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Meeting Information

Elections Commission

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City and County of San Francisco

Elections Commission

Approved: July 19, 2006

Minutes of the Meeting at City Hall Room 408

June 21, 2006



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


      President Richard P. Matthews welcomed new Commissioner Victor Hwang, appointee of the Public Defender.  Commissioner Hwang introduced himself and briefly described his background.  He said he has been a public interest attorney for 14 years, and works for Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, in the areas of domestic violence, human trafficking and immigration work.  His experience, in elections, has been work regarding redistricting and polling place compliance issues.


2.   ROLL CALL.  PRESENT: Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Richard P. Matthews, Arnold Townsend, Jennifer Meek, Sheila Chung, Michael Mendelson and Victor Hwang.


3.   Public Comment.  David Pilpel welcomed the new Commissioner and acknowledged the past work of Commissioner Sheila Chung who will be leaving the Commission.




      June 6, 2006 Election – The Director reported that, “generally, the election went well.”  One of the major concerns had been having sufficient pollworkers.  The introduction of the AutoMark voting machine was another concern.  There wasn’t sufficient time to load the Cantonese language software into the AutoMarks.  One problem early on Election Day was Automark ballots were being placed in the Eagle machines.  This caused the Eagles to jam.  Technicians were called to correct the problems.  Currently the turnout of voters is reported to have been 38 percent.


      One problem with formatting the VIP (Voter’s Information Pamphlet) was that the vendor had problems with the Chinese letters.  This caused a five to six day delay in completion of the guide, because a sample ballot has to go into the VIP before it is mailed.  There were also delays due to problems getting the AutoMark ballot formatted.


Director Arntz explained that for a primary election, the VIPs had to be in the mail no later than ten days before the election.  The Department met that deadline. 


President Matthews agreed that the election went well.  He asked if the deadline for mailing VIPs for this election also followed the guidelines of the City’s Municipal Elections Code.


Mr. Arntz replied that since this was a state primary, it is the state’s election code that would be followed. 


Update on Voting System - The Director said that the Department was not prepared for the AutoMark vendor’s lack of support.  There were no complaints of the AutoMark incorrectly marking ballots on election day.   The pollworkers were trained to inform all voters that the AutoMark was available for their use; however, it appears that conveying this information to the voters was not done consistently.  There were 158 ballot styles for the Eagle machines, 158 ballot styles for the AutoMark, 158 ballot styles for the AutoMark audio files in Spanish, English and Mandarin.  This was a huge increase in the workload to implement the AutoMark in San Francisco.   HAVA (Help America Vote Act) funds were used to purchase the AutoMarks.  The City and County of San Francisco did not pay for the election; it was paid for by State and Federal grants.


President Matthews said that a number of the ballot cards for the AutoMarks were hand-marked.  He asked if there was a tally of the number of voters who did so.

The Director responded that such a tally will be made and reminded the Commission that all of these votes are counted.   During the canvass, after an election, every single ballot is accounted for by hand at City Hall. 


President Matthews congratulated the Department for its “extra layer of accuracy” that is provided by the canvassing.  He explained that even the wrong ballot card, used the wrong way, put into the wrong machine, is detected and counted within the 30 day time limit.  The Director reminded the Commission that San Francisco has the most thorough canvas of all the counties in the state and is a model for other counties. 


Commissioner Chung referred to the Director’s comments during his report for this meeting regarding the newly released “Staffing and Planning Issues at the San Francisco Elections Department Special Report” produced by the City Services Auditor and praised Commissioner Townsend’s suggestion of an on-line virtual tour of the activities of  DoE staff  before and during an election.  She said that this tool would be helpful to the Commission in explaining staffing needs to the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and Controller when the Department advocates for a strong budget.



Preparation for November 7, 2006 Election – The Director reported that he spoke to representatives of ES&S yesterday and was advised that an application is ready and will be sent to the Secretary of State (SoS) after the first of the month.  Mr. Arntz said there would be two challenges for the November election: getting the Eagle machines re-certified for Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), and having the AutoMark machines certified to work with the Eagles and with RCV.  There will be improvements in training of the workers for the next election and in getting the vendors to prepare materials earlier.  The contracts for November are almost completed, and staffing does not appear to be an issue for that election.  The concern is for staffing for the period between January 2007 and July 2007 when the planning for the next three elections commences. 


