To view graphic version of this page, refresh this page (F5)

Skip to page body

Meeting Information

Voter Outreach Committee

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 



Voter Outreach and Participation Committee

Elections Commission

September 14, 2004




  1. CALL TO ORDER:  Chair, John Trasviña called the meeting to order at 5:15 pm.


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

Trasviña, Commissioner Sheila Chung, Director John Arntz and Deputy City Attorney Julia Moll.


3.         FLAG SALUTE



4.         Discussion regarding past role or presence, if any, of police department officials in or near polling places on Election Day.  Chief Deputy Vickie Hennessy from the Sheriff’s Department and Commander Mike Puccinelli from the San Francisco Police Department were available to answer questions.            


Willie Ratcliff gave a presentation of his concerns.  He said that there was police profiling and intimidation of citizens in the Bayview Hunter’s Point area during Election Day which disenfranchises many voters.


Commissioner Trasviña asked Mr. Ratcliff to give the Committee any examples of the police intimidation of which he spoke.  Mr. Ratcliff stated that the police “hang around the polling places and pull people’s cars on Election Day and the day before.” 


Commissioner Safire made a recommendation that the Committee recommend to the Commission that it write a letter to the Chief of Police recommending that laws be enforced equally on Election Day as is done on any other day, and that the police not increase any enforcement of parking violations around polling places in District 10.    Commissioner Chung SECONDED.


Commissioner Trasviña asked Mr. Ratcliff if his complaints extended beyond the complaint of parking enforcement.  Mr. Ratcliff said that wreckers are lined up to tow cars on Election Day and that the citizens of the Bayview don’t have the money to get their cars out of impound because they do not have jobs.  Mr. Ratcliff added that there are many citizens in the district who are ex-prisoners and are also disenfranchised by law. 


Chairperson Trasviña reminded Mr. Ratcliff that the subject of the meeting was police presence at or near the polling sites on Election Day.


Mr. Ratcliff said his complaint was that there is heavy police presence, that citizens’ cars are being impounded and that this amounts to voter intimidation.


Commissioner Safire asked Mr. Ratcliff if his statement was “On Election Day there’s an uneven enforcement of the law that disenfranchises the Black population from going to the polls to vote.”


Mr. Ratcliff said that the only thing he would add to this statement is that this activity also goes on the day before Elections Day.  He said that if the Commission could stop this type of activity by the police, or any planned operation or hassling of citizens around polling sites, it would make a lot of difference and that citizens would have more respect for the police force. 


Chairperson Trasviña asked Commander Mike Puccinelli if Mr. Ratcliff’s perception was correct, and if he could check to find out if on and around the elections of 2003 and 2004 there was an increase of police activity near polling places.  Commander Puccinelli said that he wouldn’t need to check because he was the Police Captain in that district during those elections.  Capt. Puccinelli stated that there was no increased enforcement but that this fact will not change Mr. Ratcliff’s perception.  The Captain explained that in the Bayview Police Station there is a “14601” program in which citizens whose cars are not registered have their cars towed.  This, the Captain said, is probably what Mr. Ratcliff is referring to when he says he has seen tow trucks lined up at the police station.  Capt. Puccinelli said that these trucks have nothing to do with Election Day.


Captain Puccinelli said that he recalls that the police responded to several polling sites during the last election because Director Arntz requested that the police respond to complaints that someone was intimidating voters.  Two sergeants were dispatched to check each polling site in the area to ensure that no intimidation was occurring.  After the sergeants made their rounds and reported back to the Captain, he called Director Arntz and reported what had been done and that no intimidation was observed.  The Captain stated that during the two years that he was assigned to the district, there was no special enforcement during and around Election Day.


Commissioner Chung asked if the “14601” was applied equally in all districts.  Capt. Puccinelli replied that is was.  The Commissioner asked how often is the enforcement implemented.  Capt. Puccinelli replied that this is a question for the current Captain, but that while he was in charge it was implemented approximately every 6 weeks.  He added that this goes on in every district throughout the City.


Commissioner Chung asked if police officers were given any special training regarding the legal issues surrounding Election Day, such as electioneering.  Capt. Puccinelli said that usually a bulletin goes out before elections advising officers of electioneering laws, and they are given a list of the locations where the polls will be so that the officers know that voting is happening there.  Regarding double parking, the Captain said that he had often observed cars double-parked near polling sites while voters were voting and that these cars were not ticketed.  He said that basically, the police only respond when they are called.


