreciate the skills and enthusiasm the students bring to Election Day staffing. I would choose student pollworkers as some of the best clerks I have worked with at the precincts.


To some this may not be an important issue but I would ask DOE to consider strictly following CEC 12302 (b), particularly subsection (4) that the students be “senior” which I understand to be 12th grade.


Pollworker Training



The Pollworker Training Program offered by DOE is high caliber and has consistently improved over the past few years.  At three hours, the training sessions are about at the limit of reasonable expectation of time commitment. However as elections become more complicated, especially with voting equipment changes, DOE should consider other means of providing updates and information to pollworkers.


This election DOE did send, in the mail, memos to pollworkers explaining that observers and media may be visiting polling places.  The memos outlined rules and obligations for such activities.  This was an excellent communication from DOE to pollworkers, something that I do not remember from any previous election.  In past years this issue has lead to occasional confrontations and disputes. I congratulate DOE for straightforwardly and proactively educating pollworkers about this issue. This is an excellent example of how DOE can continually keep pollworkers informed and in contact with DOE.


About a year ago, DOE staff did produce a one-time newsletter for pollworkers to keep them updated on elections and DOE issues.  This would be a very good outlet to keep in contact with pollworkers during intervals between elections and to provide information that cannot be fully covered during the brief pre-election training. I am sure similar communications are produced for other citizen programs such as the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) for the Department of Emergency Services.


Likely DOE staff cutbacks are the reason such a newsletter program has not been continued. Therefore this is another excellent reason for the Commission to advocate for staffing upgrades for DOE.


Last but important, during pollworker training, the class was periodically interrupted by attendees going out to feed parking meters. The pollworker training information letters stress that those attending training class should take public transportation.  However, precinct inspectors are expected to pick up 100 pounds of ballots and supplies after attending a three-hour class.  The training class I attended was at the Community College building on Eddy Street.  The closest off-street parking is Civic Center Garage with a rate of $7.50 for 3-4 hours. Many, many of those in the inspector class commented on the paradox of needing a vehicle and having to pay for parking (or worse, risk a parking ticket) balanced against the minimal stipend for the training and pickup of supplies. Something should be done about this situation if we want these good and dedicated people to feel appreciated and return for more elections.



Election Material sent to Voters (Voter Information Pamphlet)


As we all know, there were issues with the mailing and timely arrival of the Voter Information Pamphlet (VIP) for the June 6, 2006 Consolidated Primary Election.  DOE made special effort to mail the VIP on time this election.  On October 5, DOE stated that VIPs were being mailed and that all VIPs would be delivered to the post office by October 10. 


California Elections Code says that Sample Ballots cannot be mailed sooner than 40 days before an election (September 28 this year) and must be mailed no later than 10 days before an election (October 28 this year). DOE delivered the VIPs to the post office between 33 and 28 days before the election.






My wife and I received our VIPs in the mail on Friday, October 20 (18 days before the election). Neighbors in my multi-unit building received VIPs in the mail on various dates between Thursday, October 19 and Saturday October 21.  In the six years I have been monitoring the postal delivery of the VIP, this delivery date is not substantially any sooner than previous elections. It was much better than the late arriving VIP for the past June election (received in my mail Friday, May 26, 10 days before that election). I believe this confirms, as pointed out by a fellow member of this Election Commission, that the late delivery of the VIP last June was an anomaly.


DOE delivered almost 420,000 copies of a 200 page VIP to the Postal Service.  Obviously a publication of such concentrated local numbers, girth and mailing classification takes time to work its way through the postal delivery system. In the case of delivery of my copy of the VIP, the time frame was 10 days minimum. Further, the sheer size of the book creates space and weight limitations for the postal carrier who has to deliver all sorts of material other than the VIP, which is evident in that VIPs delivered to my multi-unit building arrived spread over several days…for a mailing that is carrier-route sorted no less.


If DOE continues the practice of mailing the VIP between 33 and 28 days before the election, this delivery time frame should be the expected result. Further, it should be noted that Absentee Ballots are first mailed 29 days before the election, however the slimmer, more streamline nature of the Absentee Ballots will likely always arrive before the VIP.  This is the nature of the beast.  Any efforts to change local election code in hopes of speeding up the process will likely have little impact on improving the delivery dates of the VIP so long as it remains at its present size.