President Matthews asked the Director to let the Commission know what it can do to assist the Department in certification of the AutoMark and Eagle voting machines.

Director Arntz asked that the Commission send out letters to the vendor and to the SoS.   President Matthews asked if the Department plans to re-make AutoMark ballots onto the regular op-tech cards and then counting the ballots since these AutoMark ballots have been few, instead of having a counting system just for the AutoMark?  Director Arntz answered that if automating the counting of the ballots can be done, it would be one less step that the Department has to take to conduct the election.


Public Comment David Pilpel said that acquisition of the AutoMarks was not a good choice for San Francisco because it was $3.5 million for equipment of marginal benefit compared to what the City could have had for substantially more –replacing the entire system with touch screen DRE equipment with the paper trail.  Chris Jerdonek said that the VIP (Voters Information Pamphlet) was mailed later than required by the San Francisco Charter and the Municipal Code. 


5.      Presentation by speaker on update of the status of the Voting Rights Act renewal pending in the U. S. Congress.  Commissioner Sheila Chung gave background to this Act and introduced Robert Rubin, legal director at The Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights for the San Francisco Bay Area.  Mr. Rubin explained that his organization has been active in this cause for years.  One example was the blocking of the efforts by the Governor to stop implementation of the motor voter law, The National Voter Registration Act, which has led to tens of millions of new voters.  Mr. Rubin reported that the House of Representatives had, just hours ago, refused to take up a vote on renewal of the Voting Rights Act.  It was last renewed in 1982.  The objections seem to be principally around minority language rights.  The Senate, he said, was prepared to vote on reauthorization next week; however, after the House vote, the issue is uncertain.   There are two principal provisions up for renewal: Section 5 which requires pre-clearance of certain jurisdictions which was intended to shift the burden of inertia from the victim of discrimination to the perpetrator of the discrimination, and Section 203 which is the minority language provision.  Mr. Rubin suggested that the Director and the Commission let the Congress know that providing materials in languages other than English does not “break” the system, but enhances it.  He suggested that letters be sent to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. 


Commissioner Townsend asked what would be the next step.  Mr. Rubin replied that he wasn’t sure, but that there has been a request to delay the vote.  Commissioner Chung requested that an item be placed on the Commission’s next agenda that would create a letter from the Department, Commission or lobbyist addressed to the Speaker


Public Comment - Jim Soper said that the voting rights problem was not only a problem of the deep south.  He said that in this year 43% of new registrants in Los Angeles have had their applications rejected. 


6.      Commissioners’ Reports – President Matthews reported that on June 15 he attended the swearing in and reception the Public Defender held for the newest appointee to the Elections Commission, Victor Hwang.  On June 14, the President met with the City Editor, Managing Editor and a reporter from the Examiner newspaper regarding an article written about an elections inspector who didn’t show up at the polls on time, but the article included a reference to the five-year-old story of “box tops in the bay”.  The Commissioner said that he requested the meeting to ask how the two stories were related, how an activity involving what is done at the beginning of election day is related to one at the end of the day at a different part of the process, and five years apart.  The Examiner staff, he said, didn’t really have an answer to that question other than it shows a continuation of poor ballot handling.  The President then explained to the Examiner staff that box tops have no relationship to “ballot handling”, but were, at that point in the evening, just another office supply.  The Commission has been invited to place an op-ed piece in the newspaper on any topic it wishes.  President Matthews suggested that the Commission do so closer to the next election, and maybe talk about the need for volunteers or some topic of interest to the public.  President Matthews also reported that today he was made aware of a proposal by Supervisor McGoldrick to amend the Charter to move the City officer races that currently occur in odd years to even years.  A representative of the supervisor’s office said that voter turnout in odd years is low and that moving the races to even years would increase voter participation.  The McGoldrick office is offering to make a presentation to the Commission to further explain why this is a good idea. 


      Commissioner Chung announced that she was stepping down from her seat on the Elections Commission effective this meeting.  She cited her increasing involvement in immigrant rights, and personal reasons for this decision.  The Commissioner thanked the members for the opportunity to work with them, the public and the Department.  She praised the Department staff with whom she has worked during her training to volunteer on the election day phone bank and to work as a Field Election Deputy (FED). 