Commissioner Safire asked if it were true that the officers were made aware of the laws regarding electioneering but do not enforce these laws unless there is a complaint and that these complaints usually come from workers at the polls or competing factions of candidates .  Captain Puccinelli responded affirmatively.


Director John Arntz added that it is usually the Field Election Deputy (FED) who responds first to complaints of electioneering.  If the FED cannot resolve the situation, the police are called. 


Chairperson Trasviña said that he would support the motion to ask the Commission to send a letter to the Chief of Police, and the letter should ask that planned non-emergency police activities be decreased on the day before and on Election Day be conducted earlier or later as the need required. 


Commissioner Chung suggested that the police in the various districts of the City should explain what their activity will be around polling places to citizens at the district meetings that occur between police and citizens.


Captain Puccinelli reminded the Committee that if an officer happens to see a vehicle that has no or an expired registration during the course of his/her work, the officer is required to cite that car.  He said the police cannot stop their enforcement just because it is Elections Day.


Commissioner Safire suggested that perhaps something could be included within the Police Departmental General Orders.



Chairperson Trasviña thanked Captain Puccinelli and members of the public for their assistance and participation.


5.         Discussion regarding the recall process for local elected officials, and possible action to recommend changes to the laws governing the recall process for local elected officials.


Commissioner Eric Safire stated that the Committee does not have jurisdiction to determine what is the appropriate process for recall of elected officials for the City.  He said that he understood that the Commission’s jurisdiction was to make recommendations to legislative bodies on specific issues, if that additional legislation is needed.  However, to amend the entire process would be outside the jurisdiction of the Commission.


Chairperson Trasviña said that the Commission has discussed this issue before, heard public testimony and referred this matter, within its jurisdiction, to this committee.  The Committee may want to recommend changes in the laws regarding the recall process and that this would be within the Commission’s jurisdiction.  He explained that the Committee would hear testimony on the application of the laws regarding the recall process.  He also said that the Committee would be looking to see if the process could be improved upon.


Commissioner Safire said that this would be a “dramatic undertaking” if the DoE is trying to implement Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in time for the November election.


Chairperson Trasviña said that this is why he was attempting to streamline the issues.


Commissioner Safire made the MOTION that this item be TABLED until after the November election, so that Director Arntz and the Department can focus on theimportant issue of implementing RCV.  He added that to focus on amending the recall laws would put an undue burden on the Department.


Chairperson Trasviña asked for a SECOND to Commissioner Safire’s motion.  There was NO SECOND.


Kevyn Lutton gave a report of her experience in the attempt by the South East Sector of District 10 to recall their Supervisor and her perception of the obstacles in place at the Department of Elections that frustrated those efforts.  Her complaints included: delayed approval of wording and form of the petition; circulator form caused signatures to be invalidated; delay in setting a deadline for submission of petitions; information file not current; unsafe voter file viewing; failure by the DoE and the Mayor to follow the meaning of the petition as written and approved; the DoE’s determination that the number of valid signatures was insufficient.


Commissioner Safire asked Ms. Lutton which of her list of complaints were related to the day-to-day operation of the Department and to laws.  Ms. Lutton responded that she was given a handbook and was told that some of the regulations came from the City Charter, some from the state and some are ordinances.  She said that she “didn’t bother to go investigate.” 


Willie Ratcliff said that the Commission should bring the issue of filling a vacancy after a recall before the Board of Supervisors and that Supervisors were interested in receiving the Commission’s recommendation.  He said that because the citizens create a vacancy by a successful recall, the citizens should decide who fills that vacancy.  The Mayor should not make that decision.


Ulysses J. Montgomery said regulations for the recall should be clear, concise and correct.  He said citizens have the right to remove their representative whenever they see fit and replace that representative with someone elected by the people.


Helen Jones said she lives in the Fillmore District and has seen citizens forced out of their homes there and she believes the same thing is happening in the Bayview.

She said she was outraged that so many of the signatures were found invalid and she asked if they could be checked again.


David Pilpel said guides for the DoE should be updated not just prior to elections but immediately when laws change.  He asked that the DoE give Ms. Lutton a detailed written response to her concerns, and if necessary, this can be done after the November election.


