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Meeting Information

Budget and Policy Committee

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 



City and County of San Francisco

Elections Commission

Approved: ____________

Minutes of the Meeting held

February 18, 2004



1.         CALL TO ORDER.  President Rosenthal called the meeting to order at 7:04 pm.


  • 2.ROLL CALL.  PRESENT: Thomas Schulz, Richard Shadoian, Tony Winnicker, Arnold Townsend, Vice President Michael Mendelson and President Alix Rosenthal.  EXCUSED: Robert Kenealey.


  • 4.Director’s Report.


March 2 Election – Five Hundred citizens have voted at the early voting station in City Hall.  Absentee Ballots mailed out total 91,000 and approximately 13,000 have been mailed back.  All Voters Information Pamphlets (VIPs) in English have been mailed and VIPs for people who registered late will be mailed tomorrow.  Approximately 22,000 cards have been sent to non-partisan voters informing them that they can vote for either party and 7,500 have been mailed back to the Department.


Outreach – The division has made 29 presentations since the last Commission meeting.  Staff attended the Chinese New Year’s Parade in an effort to recruit more bilingual poll workers.  The Russian and Chinese orientation classes have begun.  These classes teach people about the election in general, and then attendees go to poll worker training classes. 


Voter Services Division -  Registration for the March 2nd election closed yesterday.  The division has begun organizing and processing absentee ballots. 

Staff is handling the early voting station in City Hall. 


Campaign Services  - The division held an Open House today.  Twenty people attended and this was the lowest turnout within memory.  The four members of the Elections Observer panel attended.  The division is preparing the candidate and ballot argument guides for the November 2004 election.  The deadline has passed for filing Fair Political Practice Commission forms.  San Francisco is one of the three depositories for these forms in the State.  Staff is filing these for public access. 


Poll Location Division – Staff has located all polling sites.  Where polling places have changed from the previous election, signs are being prepared to direct voters to their new site.  There will be “tear off” notices on these signs that will allow voters to take the information with them.  Maps to all of the polling sites are being prepared to assist staff in reaching the sites on Election Day.  The eagle machines will be delivered to the sites beginning next Thursday.


Poll Worker Recruitment – The division is still recruiting high school students.  Currently 650 students have signed up.  The division is also recruiting 100 or more clerks.  All bilingual workers needed for March 2nd have been assigned. 


Training Division – The classes for inspectors begin next Wednesday. 


Technology Division – Certification of the transmission of election results to the Secretary of State’s Office has been accomplished.  The division is getting the computers and phones set up for the elections center for March 2nd.  The logic and accuracy testing is proceeding well.


Budget and Personnel – The initial budget is prepared.   The Department has posted a “1054” which is a technology manager position and a “1471” elections worker position for hiring.  Interviews for these and the “1408 - Chief Clerk” position, that has recently closed, will be held after the March Primary Election.


Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) Update – The Director stated that it is his understanding that the testing has been rescheduled for March 9, 10 and 11 in Omaha. 


Commissioner Shadoian asked if the Commission Office has been reinstated for the Commission’s use and if not, when that will happen.  Director Arntz answered that it is currently being used to store absentee ballots and will be returned after the March Election but he didn’t have an exact date.


5.         President’s Report.  President Rosenthal reported that earlier in the day she had spoken to Mr. John Mott-Smith of the Secretary of State’s Office (SoS).  Mr. Mott-Smith told her that both state and federal testing would occur on the March dates reported by the Director.  Commissioner Rosenthal said that it is the SoS’s intention to hold a Voting Systems Panel (VSP) very soon thereafter.  She reported that Mr. Mott-Smith told her that ES&S is asking for a one-time  certification. 


            Commissioner Townsend asked if any part of the certification relates to a hand count of the ballots. 


            Director Arntz explained that the current certification is only for the optical scanning system.  However, the DoE will need to develop a back up plan to use hand counting in case the certification is not successful or if the system doesn’t function properly.


            Commissioner Townsend said he was opposed to a hand count because it would take 28 to 30 days after the election to complete, and therefore, not be an “instant” election.  The Commissioner said that a hand count should be a policy of the Commission, if that is want the majority members agree, and it should not “just occur.”  The Commissioner suggested that this topic be on a future agenda.


            President Rosenthal announced that the new date for the Commission Retreat will be Saturday, March 20, 2004, and asked the members to check their calendars for conflicts. 


            Commissioner Thomas Schulz announced that this meeting was his last as a Commissioner.  He said he decided not to reapply as the Board of Supervisors’ appointee.  The Rules Committee will consider six candidates at its meeting next Wednesday, and the full Board will have the selection on its agenda for March 9, 2004.  The Commissioner said that he had spent two very interesting years on the Commission.