      Public CommentDavid Pilpel said that he was opposed to the McGoldrick proposal to change the years in which elections are held.  Mr. Pilpel added that should the proposal succeed, he foresees more Special Elections being held. 



7.  Commissioners’ Report of their activities and observations of the election held June 6, 2006.


      Commissioner Mendelson reported that he observed his precinct and “that it went well”.  He said he spent the night at this site.


      Commissioner Townsend reported that he observed the activities at the Department during the election.  He also visited four polling places including one on Fulton at Fillmore because he was interested in getting feedback on the use of the AutoMark voting machines.   No one had used the AutoMark when he visited and this included the Fulton/Fillmore polling place that was located in a senior citizen/disabled residence.  The Commissioner said that some of the workers at the Fillmore Center location told him that they felt that they were not sufficiently trained regarding the differences between the Eagle ballots and the AutoMark ballots, and that these two ballot types could not be exchanged for one another.  He said that the complaints coming in to Election Central were higher in the early morning and lessened during the day and evening.  He said that there will be glitches, but that “all in all, the Department did a great job”. 


      Commissioner Sheila Chung reported that she worked as a FED (this required two full-days of training plus 20 hours on election day beginning with waking up at about 3:00 am.  For this election, her precincts were increased by two to make eleven.  She was in the Mission/Potrero Hill area.  The Commissioner said that one of the most difficult jobs that pollworkers had was to explain to voters who were registered as “declined to state”, what their voting options were.  The best way to explain this to the voter was to show them the different types of ballot cards they could use and allowing them to make their selection.  In the morning there was some confusion regarding which ballot types were for use in the AutoMark.  The Commissioner said that the AutoMark sometimes had a technical glitch by not recognizing the ballot.  She recommended that the FEDs and pollworkers be given the different ballot types during training so that they will have hands-on experience with the real ballots.  Commissioner Chung reported that she spoke to a disabled voter who said that she was “thrilled to now be able to vote for the first time by herself” with the AutoMark.  The Commissioner encouraged High School student ride-a-longs with the FEDs on election day to encourage the students leadership development to be long term pollworkers and eventually to be FEDs.  She suggested that FEDs also attend the Inspector training to learn the closing procedures, because they are often called upon to assist the Inspectors in closing the polls.  Other suggestions were that the FEDs be given street index maps, and that there be more Russian bi-lingual materials, even in the areas where she worked, those materials would have been helpful.  Finally, Commissioner Chung thanked Efrem, George, Raj and the rest of the staff for their good work.


      Commissioner Gleason reported that he had a written report that would be given to the other members.  He said that the DoE has consistently put together a terrific system to organize, manage and support elections.  He described the pollworker training he attended as “fantastic”.  For this election, the Commissioner was an inspector and said that fifty per cent of the pollworkers for his precinct did not show up for work.  He had to open his polling place with one sixteen year old high school student.  Commissioner Gleason said that he feels that the quality of pollworkers needs to improve.  This Commissioners’ written comments are attached to these minutes. 


      At 8:30 pm Commissioner Michael Mendelson left the meeting.


      Commissioner Hwang said that although this election happened before his appointment, he was concerned regarding the lateness of his receiving his Chinese Bi-lingual VIP.  He received it the Saturday before election day.  He visited two poll sites, and was taken with the diversity of the pollworkers (four to five) at each site.  He said the diversity of races, and ages of these workers made for a welcoming environment at the polling place.  Previously, at an earlier election, the Commissioner recounted that if he had not voted all the selections on his ballot, the poll workers would ask if it had been his intention not to vote the entire ballot; this time this didn’t happen.  The Commissioner said that he appreciated the confidentiality of not being asked this question.


      Commissioner Meek said that overall, she felt the election went well.  Her concern was that the VIPs should be sent out as early as possible, especially to absentee voters.  Commissioner Meek worked as an Inspector during this election, and felt that her training was adequate; however, her pollworkers were not as informed as they should have been.  She said that she was in agreement with Commissioner Gleason that the quality of pollworkers needs to improve from wanting to earn $86.00 for the day to really caring that every vote is counted.  Improving the selection process is a real challenge because so few citizens volunteer for this work.  The high school students are terrific pollworkers, Commission Meek explained, and that program needs to continue.  She suggested  workers need to arrive at the precincts one and a half hours early, for primaries, to allow more time to set up.  The Commissioner reported that she was rushed to set up for the 7:00 am opening even though she arrived at 6:00 am.  She found it necessary to explain to her pollworkers about the ballot information, why the ballots had to be layed out in a certain format.  After the morning, the rest of the day went smoothly, except for the voters who “declined to state”, and therefore had to request their ballots.


