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Meeting Information

Budget and Policy Committee

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Elections Commission Budget Committee

Wednesday, November 16, 2004

7:00 pm

City Hall, Room 421




The Meeting was called to order at 7:10 pm.



Present were Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Richard Matthews and Chairperson, Michael Mendelson, Director John Arntz and Deputy City Attorney Julia Moll


3FLAG SALUTE was led by Commissioner Mendelson.


  1. Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes for the Budget and Policy Committee meeting of August 17, 2004.  Commissioner Matthews MOVED and Commissioner Gleason SECONDED that the Committee approve the minutes.  Motion CARRIED.


  1. Discussion and possible action to recommend to the State an amendment to the California Elections Code to eliminate the pre-election newspaper notice of poll workers and polling places and require posting this information on the Elections Department website instead.  (Continued from the August 17th meeting.)  Commissioner Matthews MOVED to approve, Commissioner Gleason SECONDED.  Commissioner Mendelson said that he was concerned that people who did not have access to a computer would not see the notice.  Commissioner Gleason said that it was his intent that a public copy of the notice be posted on the DoE’s bulletin board outside the lobby of the Department and other public places.  He said he brought this item to the Committee as a cost savings suggestion and that other California counties were also interested in doing something similar.  Commissioner Gleason said that although the DoE published the information, he was unable to locate it when he searched for it in several of the local papers. 


Commissioner Mendelson asked the Director to explain how the Department currently handles this noticing requirement.  Director Arntz said that the notice is printed in the “paper of record” and also in a Chinese and Spanish neighborhood newspaper.  Deputy City Attorney Moll added that the posting is a requirement of the State Elections Code.  Commissioner Mendelson clarified the Committee intent by stating that the Commission, after hearing from the Committee, would need to recommend to the City’s “legislative delegation that they seek a modification” of the State Elections Code.  Commissioner Matthews said that after reviewing the background of this item, the $10,000 to $15,000 per election to publish the notice in a year like the current one when there have been five elections, this is a very big expense.  Commissioner Gleason said that the Association of California Elections Officials has been discussing the possibility of using county websites instead of newspapers for these postings.  Commissioner Gleason said that in San Francisco, the posting appears in the Thursday edition of the S.F. Independent which has a run of probably 1500 issues.  A citizen looking for a copy “would need to have a Geiger Counter and a GPS system to find one”, he added.  Commissioner Gleason said that the fact that the names of the citizens who would be working as  poll workers is a signal to criminals of who would not be at home.  Commissioner Gleason said that it was important for this Commission to bring up this topic because the other counties do not have a Commission and when those counties suggest a change in the procedure, they are seen as disgruntled civil servants and are opposed by the powerful newspaper lobby, however the Commission is made up of citizens who can present this change as a cost savings to the taxpayers. 


MOTION:  Committee recommends that the Commission go on record as supporting as a cost saving measure the elimination of the pre-election newspaper notice of poll workers and polling places in conformance with other counties who have previously recommended this action.  That the information be posted on the Department’s website and a hard copy be posted in the Elections Department Office. 


6.      Discussion and possible action to recommend that the Commission recommend to the Board of Supervisors some form of compensation, per diem or stipend, for members of the Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC).   The BSC has barely had a quorum each meeting for the last 3 years and there is great difficulty in attracting new members to serve.  The requirement calls for service on 12 consecutive days, which is a burden.  Some form of compensation may help attract new members.


      Commissioner Gleason gave a brief background of this issue.  He said that there are five members of the BSC who handle approximately three ballot issues each day for twelve consecutive days.  In the past there have been times when there were only three members of the BSC.  There have been problems getting the newspaper guild to appoint a member.  The Commissioner said that the chair of the BSC shared with him her concern that when a person is asked to serve, that person usually asks about the monetary compensation, and currently there is none.   


Director Arntz stated that he is in favor of anything that will help to promote the recruitment of more members of the BSC.   His concern is that the money needs to be a specific line item and not be taken from the DoE’s current budget.


MOTION:  Recommend to the full Commission that the budget for the DoE contain specific line items appropriations for a payment of per diem or stipends to the members of the BSC and that the Board of Supervisors specifically allocate funds for that purpose.


Deputy City Attorney Moll said that one way to proceed would be for the Commission to authorize one of its members to go before the Board of Supervisors with a specific proposal. 


Commissioner Mendelson suggested that Commissioner Gleason meet with the Director to determine an amount for each BSC member especially since there may be a special election next year.


Public CommentDavid Pilpel suggested this action may require an amendment to the elections code.


7.  Discussion and possible action to ask the Commission to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the nominating organization for a representative of the print media on the Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC) be expanded to include additional professional associations.

Commissioner Gleason said that he wants the appointment of members to be expanded to the Society of Professional Journalist, because the Newspaper Guild has not made an appointment for several years. 


