Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, April 17, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center
A meeting of the Registrar of Voters’ Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, April 17, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 324A of the Civic Center. Present were: Greg Brockbank, Yvette Cashmere, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Anne Layzer, Jeanne Leoncini, Bob Richard, Carlos Sanchez, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods. Also present were Eva Waskell and Hoa Long Tam. Present from the Registrar of Voters’ Office were: Elaine Ginnold and Colleen Ksanda.
May 19, 2009 Statewide Special Election Sample Ballot and Report
Ms. Ginnold distributed an updated report on the May 19th Election, which showed that there are currently 150,679 registered voters including 86,196 vote by mail voters. Sample ballots were mailed during the week of April 13 and vote by mail ballots will be mailed on Monday, April 20. Voters can vote in the Registrar’s office beginning on April 20.
Committee members reviewed the May 19th Voter Information Pamphlet and also reviewed two documents that will be inserted into the vote by mail envelopes for this election: a postage increase notice, and the Instructions to Voters.
Committee members suggested adding either a table of contents to the voter information pamphlet or a note on cover, such as “if you vote by mail, refer to page VBM; If you vote at the polls, refer to page Polls.” Committee also discussed having a “plain language” specialist review the language of the information pages. There was also discussion on how best to inform voters of election information. One suggestion was to publish a picture in the IJ on how to correctly fill in the ovals on the ballot.
Post Election Audits
The Committee discussed various post election audit procedures including the Humboldt Transparency Project; Risk-Limiting Audits and the SOS temporary post election manual tally regulations.
The Humboldt Transparency Project
Involves rescanning the optical scan ballots after certification of the election using an off-the-shelf scanner and open source software. The scanned ballots are then put on a CD and distributed to the public who can count the ballots and compare their results to the official results. In the November election Humboldt County discovered a discrepancy between the official count and the scanned ballots. Committee members discussed some of the pros and cons of this type of audit. On the one hand, it provides transparency and a double check on the count and therefore can increase voter confidence in the results of the election. On the other hand, it currently occurs after the election has been certified, and can be expensive to implement and use, especially for a county wide contest. After the November 07 election, Marin County conducted a pilot project, similar to the Humboldt method, using a scanner and program provided by True Ballot to recount ballots from one jurisdiction. One of the benefits was that rescanning the ballots provided an audit tool that was faster than hand counting the ballots.
Risk limiting post election audits
Ms. Ginnold reported that the Registrar of Voters office is working with U.C. Berkeley Professor, Philip Stark, on his research into conducting “risk limiting audits” before the election is certified. These audits are designed to limit the risk that the incorrect candidate or measure was awarded an electoral victory. In these types of audits, a statistically determined number of randomly selected precincts is counted by hand before the election is certified so that any mistakes found during the audit can be corrected before certification. The number of precincts to count by hand depends on the confidence level to be achieved. Marin County was the first county to conduct such an audit after the February 2008 election and did so again after the November 4th election. Yolo and Santa Cruz Counties have also participated in this research.
Secretary of State Post Election Manual Tally Regulations
Ms. Ginnold also reported that the Secretary of State’s emergency regulations for the Post Election Manual Tally have been approved by the Office of Administrative Law. The regulations set forth the requirements for the percentage of precincts that must be recounted for contests with a .5% margin between the winning and losing candidate. The regulations also stipulate the percentage of precincts to recount when a certain level of discrepancies is found in the hand count for local, countywide and statewide offices/measures.
Election legislation proposed for 2009
The committee discussed the following bills introduced in the current state legislative session including:
AB 106 - Automatic voter registration through DMV and Franchise Tax Board
AB 1121 - Ranked Voting in specified cities.
Cat Woods and Bob Richard discussed the need for AB 1121 and distributed a draft resolution which they plan to ask the Marin County Board of Supervisors to approve. Currently, only charter cities and counties can conduct their elections using alternative voting methods, but there are no laws or regulations which outline uniform procedures for these alternative voting methods. This bill would permit up to 10 general law cities to conduct their elections using ranked voting if their voters agree. The benefits of ranked voting is that the will of the voters is more accurately reflected, and the cost of elections decreases because, with ranked voting, there is no need for runoff elections. The Governor vetoed a similar bill last year saying that the state has no experience with ranked voting. However, this bill would provide the necessary experience. More information is available on the Fair Vote website.
AB 1271 would allow voters to authorize any person who is at least 16 years old to return a vote by mail ballot.
AB 1356 and SB 465 are bills which would require ID at the polls. Bob Richard commented that the Voter ID issue would be addressed with legislation on universal voter registration, which puts the burden on government to register voters. The central problem with requiring voters to provide ID is the cost of the requirement and the time burden on voters.
SCA 4 – would require the top two candidates in a Primary Election to go on the General Election Ballot, regardless of party. Bob Richard commented that this bill would eliminate any hope of electing anyone but members of the top two parties. He pointed out that this legislation would replace the partisan primary with a first-round free-for-all, and would institute a top 2 runoff election for the two candidates who received the most votes in the primary. Consequently, the opportunity for voters to hear form all parties in a general election would be lost. Preferable to this SCA 4 would be an open primary with IRV.
Annual Meeting – July 17
The annual meeting will be held on July 17 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 324A of the Civic Center. The Registrar of Voters will distribute the annual report for 2008-09 and the committee will discuss goals for the upcoming year.
Ms. Ginnold reported that it appears that the proponents of the Civic Center Initiative Petition are planning to begin circulation of another petition regarding land with the goal of having it qualify for the June 2010 ballot.
The County is appealing the decision of the judicial panel on the Ross Valley Flood Control Election to the California Supreme Court.
Yvette Cashmere reported that Grassroots will be holding a workshop on the May 19th election on April 22 at 10:00 a.m., at the Grassroots office, 30 N. San Pedro Ave, Suite 290.
Steve Silberstein reported that the State of Washington is the 5th state to approve the National Popular Vote Act, which would abolish the electoral college.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on Friday, July 17, 2009.