      Commissioner Matthews said that on June 1st, he sat in on the new inspectors training which was excellent.  He praised the training manual with its photographs of the AutoMark and said that the training materials get better with each election.  The Commissioner said he observed the canvassing on June 9, 12, 14 and 20, the staff and supervisors of the canvassing do excellent work going through every single card of every precinct.  He praised the Department for doing this extra layer of accuracy and security.  The Commissioner said that he has been studying the complaint log and emails from aggrieved voters and the DoE’s responses.  Most of the complaints fall into the “user error” department; that is, voters not following directions to turn their ballots over to vote the back of the ballot card.  He acknowledged the lateness of the mailing of the VIPs and said that this problem was due to the change in plans for the voting system, and is unlikely to be repeated in the future.  He asked the Director to provide a breakdown of the provisional ballots by cause and which were accepted and which were rejected within the next few weeks. 


      The Commissioner asked the Director if he had a ballpark figure of how many provisional ballots were cast in the election.  Director Arntz replied that the number was approximately 5,500. 


      Public CommentJim Soper said that he observed the voting in Alameda County which went slowly because the paper ballots were being read by 60, rented, scanners in a central location.  Chris Jerdonek said that he was a first-time inspector for the election and that training could be improved by letting pollworkers know why some of the procedures are done.  Two examples he gave were that some pollworkers “pre-tore” some of the ballots, they didn’t understand why they shouldn’t do this, and towards the end of the day, workers began to sign their seals for the equipment in advance.  Additionally, Mr. Jerdonek suggested that more wording be added to the provisional ballot envelope to include that the ballot will be counted for those contests the voter is eligible to vote.  Jennifer Hammond congratulated the Department and Commission on “getting through the primary” and relayed comments the person for whom she works was purported to have said.  David Pilpel said that if the provisional count for this election was 5500, then that is low compared to the previous election.


8.      Discussion and possible action concerning what the Commission can do to ensure that the Department’s budget is adequate.  Director Arntz reported that the first draft of the Controller’s Audit Report came out June 14.  The Department is putting together a response to the report to present in one to two days.  The audit report combines all of the year-round permanent provisional staff with the year-round temporary staff to make a total of 36 people.  This is the DoE’s permanent base.  When the report suggests cutting or reducing the temporary positions, it is cutting the positions that they added in the Department's permanent staffing number.  When compared to other counties, the Director said, San Francisco’s Elections Department does more with less workers than other counties.  The Director asked each Commissioner to call each member of the Budget Committee of the Board of Supervisors and lobby for the DoE’s budget and staffing.  Commissioners should remind the Board that the Department has had these temporary people on staff for the last four years and the Department has run very well for that time, so why are they being taken away now?  How do we do our work without them?  How can the Department meet its legal obligations with less staffing?  By making these cuts, the Department is prevented from performing its core functions.


President Matthews asked the Director what was the DoE’s total budget request.  Mr. Arntz replied that it was $11M, which includes payment to the vendor for the November 2006 election, equipment, supplies and personnel.


Commissioner Hwang asked the Director for some talking points to stress the consequences of losing staff to members of the Board.  The Director said that there are documents that he can send to the Commission. 


President Matthews then asked about the status of the Commission Secretary.  Director Arntz reported that the Controller’s Report indicated that the position be half-time, but he met with the Budget Analyst and it is now at three-quarters time.  President Matthews appointed Commissioners Gleason and Mendelson to work on a document to verify the Commission Secretary’s full-time status. 


Commissioner Townsend reminded the members that with a part-time Commission Secretary, there would be certain hours of the day when citizens would not be able to get information about the Commission, because the secretary would not be on duty.