            Commissioner Townsend said that he wanted to go on the record as expressing his concern that he was the only person of color on the Elections Commission.  He said that other Commissions have a more racially diverse composition and that he hopes there will be Hispanic and/or Asian representation on the Commission soon.


            President Rosenthal said that she intends to formulate a Strategic Calendar which will include the March 17 hearing for increasing voter turn out in precincts with low numbers of voting citizens.  She said that there may be a special meeting before March 17 to discuss the March 2nd Primary Election.  Regarding the Commissioners’ assignments during the upcoming election, the President left the decision to the individual members regarding the areas they wished to observe.  She asked the Commissioners to be prepared to report their findings/observations back to the Commission and the public at the next meeting following the election. 


  • 6.New Business


  • (a)Discussion and possible action to approve the Elections Commission Minutes for meeting held on February 4, 2004.  Commissioner Shadoian MOVED to approve the minutes.  Commissioner Winnicker SECONDED.  Commissioner Schulz asked permission to not vote on this item because he was absent for the meeting.  Commissioner Shadoian MOVED to excuse absent Commissioners Thomas Schulz and Arnold Townsend from voting.  SECONDED by Commissioner Winnicker.  The MOTION to excuse the two Commissioners from this vote CARRIED.  The vote to approve the February 4, 2004 minutes CARRIED.


(b)            Discussion and possible action to approve the March 2, 2004 Election Plan.  Commissioner Schulz MOVED to adopt the plan and Commissioner Townsend SECONDED.   


            Commissioner Schulz asked the Director to explain how the DoE will be tracking provisional ballots to see if a vote has been counted.  Mr. Arntz explained that there is a new state law that requires a database will be on the DoE’s website.  This database will allow anyone to check if their vote was counted. 


Commissioner Shadoian said that he was concerned that the election was two weeks away and the Commission was today deciding whether to approve the Election Plan.  He said there should be discussion to get input from the public before the plan comes to the Commission for approval. 


Commissioner Winnicker reminded the Commission that Commissioner Shadoian’s concerns were the next topic on the agenda.


MOTION to approve the Election Plan CARRIED.


  • (c)Discussion and possible action to set deadlines by which the Director must submit election plans to the Commission.   Commissioner Shadoian MOVED to set the deadline by which the Director must submit election plans to the Commission to 45 days prior to the time citizens can vote (75 days prior to Election Day).


Commissioner Winnicker stated that in his opinion the discussion to have the plan come to the Commission sooner was not a reflection on the quality of the plan.  He stated that the plan was “incredibly detailed” and complemented the Director and the Department for developing it.  The Commissioner asked at what point does the Director put the plan together and is it then in a format that can be shared with the Commission.


Commissioner Rosenthal asked the Director when the plan becomes concrete enough to present it to the Commission and the public.


Director Arntz replied that this depends on the situation.  He said that the plan began last summer when the DoE had its legally mandated dates.  However, for each election, adjustments are made as the date draws near.  A plan can be provided 75 days before an Election Day but adjustments will be made to it.   This will be particularly true with the November RCV election because this will be the first time the City has conducted such an election.  Mr. Arntz explained that because the Department balances numerous activities at the same time, it would be very difficult to have the plan open for debate.


Commissioner Townsend said that although numbers such as the number of registered voters or the number of early voters are constantly changing as Election Day nears, an update of those numbers at each Commission meeting is important so that the Commission can determine if it’s necessary to get the word out to media to encourage people to vote if the early numbers are low.


Commissioner Schulz asked if the Commission’s vote for this item would mean that a discussion of the Election Plan would be on the Commission’s agenda 75 days before an election.  President Rosenthal stated that this would be the case.


The MOTION (021804-1) to direct the Director of Elections to submit an Election Plan to the Commission 75 days prior to Election Day CARRIED.


(d)            Discussion and possible action to approve the proposed Budget for the Department of Elections for Fiscal Year 2004-05.  Commissioner Mendelson MOVED to approve the tentative Budget, Commissioner Schulz SECONDED.  Commissioner Mendelson reported that he and Commissioner Winnicker had met in Committee prior to tonight’s Commission meeting and had reviewed the background for the budget being considered.  He said that the $9.2M is less than the rate of inflation, and that when it was compared to previous budgets covering years in which the same number of elections were conducted, the amount was “very good as a first number.”  The Commissioner said that the Controller’s Office had lauded the Department and the Director for staying within its set budget.  He said that the Department has prospered under Mr. Arntz’ leadership and that he is one of a few directors to have a record of zero supplemental budget requests because his final budget submittals have been on target.