The only option for sooner delivery would be for DOE to mail the VIP as close to the 40-day threshold as possible. However, considering the size and complexity of the VIP production, such a rushed schedule could lead to errors and the costly corrective measures that could result from such errors.  Contrary to recent incorrect media reports and references, DOE has not had a serious misprinted or misdelivered VIP production run in almost 10 years.  Hopefully DOE can continue that track record by allowing staff the necessary time required to complete thorough and error-free production of the VIP.


DOE did post a copy of the VIP on the DOE’s website 40 days before the election and made the internet version of the VIP known.  DOE did an excellent job in staying on top of the concerns over this issue resulting from the experience of last election.


Lastly, as I stated in a communication to members of the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on the issue of the VIP delivery back in August, I would once again caution DOE to not to place blame or fault with the US Postal Service for any perceived lateness with the arrival of VIPs to voters.  A member of the public reported inquiring about the delivery of VIPs around October 20 and was told by DOE staff that DOE mailed the VIPs by October 5 and that the Postal Service was at fault, not DOE, for any delay. The Postal Service is a valued partner for delivery of elections material.  DOE cannot simply deliver 400,000+ copies of such an individually massive publication as the VIP to the Postal Service dock and then assign blame.  It takes a reasonable amount of time for delivery through the system.  Hopefully reasonableness and understanding from DOE staff will lead to reasonableness and understanding from the public.  If there are instances of copies of the VIP being delivered exceedingly late, those situations should be investigated.  If possible, DOE should organize a random sampling of delivery feedback each election.


As far as the content of the VIP this election, the information conveyed, as well as the layout and appearance, was excellent.  The VIP continues to be greatly improved each election. New and innovative graphics for such pages as “Locating Your Polling Place”, “Marking the Ballot” and “Marking the Ranked-Choice Ballot”, information pertaining to “Guidelines for Provisional Voting”, and particularly (on page 61 in my copy of the VIP) detailed information on how to properly mark a ballot with a write-in candidate and how write-in votes are counted; all are terrific additions. Barbara Carr and the other production staff did an outstanding job with the VIP and ballots this election.



Voter Information Pamphlet: School District Bond Measures


A minor detail, but important, may be the need to determine the structure of information presented in the VIP for bond measures originating as elections called for by the San Francisco Unified School District or San Francisco Community College District.  As DOE and the City Attorneys office knows these elections are consolidated with City & County of San Francisco elections. The reason I mention this is that Proposition 39, as well as AB 1908 (2000), was a source of much hand-wringing from the City Attorneys Office and College District legal staff during the November 2001 Municipal Election.  In short, there seemed to be an issue of autonomy, the use of SF Municipal Elections Code functions such as the Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC) created digest (Impartial Analysis), Controller’s Statement (Tax Rate Statement), paid arguments (which do not appear) and other possible material.  November 2001 was also the year SF had the Municipal Utility District election, which was a similar autonomous election for the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) that was the reason the autonomy of elections by districts became an issue that year. 


This is not to suggest anything was amiss in the most recent VIP over the school district bonds, rather, it appears that the Digest for Proposition A from the BSC correctly contained the notification about creating a “Citizen’s Oversight Committee”, required by Proposition 39 or AB 1908.  A review of November 2001 and November 2005 VIPs with similar bond measures may not be as thorough with this information. 


With a year until the next scheduled election, this may be a good time to review what information is required in the VIP for district bond measures.





Again, I would have to say from my observations of the portions of the operations I came into contact with, DOE did an excellent job preparing for and conducting this election.  Outside of the missing copies of Chinese and Spanish language VIPs at some precincts, I did not encounter other causes for concern.  There were problems encountered with the performance of some of the vendor equipment, which again DOE is well aware of. There are areas that DOE can focus on that need improvement. However it must be noted that DOE goes to extraordinary lengths to correct any deficiencies in Election Day operations brought to their attention.