Public Comment.  David Pilpel said that the full Controller’s report was now posted on the City’s website.  Mr. Pilpel said that he was displeased that that office has “little or no underlying analysis behind their recommendation.  It is as if they decided what the answer was and then put some facts together to support it.”  Additionally, he said that it appears that the Budget Analyst is deferring his responsibility to the Controller’s office for analysis of the DoE’s staffing and that this is unusual. 


9.   New Business


(a)   Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes for the Commission meeting of April 19, 2006 (with Amendments to Bylaws attached) and minutes for the meetings of May 3, 2006 and May 17, 2006.  Commissioner Sheila Chung MOVED and Commissioner Arnold Townsend SECONDED approval of the minutes.

The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS for approval of the minutes of these meetings.


(b)  Discussion and possible ratification of the request to the Board of Supervisors for a waiver allowing certain City employees to work on the June 6, 2006 Consolidated Primary Election.  This item was initially approved at the meeting held on May 17, 2006.  Commissioner Arnold Townsend MOVED and Commissioner Jennifer Meek SECONDED the ratification of a waiver to allow certain City employees to work on the June 6, 2006 Consolidated Primary Election.


Public Comment.  Jim Soper said that this was a good idea because Alameda County does this as well for its elections and their operation is very efficient.  David Pilpel said that given the President’s explanation of why this item was on the agenda for ratification, approval at this time is appropriate.


The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS for approval to ratify.


(c)      Discussion and possible action to send a letter to the Secretary of State and/or voting system vendor regarding upgrading the conditional approval of existing Ranked Choice Voting equipment. (Commissioner Gleason)

      Commissioner Gleason reported that he had discussed this item with the Director and has drafted a letter similar to the one in the packet for this meeting, asking the vendor to do whatever necessary for the equipment approval.


      President Matthews asked the Deputy City Attorney if the letter to the vendor was substantially similar to the one before the Commission at this meeting, could it be approved to send to the Secretary of State and to the vendor.  Deputy City Attorney Miguel Marquez agreed that the letters could be sent, as long as the Commission is clear what is in the letter. 


      Commissioner Gleason MOVED and Commission Meek SECONDED that the two letters be sent.


      Public Comment.  Jim Soper asked if Sequoia was at all involved in this item.  President Matthews replied that he did not think that was the case.  David Pilpel expressed his concern whether the Commission should send letters to the Secretary of State. He reminded the Commission that it has no relationship with the vendor. 


The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS for approval to send the letters.


(d)  Discussion of the mailing of the Voter Information Pamphlet.  President Matthews said that the earlier discussion of this item satisfied his concerns and asked if other members of the Commission had more questions. 


Commissioner Townsend said that he was satisfied with the answered given by Director Arntz, especially considering the issues with the vendor.   He said the problems appear to have been an anomaly.


Commissioner Meek said that she agreed with Commissioner Townsend, but that the law should be met regarding timelines for sending out the VIPs.  She said that they should be sent out sooner, if possible, to absentee voters. 


Director Arntz responded that the VIP is online much earlier than when it is mailed because it is easy to make it electronically available.  This availability, several weeks before the printed version was delivered, had not been mentioned earlier.


Commissioner Gleason asked the Deputy City Attorney for an answer to the question regarding whether City codes are trumped by State codes as they relate to the mailing of the VIP. 


Deputy City Attorney Márquez said that for this election the Municipal Elections Code does apply as does the Charter, and they trump state law if there is any inconsistency.    For example, if you look at the Charter requirement, which is 13.107, it says that the VIP shall be mailed to each elector so as to be received at least ten days prior to each general, runoff, or special municipal election.  This election was neither.  So that does not apply.  Then, if you look at the Municipal Elections Code and it states the VIP shall be mailed to each registered San Francisco voter at least 21 days prior to each general or special municipal  election.  Again, neither one of those apply, so those deadlines are not applicable.  Then you look at State law.  State Law 13300 of the Elections Code states that it has to be mailed by ten days.  Deputy City Attorney Marquez said that he believed that was the legal standard under which the Department operated under this election.


Public Comment.  David Pilpel said that it is no simple task to get 400,000 plus VIPs of 15 various ballot types out to the entire voting population given the deadlines for candidates, for ballot arguments, for public review, for challenges, for ballot typing, and the actual sample ballots to be included.


