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Meeting Information

Elections Commission

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Minutes of



San Francisco Elections Commission


Held at The Bayview Police Station

201 Williams Street


Wednesday, September 20, 2006



There was not a quorum at 6:00 pm, the noticed start for this meeting.  At 6:15, Vice President Meek announced that item 5 would proceed.  Charlie MacNaulty, Outreach Coordinator, for the Department of Elections gave a presentation that included a history of Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco, an invitation to attendees to examine and use the AutoMARK and Eagle voting machines which were displayed at the meeting, and an invitation to contact him for demonstration at other public meetings and events. 



1.         CALL TO ORDER.  Vice President Jennifer Meek called the meeting to order when a quorum arrived at 6:37 pm.


2.         ROLL CALL.  PRESENT were Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Victor Hwang, Arnold Townsend and Jennifer Meek.  EXCUSED was President Richard Matthews.  Commissioner Michael Mendelson arrived at 6:40 pm.


3.                  Public Comment.   Angelo King said that he had been frustrated over the petitions he saw people signing regarding the Referendum Petition on the Bayview/Hunter’s Point Redevelopment Plan because the information on those petitions was not complete.  Mr. King said he was very pleased that it failed.  Jade Lai asked several questions of the Commission about the accuracy of the voting equipment used by San Francisco.  Director Arntz responded to the questions and reminded everyone that the accuracy testing of the equipment is open to the public in all of the testing stages.  Dennis Lumsey said that the Elections Department needs to use residents in his community to help increase voter turn out.  Brent Turner said that the certification process on “the national level is broken”, and suggested that voters not use machines but vote by paper ballots.  James Bryant said that “his community needs assistance” and asked the Commission to seek funding for neighborhood groups to assist the Elections department in its efforts to increase voter turn out.  Eddie Catrell said that he is a member of the community and had just recently heard about Ranked Choice Voting.  Brenda Henry said that under 70 people voted in her area and that this low number was appalling.


  1. Special presentation regarding the Elections Commission’s responsibilities, the Elections Department and an explanation and demonstration of the voting equipment that will be used in the November 2006 election’s Ranked Choice Voting.  Since the demonstration of the voting equipment occurred before there was a quorum for this meeting, Vice President Meek decided to cover the rest of this agenda item: the Elections Commission’s responsibilities. 


Commissioner Gleason said from his experience of working on election day at precincts, it is important that voters are informed by the poll workers that voters “can vote using Ranked Choice Voting” but poll workers are not supposed to say you “should” or you “have to” or you “are required to use Ranked Choice Voting”.

The Commissioner said that the precinct workers cannot lead voters, they can only assist.  A voter may need more information on election day, but it is not available at the precinct other than the public information that’s available about this option. 


Deputy City Attorney Ann O’Leary explained the responsibilities of the Elections Commission.  She said that her role is to advise the Commission and the Department of Elections.  The seven members of the Commission are appointed by seven City government agencies (Treasurer, Public Defender, Board of Supervisors, City Attorney, Public Defender, Board of Education, and the Mayor), and serve a five-year term.  Commissioners help to set the general policies for the Department of Elections and are responsible for the proper administration of the general practices .  The Director of the Department is responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of the Department and ensures that elections conform to laws and elections run smoothly.  The Director provides an Election Plan to the Commission for approval no later than 55 days before the election and the Commission can ask questions about specific plans at their meetings and have the Director answer those questions on the record.


Commissioner Townsend explained that the Charter establishes that although the Commissioners are appointed by seven City agencies, the Commissioners do not work for those agencies, nor do the Commissioners represent those agencies or their interests.  When the voters approved the amendment that created the Elections Commission, they wanted an independent, non-political commission.  The Commissioner said that “in reality, we do not run the Department”, and assured the audience that “this Commission begged and pleaded for outreach money from the Mayor’s budget people and the Board”. 


Commissioner Victor Hwang introduced himself and echoed Commissioner Townsend’s comments.  He said that he was particularly interested in outreach and improving voter turnout and wants to see if there is a possibility for “add backs” to the DoE budget.


Commissioner Mendelson said that the fact that the Commission and the Director hold meetings in the community shows that it is seeking more citizen involvement and advice and willing to respond to questions and concerns.  He said that it is up to people to assert their rights and vote. 


            Public Comment.   Angelo King said that if the DoE is working with organizations with 501 c (3) tax exemptions, they must be informed of their limitations regarding political activities.  Brent Turner asked that poll workers use the word “option” rather than “opportunity” to voters regarding Ranked Choice Voting.  Ronald Donaldson said that he lived in the Bayview district and that he was glad to see the Commission holding its meeting here and that he’d like to see the DoE spend more money on outreach instead of new equipment. 