The Commissioner reminded the Commission that the budget being discussed today is tentative. 


Commissioner Winnicker agreed with Commissioner Mendelson and made some comparisons between various costs in the years 2001, 02, 03.  He reminded the Commission and the audience that much of the information was available on the Commission’s website.  For example, the ballot costs for 2002-03 were $1.1M and the current budget calls for $1.1M; Sheriff’s Services for 2002-03 were $183,000 and the current budget calls for $120,000; and temporary agency expenses for 2002-03, were $10,000 and remain the same for the current budget.  The Commissioner said that when the categories are compared, the costs are usually the same, less or hardly above the rate of inflation than costs for previous years.  Mr. Winnicker said that he whole-heartedly recommends the budget for approval and added that if all of the City’s Departments were run as efficiently, the City wouldn’t be in the financial trouble it now finds itself.


Commissioner Mendelson added that monies ($775,000) for outreach for RCV were not included in the budget because those funds are already on reserve.  He added that the final budget will come to the Commission in June.


Commissioner Schulz thanked the staff members who made the sacrifice of working without pay or taking days off without pay which helped to keep this current year’s budget in line.  He stated that he hoped that this sacrifice would not reoccur. 


Public Comment.  Chris Bowman asked if the Department has taken in enough money for paid ballot arguments to cover the costs for the VIP.  Mr. Bowman said he didn’t see any savings in the budget due to RCV.  President Rosenthal replied that the costs for runoffs is never in the Department’s baseline budget, those costs are always covered by a supplemental appropriation.


Steven Hill said that he would like to see the Commission more involved in voter outreach between elections.  He suggested a new position in the Department for a full time outreach person to work in communities to register voters.  Mr. Hill said he was certain that the Board of Supervisors would support money for this position.


President Rosenthal told Mr. Hill that the Commission will be holding a meeting on March 17 to discuss outreach and encouraged him to participate.


The MOTION to approve the proposed Budget for 2004-005 CARRIED.


(e)             Discussion and possible action to approve a new Commission meeting schedule, which may include reducing the frequency of meetings to one meeting per month.  Commissioner Mendelson MOVED to approve a schedule that may include reducing the frequency of meeting to one meeting a month.  Commissioner Townsend SECONDED.  President Rosenthal stated that the reason she put this item on the agenda was because the Commission has had to cancel and then schedule special meetings due to elections. She suggested that third Wednesdays be the regular meeting time and that special meetings be scheduled when needed.


Commissioner Rosenthal reminded the Commission that there may need to be a special meeting called before the March 17th meeting to discuss the March 2nd election. 


Public Comment.  Steven Hill said that there is a lot of work to be done regarding RCV and outreach that should require the Commission to hold two regular meetings each month.


Christopher Bowman advised that his Citizen’s Advisory Group had one-a-month meetings that worked well.  He reminded the Commission that it also has Committee meetings and therefore will still, most probably, have two or more meetings each month.  He admitted that second Wednesdays would work better for him because he would like to attend the Elections Commission meetings regularly but he has a conflicting meeting on third Wednesdays. 


Richard Shadoian MOVED that the Commission use the one meeting a month schedule for six months and then revisit the schedule for future meetings after that six month period. SECONDED by Commissioner Thomas Schulz.   MOTION (021804-2) to have one meeting a month for six months CARRIED.


Richard Shadoian MOVED that the Commission meet on the third Wednesday of each month.  SECONDED by Commissioner Townsend.  MOTION (021804-3) to meet on the third Wednesday of each month CARRIED.


7.         Discussion regarding items for future agendas.   Commissioner Shadoian suggested a discussion regarding sharing the Commission Secretary with the Ethics Commission; Commissioner Townsend recommended the discussion and possible action to develop a policy on using a hand count for ballots; Commissioner Winnicker suggested a discussion regarding a permanent absentee voting campaign: Commissioner Townsend requested that opinions from the public be gathered regarding the topics to be discussed at the March 17th meeting.


Commissioner Richard Shadoian thanked outgoing Commissioner Thomas Schulz for his service on the Commission.  The other Commissioners offered their gratitude to Commissioner Schulz as well.


President Alix Rosenthal announced that the March 3, 2004 meeting of the Elections Commission is cancelled.


Public Comment.  Steven Hill announced that the ES&S system would be tested the second week in March.



ADJOURNMENT at 8:27 pm.