13.       Public Comment on any issue within the Elections Commission’s general jurisdiction.

Jim Soper said that Alameda County opted to buy 1000 Sequoia touch screens and a new system.  The clause in that contract says that should the state law require open source, software for these machines will be provided. 


14.   Announcements.  Commissioners Townsend, Matthews, Gleason, Hwang, and Meek, along with Secretary Shirley Rodriques, all praised Commissioner Chung and expressed that they would miss her.


ADJOURNMENT at 9:44 pm









To:        Election Commissioners

cc:        John Arntz, Director of Elections

cc:        Miguel Marquez, Deputy City Attorney


From:            Commissioner Gleason


Subject: Observations of June 6, 2006 Consolidated Primary Election


This memorandum details my observations of the June 6, 2006 Consolidated Primary 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 June 21, 2006. Therefore, I ask that this memorandum and attachments be added to the minutes of that meeting.  Thank you.




General Observations


Overall, I believe 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 are well organized, plentiful and ready.  Ballot distribution has clear paperwork trails. Election Day support is readily available and very responsive.  Cooperation from other city agencies such as the Sheriffs Department as well as Parking & Traffic is extremely helpful.


The Department’s operations appear to be consistently improving upon previous successes.  The Department’s focus on delivering customer service in noticeable.


Some areas to focus on, such as the delivery of voter material are noted below.  The staffing of precincts by pollworkers was more difficult this election, no doubt due to the new time of year for the primary election, and should continue to be a focus for improvement by the Department.


Finally, we should all be aware 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 Thursday June 1.  The class was for Experienced Precinct Inspectors and was attended by approximately 30 people who have had previous experience as Election Day Precinct Inspectors. As has been the case in the past, the Experienced Inspector class went smoothly and 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 basic procedures.


Most of the training program focused on the Primary Election procedures and the correct issuing of party specific ballots.


Among noteworthy observations of the Pollworker Training class:


  • The pollworker training class was conducted by Kelly Hines and Raj Neogy who did a very thorough and professional job of conducting the class and explaining procedures.



  • The Department Training program had organized mock ballot card sets and conducted scenario drills to explain, what for many people, is the complicated primary election operations using different partisan ballots.  On top of it being instructional, it kept things fresh and engaged attendees to demonstrate that they understood which ballots to issue and under what circumstances.


  • DOE training staff emphasized issues of fairness such as keeping the party ballots alphabetized on the ballot issuing tables at the precincts. They also stated that pollworkers should only remove ballots from the pads of ballots in the presents of a voter who has signed the roster.


  • DOE training staff explained the process of issuing nonpartisan ballots and the proper issuing of party specific requested ballots to voters registered as “Decline to State” (DTS).  Training staff made clear that such registered voters must make the request for a party specific DTS ballot and that the pollworkers were not to lead voters in the decision. Further, training staff made specific mention of SB 28, which authorized the Open-Modified Primary Election and directing voters with questions about the procedure to the information card on the Open-Modified Primary Election that was to be on every ballot-issuing table at the precincts.


  • There was some limited hands-on training with the new AutoMARK devices, however it seemed that any very extensive questions or complicated assistance required by a voter using the AutoMARK might not have been properly addressed by a pollworker receiving such limited instruction. On the other hand, pollworkers had already attended 3 hours of pollworker training class and any further investment of time may have been excessive. 




Precinct Ballot Pickup


After Pollworker Training class, I went to pick up the ballots I would need at my precinct on June 6.  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 2213 located in SFUSD offices at the former John Geary School site at 20 Cook Street in the Laurel Heights neighborhood. I had previously been the Inspector for this precinct, however the physical location of the polling place had moved since the last election.


In addition to myself, I was assigned 3 clerks to staff this precinct. I was originally assigned an experienced clerk who I had worked with the previous election, unfortunately she needed to withdraw from working 2 weeks prior to the election and DOE arranged a replacement clerk.  I was also assigned 2 student pollworkers.


I visited the precinct location the day before June 6 and spoke to the building staff person who showed me the delivered DOE supplies and confirmed that he would be there to open the building at 6:00 A.M. on Election Day. 




I called my assigned clerks on Monday afternoon to confirm that they would be there at 6:00 A.M. I did speak to the assigned replacement clerk and an adult at the contact number for one of the student pollworkers. Both confirmed that they would be there.  I was unable to reach one student pollworker.


