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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

July 5, 2006



1.   CALL TO ORDER.  President Matthews called the meeting to order at 7:05 pm.


2.   ROLL CALL.  PRESENT: Commissioners Gerard Gleason, Richard P. Matthews, Arnold Townsend, Jennifer Meek, Victor Hwang, Deputy City Attorney Miguel Marquez and Deputy Director of Elections Linda Tulett.  ABSENT: Commissioner Michael Mendelson.




      Summary of canvass and certification of June 6, 2006 Election – Deputy Director Tulett reported that the canvass has been completed and the election was certified on Monday, July 3, 2006.  A hard copy of the Statement of Vote was sent to the Secretary of State (SoS) today.  It is expected that the Board of Supervisors will adopt pass a resolution declaring the election results on July 18, 2006. 


      The selection of the random precincts for the canvass was changed this year.  Each precinct was represented on a piece of paper, and there was a random draw of one percent of the precincts.




      Update on Board of Supervisors actions regarding Budget.  Deputy Director Tulett reported that the DoE went before the Board on June 26, 2006 (this hearing is currently posted on SFGTV).  Ms. Tulett said that “it is still unclear what the Controller’s report really means.”  The Budget Analyst took the Controller’s recommendations.  Supervisors Mirkarimi and Dufty motioned to keep the full time status of the 1842-Voter Publications Manager.  Supervisor Mirkarimi also motioned to not  accept the recommendation on the other 17 positions, but that was not seconded by any of the other Board members, and the Analyst’s recommendations went forward.  It is not certain if the recommendation is for the fiscal year with only one election or would the recommendation change in a two election year.  The Department needs to meet with the Controller and learn his intention. 


      President Matthews asked if the Board has now approved a budget for the Department for ’06 to ’07?  The Deputy Director replied, “There was a hearing last week for any “add-backs”, and the DoE was not given any.”  There will be more budget hearings in July when the full Board of Supervisors adopts the budget.


      President Matthews asked if the net loss amount was $400,000.  The Deputy Director responded affirmatively, however a full breakdown is unclear, and Supervisor Peskin asked the Mayor’s Budget Office for a full dollar breakdown.  There has been no response to date.


      President Matthews told the Deputy Director to let the Commission know immediately if there is anything more it can do to assist with the budget and that the Commission will “go to the mat for the Department”.  Ms. Tulett agreed to inform the Commission.


      Update on preparation for November 7, 2006 Election.  Deputy Director Tulett reported that  the Department has not received any information from ES&S (Elections Systems & Software) regarding equipment certification for RCV (Ranked Choice Voting).  Last week, the DoE signed its contract with ES&S and is awaiting the final reply from ES&S for that contract. 


      Most of the DoE staff is taking well-deserved vacations this week, and preparations for November, currently, consists of going through supply orders and deciding what will be needed.   However, having a line item budget from the Mayor’s Office would be of great help.  Candidate filing will begin July 17, 2006 and there will be a Brown Bag meeting on July 12, 2006.


        Commissioner Gleason asked that a representative from ES&S and the SoS be invited to the next Elections Commission meeting to give an update on the progress of certification for the November 7, 2006 Election.


      Commissioner Hwang asked what happens to staff who have their positions reduced, are they transferred to other positions within the City?  Deputy Director Tulett responded “no” and that “the majority of those are temporary people, so they do not have permanent positions with the Department.”  She explained that they were not just temporary positions in the normal sense, these staff have been filling in and doing core tasks, and technically should have held permanent positions.  The seventeen positions being effected are extremely important to the functions of the department.


      President Matthews said that there is “such a lack of understanding and a lack of concern about the ramifications of moving these particular jobs to these classifications, and that folks (in City Hall) can’t see that you’re going to blow a hole clear through the Department if these folks are made seasonal or other bizarre classifications that really aren’t going to allow good folks to come back.”  He continued, “it’s no accident that we’ve had nine straight, great elections in four years.  It doesn’t happen randomly.  And perhaps that’s made people (it City Hall) complacent.  It hasn’t made us complacent.”



4.      Commissioners’ Report.  President Matthews said that he made calls to Supervisors in support of the DoE’s budget needs, and had a meeting a week ago with the Treasurer who will be making the next appointment to the Elections Commission.  President Matthews said that he attended the selection of the precincts for the manual tally and reported that the process went very well.  He also observed the actual canvassing of the one percent tally at Brooks Hall, and he complimented the crew there.


5.      Discussion and possible action to send a letter from the Commission to the Department of the appropriate body encouraging the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. (Commissioner Sheila Chung)  President Matthews asked the Deputy City Attorney to whom the Commission could write such a letter.  Deputy City Attorney Marquez said that the Commission’s intention to send a letter to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert would be allowable, however, to send a letter urging the public to lobby a legislative body would be a different question.  Commissioner Townsend MOVED that the Commission President be authorized by the Commission to prepare and send such a letter as soon as possible, Commissioner Meek SECONDED.  Commissioner Gleason suggested that the letter include the fact that the City has been operating under the VRA and that there would be no burden to extend it.  Commissioner Townsend added that there are still people who need those protections afforded under the Act. 


      MOTION to authorize the Commission President to draft and send a letter to Dennis Hastert encouraging reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act was UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED by a roll call vote.



6.  Discussion and possible action to make a presentation to the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors to explain what happens in the Department and how voters are affected/inconvenienced by budget cutbacks.  (Commissioner Townsend) 


Commissioner Townsend said that the previous discussion during the Director’s Report illustrates, once again, the importance of this item on the agenda.  He reported that at an earlier meeting which included himself, the Commission President and the Mayor’s Budget Office, it was obvious that the Mayor’s office did not know what is really involved in conducting a successful election.