Chairperson Trasviña asked Director Arntz for his comments on the issues raised by Kevyn Lutton.  Director Arntz replied that the recall guide is being reviewed by the City Attorney’s Office; the DoE must certify and clear all recall petitions as being accurate – this is not the process for other petitions; there will be a check list in the new recall guide; office procedures for recall petitions are being implemented which will cover questions of the petitioners and what the DoE staff is expected to do, and how long it will take for a response to a recall question.  Mr. Arntz said these improvements will be instituted shortly. 


Commissioner Chung asked if comments from the public about the new handbook would be considered before publishing it.  Mr. Arntz said that the information would be on the Department’s website and that comments from the public were welcomed.


Chairperson Trasviña said that it was his understanding that the proponents of this petition submitted their petitions on May 5th and the Department approved the petition on May 14th, and asked the Director if this was a typical amount of time.  Director Artnz responded that the DoE usually needs four days for the review to determine if the number of signatures is sufficient. 


Chairperson Trasviña asked for the source for rule that the address next to a signature has to match the voter’s address on his/her registration form.  Director Arntz answered that this is a state law.  The state code also covers the concern that the handwriting for the address be the same as the handwriting for the signature.  The San Francisco Department of Elections has no discretion on these matters.  Mr. Trasviña said that this kind of information should be also given in the recall petition guide.


Chairperson Trasviña asked how often is the DoE’s voter information data base updated.  Director Arntz answered that the production data base is updated daily, and that there is never going to be a CD that will match exactly what is in the data base.  Normally, there are three times by law when the CD is produced for the public: 120 days, 60 days, and 29 days before an election.  However, the Department does provide updated CDs at other times of the year for the public.


Chairperson Trasviña asked if it would be more costly to produce the CDs more often.  Director Arntz said it would be more costly because it would be more wasteful of staff time and resources because it is not known when citizens might want the CDs.  The Department keeps several at the front counter for the public to purchase if that member of the public has the proper identification and reason per the code.


Director Arntz said that the Department tries to validate as many names as possible on a petition.  For example, if a name appears that is not at the address on the registration form but is only a few houses away or across the street from that address, perhaps that person moved nearby.  That name is usually counted.


The Director said that the Department broadened the scope for its review of this particular petition, tried to find ways to include signatures, and was very careful to not exclude voters.


Chairperson Trasviña asked about the affidavit numbers, written beside some signatures, not being valid.  Director Arntz said that after review of several of the petitions, his staff discovered that the affidavit numbers were not written by DoE staff and in some cases were incomplete.  These numbers were written by persons who circulated the petitions and DoE staff could not interpret the meaning of their numbers. 


Chairperson Trasviña proposed that the Committee report to the Commission what it has learned from this meeting.  He said he plans to report that the Department has discovered some areas of improvement and has moved to make those corrections, the proponents agree that the number of valid signatures was not sufficient, that given the legal issue about the replacement candidate, it was not the proponents’ intent to try the recall again. 


Commissioner Safire stated that he had not heard any legislative issues discussed, so far, and that all discussion had been regarding the day-to-day operations of the Department.


Kevyn Lutton said that the state law that invalidated 449 signatures because the information was not exactly the same as the voter’s registration card should be changed.


Chairperson Trasviña said that the second legislative issue was the question of who fills the vacancy that occurs because of a recall.  Mr. Trasviña asked the Committee for a MOTION on either of these issues.  There was NONE. 


Mr. Trasviña said that he felt there should be consideration by the Commission on these topics and that he will, as a member of the Commission, not this Committee’s Chair, bring up the subject of recall replacement to the Commission as a legislative change.


Commissioner Chung said that she wants to do more research on the recall replacement issue before she makes a decision.


  1. Discussion and possible action to approve the Voter Outreach and Participation Committee minutes for July 20, 2004.    Commissioner Safire MOVED and Commissioner Chung SECONDED approval of the minutes.  MOTION CARRIED.


6.         PUBLIC COMMENT - Willie Ratcliff said he was disappointed and that “we get nothing.”  Ulysses Montgomery said that people have the right to remove an official and replace that person with someone of their choosing.  Kevyn Lutton said that instead of making voting more accessible, the rules make it more difficult.   She said all the rules were basically a literacy test.  David Pilpel said that the “City family” needs to address the concerns of the people in the Bayview District, and that he has discovered a number of errors and inconsistencies in the voter file.


ADJOURNMENT at 7:00 pm