On Election Day, only one pollworker was at the precinct at 6:00 A.M., the student pollworker that I had not been able to contact the day before.  The student pollworker and I were able to open and operate the precinct. This particular student, a Junior at Mission High School was very helpful and extremely familiar with the election procedures, including the primary election ballots and which to issue.


The other 2 clerks never showed up to the assigned precinct. After setting up the precinct, I called the Field Election Deputy (FED) for my precinct and the DOE command center. DOE provided 2 replacement clerks by 8:15 A.M.


Throughout the day we conducted voting with no exceptional occurrences.




We advised voters as they arrived at the precinct 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 or had used the AutoMARK device to vote.


Supplies & Materials


DOE provided sufficient and well-organized materials to operate the precinct. DOE staff that delivered the voting machines and other materials to Precinct 2213 had pre-assembled the voting booths and set up the AutoMARK device before the election. Because of the lack of pollworkers for the opening of the precinct, I am extremely appreciative of the time DOE staff took to set up those items.


Precinct Location


Because the physical precinct location had moved from its previous long-term location, some voters indicated they had trouble finding the new polling place. 


The only disabled access to the new location, at a former SFUSD school site, was through a gate 40 yards south of the actual physical front door address given to voters.  DOE provided 2 of the new directional sign/traffic cones.  Additionally, we used numerous directional signs and requested more from the FED.  In all we used a total of 11 directional signs and still had comments from voters that they had trouble locating the polling place.


Additionally, DOE had placed a “Change of Polling Place” sign in front the former location of the polling place for this precinct.  The “Change of Polling Place” sign included tear-off notices that voters could take for finding the new polling place location.


A major problem may have been the angle of approach of the new location.  Most voters approached the new location via a public staircase that was not the recommended direction given by DOE because such direction may possibly violate accessible voting requirements. Additionally, from that angle, the two-dimensional signage, while in place, was not always obvious. 


This situation likely involved voter frustration at the change of polling place location from a long-term location, as well as the unique angle of approach via a public staircase that is known to area residents. I believe we did everything we could to direct voters to the new location. One voter suggested a return to the practice of placing a cloth flag outside the precincts, as a breeze flapping flag was more noticeable than the two-dimensional polling place signs now used. 


Sheriff & PCO Pickup


The pickup of voting material by the Deputy Sheriff (Deputy Castro) and PCO after the close of the polls was well organized.  The Deputy Sheriff came by and introduced himself a few hours before the polls closed.  He provided us with his contact phone number.  Both were on time and ready to pick up materials once we closed the precinct and completed our closing tasks.


Field Election Deputy (FED)


The FED assigned to our area, FED #2, Wendy Cunningham was extremely well trained and responsive.  She stopped by the precinct numerous times and made sure to check that materials were in place and that procedures were being followed.


Precinct Clerks


The precinct staff I worked with were well trained, particularly, as I have mentioned, the exceptionally helpful student pollworker who did show up and assisted me in opening the precinct.  The replacement pollworkers sent by DOE arrived quickly and were helpful, particularly with the precinct closing procedures.  It is distressing that 50% of the assigned precinct staff failed to show up. According to the FED assigned to my area, ours was the only precinct in the area to report such a problem.


DOE Command Center


The staff at the DOE Command Center that I contacted were very professional, quick and helpful.  The first contact I had at about 6:45 A.M. was to report that 2 assigned clerks had not arrived.  DOE staff quickly asked if the precinct location had moved. A very good point, something I had not thought of.  DOE staff asked if I could check the previous location to see if the clerks had reported there and were waiting.  I did check that location and reported back that no one was there.  DOE quickly assigned replacement clerks who arrived by 8:15 A.M.


Election Turnout at Precinct 2213


668 Active Voters on the Roster

232 Active Voters requested Absentee Ballots (34.7%)

120 Voters Signed to Roster and Voted on June 6  (17.9%)

    9 Provisional Ballots issued


Of the Provisional Ballot voters, most were due to voters being listed as having been issued an Absentee Ballot, but were unable to surrender the Absentee Ballot.  Most stated they never received an Absentee Ballot in the mail

















Recruiting and retaining good pollworkers is an important and difficult aspect of elections administration.  The problems associated with high turnover, no shows and improper execution of duties are not unique to San Francisco County, and in fact, may be less so compared to other jurisdictions in California. Creative ideas may be required to improve precinct staffing and service to voters who choose to vote in person at neighborhood precincts. I do not believe that current or manageable financial incentives alone will ever improve this situation.