He explained that when an election is not occurring, DoE staff members are still busy, and some Board of Supervisors see it as “wasteful”.  The Commissioner said that with the proposed cutbacks, the City runs a strong risk of running into problems in future elections if staffing is lessened. 


Commissioner Townsend suggested that the DoE’s website have a visual (virtual) tour of how the Elections Department is run.  This could include photos of the six locations the Department uses and what is accomplished during every step of preparation, the actual election, and the responsibilities that occur directly after an election.  He suggested that instead of trying to get Supervisors into a meeting, having a product that one or more people could see ( a live instruction by computer ) at a time. The Commissioner said that the public will not realize the budget cuts until things don’t go as smoothly as they did in the past, until precincts are consolidated and one has to go a lot further to vote, or therefore people just don’t vote, or they look at their pamphlet and the precinct at which they have voted for 40 years is no longer there, or there are long lines at the polls, or absentee ballots come very late.


Deputy Director Tulett said that the Department has election day activities photos, but suggested that pre-election day activities will need to be visually obtained, like candidate filing, the nomination process, putting together informational and training materials.  Ms. Tulett also suggested that the presentation demonstrate what the staff does in an “off” year.  For example, she said in August, there is a Community Services District Election, and a Retirement Board election in January.  Additionally, there is the volume of people who come to the DoE office on a daily basis looking for information, for example, how to circulate a petition, how to run for office in three years or what were the maps like ten years ago before redistricting.  These are the things that happen outside the election season and they are just as important a picture to paint as what happens during an election.


MOTION Commission Townsend to work with appropriate staff, as they are available, to develop a presentation that describes the efforts of the DoE throughout the year, including the off election season, in the coming months to present to the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Supervisors, and the Controller’s Office, after final approval by the Elections Commission.

Commissioner Meek SECONDED.


Commissioner Gleason said he wants to help on this presentation. 

Commissioner Townsend said that members of the offices charged with approving the DoE’s budget should be shown what is happening in the Department, in person, during the days close to the election and that this is part of good government, because if one is to be a good elected official, one should know what it takes to run an election.


Commissioner Meek said that bringing representatives from those offices down and showing them what various staff are doing (during the off season) and showing them what is being effected is something the Commission should do.  Also, they need to be shown that it takes money to train new staff, if previous staff has been laid off and is not able to return to the positions they know because the lay off period is so extensive.  Keeping these people on board is more beneficial to the City.


Commissioner Townsend reminded everyone that training new people would need to start earlier than the time the Department would be calling back workers who were experienced.


Commissioner Hwang said that the presentation may sound like a good idea, but that it may be more about politics and about what is right or wrong to do.  He explained that he was part of the team that lobbied the Board last week for money for immigrant services, and most of the groundwork had been done weeks earlier by meeting individually with Board members.  The Commissioner suggested that the Commission work on individual Supervisors.


Public Comment.  Roger Donaldson suggested showing a timeline in the presentation. 


The Roll Call Vote was UNANIMOUS for approval of preparing a presentation.


    7.     New Business


               Discussion and possible action to approve the minutes for the Commission meeting of June 21, 2006.  The Commission Secretary asked that this item be postponed until she has had the opportunity to speak with the Director of Elections regarding a portion of his report that is included in the minutes but is unclear.  The Director is on vacation until mid-July.  It was AGREED to hold approval until the July 19, 2006 meeting, and to include the minutes of the Special Meeting of June 26, 2006, for approval at that meeting.


Public Comment.   Chris Jerdonek described his experience as the only member of the public to observe the random selection of the precincts for the random vote tally.  He suggested that a set of three ten-sided die be rolled by different people to get a number between 1 and 1000, if it is less than 580, then that precinct is picked. 


President Matthews asked Mr. Jerdonek, who is a mathematician, if using the system he proposed would result in all precincts having an equal chance of selection.  Mr. Jerdonek explained that each die would have numbers 0 to 9, so it would represent a digit of a three-digit number, therefore all the numbers from 1 to 1000 would be equally likely to be selected and if the number is something that does not correspond to a precinct, if it is bigger than 580, one would just roll the die again. 


President Matthews reminded Mr. Jerdonek that there are an unequal number of precincts that start with a one, two, or three.  Mr. Jerdonek responded that at the random selection, there was a spreadsheet that listed all the precincts.  In the first column was the number 1, 2, 3 and up.  In the second column, was the precinct name, which is a four-digit number.


President Matthews asked if Mr. Jerdonek was referring to 1 to 561 as opposed to the numerical designation of the precinct.  Mr. Jerdonek said that this was correct.


Roger Donaldson said that the FED training should combine new and returning FEDs in the same training.  He suggested an increase in pay for the more experienced pollworkers as an incentive, and that other counties be contacted to find out how they have been successful in getting more money for their budgets.


Announcements.   Commissioner Townsend invited everyone to attend the end of the first phase of the summer youth program “Raising the Standard” on Thursday, July 13, 2006 from 5:30 pm until 7:00 pm at 762 Fulton Street for a program of filmmaking, art exhibits, poetry reading, singing, dancing and refreshments. 


Commissioner Hwang said that he would not be able to attend the July 19 meeting of the Commission.  The Commissioner announced that on August 12 and 13th there will be the Nihonmachi Street Fair and he would be happy to distribute election materials at this event.




ADJOURNMENT at  8:15 pm