Commissioner Gleason is to research the Society of Professional Journalist and any other appropriate groups and report back to this Committee to ask that it recommend the Commission to ask the Board of Supervisors to  amend the Elections Code to include those organizations as appointments authorities for membership to the BSC.  Commissioner Matthews offered to assist Commissioner Gleason in this research.


      Public Comment:  David Pilpel said that he strongly supports this item.


8.      Discussion and possible action to recommend to the full Commission that San Francisco should seek compensation from the State for the impact of Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) filings on the San Francisco Department of Elections.  (Continued from August 17, 2004). This item was moved to the end of this calendar.


9.      Discussion and possible action to recommend to the Voter Participation and Outreach Committee or full Commission, ideas and incentives to encourage the retention of experienced poll workers, and possible ideas and incentives to encourage more citizens to serve as poll workers in the future.

Commissioner Gleason gave a brief history of his efforts in the past, while an employee of the DoE, to assist in increasing poll worker volunteers.  Because serving on a jury and serving as a poll workers are both fundamental ways  citizens participate in the democratic process, one suggestion the Commissioner made was to give poll workers credit that would eliminate their being called as jury members for a specific amount of time if they worked as poll workers. 


The Commissioner said that some workers have in their union contract that they be allowed the day off if they work as a poll workers.  This is something that should be explored for more workers.


The Director said that increasing the amount poll workers are paid is the best way to increase poll worker retention.  He said that San Francisco pays more to its poll workers than any other county in the State.  The staff who recruited workers for the last election are currently reviewing their efforts and will be reporting to the Director on ways to improve recruiting and retention.


DECISION:  The Director will develop a program for recruitment and retention with his staff and let the Commission know how to assist the Department in those efforts.



10.   Discussion and possible action to recommend to the Elections Commission a clarification of what constitutes the “Election Plan” under Charter section 13.103.5.  Section 13.103.5 provides that the Commission must approve:

“…written plans prior to each election, submitted by the Director of Elections, detailing the policies, procedures, and personnel that will be used to conduct the election as well as an assessment of how well the plan succeeded in carrying out a free, fair and functional election.”


Commissioner Mendelson asked if the Commission has the authority to tell the Director what his Election Plan should include.  Ms. Moll replied that the Charter is not specific in what the plan should include, and the Commission can clarify of what the plan should consist.  Ms. Moll reminded the Committee that over the past several elections the Commission has given directions to the Director about the content of the Election Plan.


Commissioner Matthews asked the Deputy City Attorney if the plan should be an ongoing dialogue, election by election.


Ms. Moll replied that this is probably so because when new Commissioners are appointed, they may have different ideas about what the plan should include.


Commissioner Gleason stated that he would like to review the plan for the recent election, note the parts that worked well from that plan.  He suggested that the Commission should have an Election Plan that is submitted 90 days before the election and is updated twenty days before the election.


Director Arntz said that he would like the Commission to give the Department a template of what the Commission expects in the Election Plan and give the Department enough time to review the template to determine if the work is possible within the time constraints. 


DECISION:  Commissioner Gleason is to create a draft template for the Election Plan, present it to the Committee.  The Committee will work on finalizing it before presenting it to the full Commission.


11.      Discussion and possible action to recommend to the Elections Commission a clarification of the criteria for granting a waiver to the general rule that City employees may not assist the Department of Elections.  a) Section 13.103.4 of the Charter provides:

         “The Elections Commission, may upon the recommendation of the Director of Elections and a finding that the Department will not have adequate staffing to conduct an election, request from the Board of Supervisors a waiver of the conflict-of-interest provisions in Section 13.103.5 for employees working no more than thirty days in a single calendar year.  The Board of Supervisors shall approve or deny such requests from the Elections Commission by motion”.


         Recommendation:  That the waiver dated 10/27/04 submitted by the Director of Elections and approved by the Commission serve as the template document for further requests for staffing subject to reasonable changes in numbers and dates of submission.



Discussion and possible action to recommend to the full Commission that San Francisco should seek compensation from the State for the impact of Fair Political Practices Committee (FPPC) filings on the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Commissioner Gleason reported that the DoE expends many employee hours  processing, filing, copying the FPPC forms.  He said there is no index code to track all the employee hours for this function, however the Department can give an approximation of the time.  The DoE could collect fines from those who are late filing their FPPCs.


Director Arntz said that he plans to better track the amount of time his staff expends for these filing and that the Department is working to begin collecting fines for late filings.


DECISION:  The Director will make a report of his progress regarding collecting fines and tracking employee hours for handling FPPCs activities in January, 2005.


Public Comment:  David Pilpel suggested that the other counties be contacted to see how much they collect in fines.