Pollworker Training


Before pollworker duties become any more complicated, officials should consider the impact of additional requirements given the limited time allotted for training.  The Department’s Training Program wisely chose to spend the limited amount of training time focusing on one particular procedure and making sure that the vast majority of pollworkers understood the task. It seems the other option would have been to multitask the training and risk variously and more unequally trained pollworkers.


The Pollworker Training Program offered by the Department is high caliber and has consistently improved over the past few years.  There is no doubt that given the proper time, pollworkers in San Francisco could operate the best-trained precincts in the state.  However, it is unreasonable to expect pollworkers would be willing to invest any additional time in training based on current compensation.  Therefore, the Department appears to be forced to choose selected emphasis of training.



Election Material sent to Voters (Voter Information Pamphlet)


  • DOE is apparently well aware that there has been concern that some voters did not receive the Voter Information Pamphlet (VIP) until very close to Election Day. I received mine on Friday, May 26. Many factors may have lead to some delays in the VIP production and delivery. Primary elections involve unique and very complicated procedures and issues. The Department should address any and all circumstances that may have lead to any delay in voters receiving the VIP in a timely manner. The Department should communicate any ideas or request assistance needed from election systems vendors, the Postal Service, the City, the Election Commission, and/or the voting public that will reduce delays in production or delivery of the VIP.


  • It was pointed out to me by a few members of the public that the most extensive information on the new AutoMARK voting device was placed on page 100 of the VIP, which some have thought may have been better had it been placed closer to the front of the VIP.


Mention of the AutoMARK was made in several places in the VIP, on page 2 in the letter to voters from the Director and on page 13 along with information on how to mark a ballot, as well as the information on page 100. The VIP for the Primary Election required 73 pages just to produce the necessary sample ballots. The Department should consider any steps possible, given production constraints, to place new-to-voters information closer to the front of the VIP booklet.



  • The Proponent/Opponent Argument for Proposition A (Page 92) contained a disclaimer that was not fully explained and may have been confusing to voters. It must be noted that the Department of Elections was required to print this disclaimer under Article V, Section 500 (C) (8) of the San Francisco Municipal Elections Code.   This is not the first time that the disclaimer required by V,500(c)(8), as printed in the VIP, appears confusing.  The Proponent/Opponent Argument for Proposition B in the November 8, 2005 VIP (on page 44 of that version) appears similarly confusing.


Given the reported names contained in the ballot arguments against the names in the disclaimer, it can only be assumed that there was sloppy execution of the intent of

V,500(c)(8), because, as printed, appears to make no sense to me.  I believe that the Department was not responsible party for the confusing appearance of the disclaimer and related materials.


Even with, what would likely be proper execution of the intent of V,500(c)(8), it may still be unwieldy and confusing to voters as currently presented.





Election Canvas


Since the November 2000 election there has been considerable interest in public scrutiny of elections.  This is not unique to the San Francisco Department of Elections or elections in San Francisco in general. We should all just get used to and accept the fact that all aspects of the election process are under public watch and we should consider adopting any reasonable, best practices that insure fair and open elections.


Several members of the public have brought to my, and others, attention the issue surrounding the process of the selection of the precincts chosen for the 1% manual audit of the election during the canvass which precedes the issuing of the final Statement of Vote. State Election Code spells out this process.


A member of the public brought to my attention a document detailing a proposed method for selecting the 1% manual tally precincts that has been put forward to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.  I have given a copy of the Document, “Proposed Criteria for the Post-Election One Percent Manual Tally in Alameda County” to Commission Secretary Rodriques as well as Director of Elections Arntz.


It may well be worth the Director of Elections taking the time to review the document and engaging in communication with his counterpart in Alameda County regarding the original need for the proposed criteria and the merits of the proposal itself.  From there the San Francisco Department of Elections should determine if a similar criteria should be adopted by San Francisco County as best practices for selection of the 1% Manual Tally.