5.    Discussion of possible future voting systems in San Francisco after the November 2006 election.  Vice President Meek reviewed the purpose of this item on the agenda and explained that the Director had asked the Commission to have public hearings on this subject so that the public could have input. 


            Commissioner Hwang asked if the Director had any news regarding the status of the DoE’s discussions regarding future voting system.  Director Arntz replied that there has been no change since the last Commission meeting.  The Department will be using the ES&S equipment for the November 2006 election but there has been no decision regarding the voting equipment after that election.  The deadline for that decision is December 31, 2006. 


            Commissioner Townsend explained that there has been displeasure with the performance of ES&S and that this discussion is to see what the Department might choose to use after November 2006.  He said that the President of the Commission was expected to lead the discussion at this meeting but he was unable to attend.  The Commissioner reminded the audience that the Commission meets twice a month at City Hall.


            Commissioner Gleason said that there are funds available to the Department from the Help America Vote Act that “sunsets” at the end of 2006.  The DoE has to have a contract in place to select new equipment in order to receive these funds.  Additionally, it should be noted that the Eagle voting machine is not going to be valid as an acceptable system after 2006.  We have to work on this because it must go through the Board of Supervisors shortly, and we want to have public comments to be forwarded, possibly with a recommendation from the Commission to the Board, which must approve the final contract.




  1. Public Comment.  Bret Turner said that there are papers with the San Francisco District Attorney regarding failures in certifications.   Carol Bella passed out documents that she said would be of interest regarding how new technology can cause trouble to voting machines.  Commission Townsend reminded the speaker that the City does not use Diebolt equipment and will not because that company does not have equipment for RCV.  Jennifer Hammond said she didn’t trust the technology in voting machines.


7.   Public Comment on any issue.  David Pilpel said that he “absolutely” believes that all legal votes cast in San Francisco will be counted and that people should not be in fear that their vote will not.  Bret Turner said that people should pay attention to all the scientific studies on election equipment that say the machines are not secure.   Roger Donaldson said he had concerns about the current and future equipment but that it would be good to spend the ten million dollars, instead, on outreach. 


ADJOURNMENT @ 7:39 pm.




Disability Access

The Elections Commission meeting will be held at the Potrero Police Station, 201 Williams Street.  The Commission meeting room is wheelchair accessible. Accessible MUNI lines serving this location are: #15 Third Street Line (five blocks from meeting site), and #54 Felton, take to Williams and Reddy Streets, (two blocks from meeting site). For information about MUNI accessible services call (415) 923-6142.

The following services are available on request 48 hours prior to the meeting; except for Monday meetings, for which the deadline shall be 4:00 p.m. of the last business day of the preceding week: For American sign language interpreters or the use of a reader during a meeting, a sound enhancement system, and/or alternative formats of the agenda and minutes, please contact The Elections Office at (415) 554- 4375 or our TDD at (415) 554-4386 to make arrangements for the accommodation. Late requests will be honored, if possible.

In order to assist the City's efforts to accommodate persons with severe allergies, environmental illnesses, multiple chemical sensitivity or related disabilities, attendees at public meetings are reminded that other attendees may be sensitive to various chemical based products.  Please help the City accommodate these individuals. Individuals with chemical sensitivity or related disabilities should call our accessibility hotline at (415) 554-6060.

Know your rights under the Sunshine Ordinance (Chapter 67 of the San Francisco Administrative Code)

Government's duty is to serve the public, reaching its decisions in full view of the public. Commissions, boards, councils, and other agencies of the City and County exist to conduct the people's business. This ordinance assures that deliberations are conducted before the people and that City operations are open to the people's review. For more information on your rights under the Sunshine Ordinance or to report a violation of the ordinance, contact the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, Donna Hall, Clerk, City Hall, Room 409, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, San Francisco, CA 94102-4683 at Phone No.: (415) 554-7724; Fax No.: (415) 554-7854; E-mail: [email protected] Copies of the Sunshine Ordinance can be obtained from the Clerk of the Sunshine Task Force, the San Francisco Public Library and on the City's website at

The ringing of and use of cell phones, pagers and similar sound-producing electronic devices are prohibited at this meeting. Please be advised that the Chair may order the removal from the meeting room of any person(s) responsible for the ringing or use of a cell phone, pager, or other similar sound-producing electronic devices.

Lobbyist Registration and Reporting Requirements

Individuals and entities that influence or attempt to influence local legislative or administrative action may be required by the San Francisco Lobbyist Ordinance [SF Campaign & Governmental Conduct Code §2.100] to register and report lobbying activity. For more information about the Lobbyist Ordinance, please contact the Ethics Commission at 30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 3900, San Francisco, CA 94102; telephone (415) 581-2300, fax (415) 581-2317; web site at