Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center
A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, May 15, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Cat Woods.
Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman
Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, Colleen Ksanda, Maureen Hogan, Dan Miller, and Chris Winer
Lynda Roberts opened the meeting. She distributed copies of the agenda, minutes from the April 17 meeting, and the revised meeting schedule.
Recent Outreach Efforts
Maureen Hogan talked about recent outreach efforts at Tomales High School, Health and Human Services, and Bay Area Outreach Committee.
Tomales High School. In March, Ms. Hogan, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Ksanda met with the Tomales High Civics class to talk about the importance of voting, registering to vote, and poll worker program for high school students. Ms. Hogan showed Committee Members an example of the information folder that each student received; twelve students registered to vote. The students’ Thank You letters expressed their enthusiasm about the presentation, and a follow-up email from the teacher said at the end of the class, students engaged in a conversation about voting.
Health and Human Services. Also in March, Ms. Hogan gave a presentation at two Health and Human Services’ staff meetings about the National Voter Registration Act of 1992, and their role in complying with the Act. She reported that from January 2008 through December 2011, the Elections Department received 115 registration cards that were given out by H&HS. From January 2012 through May 14, 2015, 1,074 registration cards were returned to the Elections Department. Ms. Hogan distributed a copy of NVRA requirements and said it is exciting to assist with the H&HS required annual training.
Bay Area Outreach Committee. The BAOC is comprised of nine Bay Area counties, and meets to discuss unified voting messages for the area. For 2016, they have decided to use Ready? Set, Vote! as the unified message. The message is intended to be used in public transportation venues, such as BART and on the backs of buses. Marin County has not done this type of advertising before. The intent is to have voters exposed to the same message wherever they are traveling throughout the Bay Area. The BAOC will meet again in June.
Ms. Roberts asked for feedback about the idea of paying for ad space on the back of a bus. Committee Members made the following comments:
- It would be hard to say if the advertising would be effective. It might be better to use funds to target key populations.
- Reminders can be helpful for everyone, and combining a mass message with targeted outreach could be effective.
- Working at a grassroots level (i.e. attending community meetings or holding meetings) and addressing myths about registering might be more productive than just a mass message. Perhaps making a video or series of videos could help dispel myths, such as the myth about ex-felons’ ability to register, the myth about not being called to jury duty if one is not registered to vote, and the myth that high schools don’t teach civics classes.
- The importance of voting in local races also needs to be addressed. Politicians listen if enough people participate in the process.
- Making voter registration forms available in more places where new residents might visit, such as real estate offices.
- Perhaps the Elections Department could work with students who are currently involved in leadership roles to increase enthusiasm in other communities. Or EAC committee members could reach out to civics teachers. Maybe students could receive credit for their civic engagement.
Ms. Roberts said the Elections Code designates two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall for voter registration outreach at high schools. Ms. Roberts plans to meet with the County Superintendent of Schools to talk about an outreach event.
A question was asked about the number of registrations received through DMV. Ms. Hogan explained the process of registering through DMV and said the Department receives many DMV registrations.
November 2015 UDEL Election (Uniform District Election)
Dan Miller made a presentation about the upcoming November UDEL election. Ms. Roberts distributed copies of Committee Member Greg Brockbank’s list of non-partisan offices coming open for the November election. Mr. Brockbank’s report helped catch a flaw in the election management database, which can now be addressed. Changes to an incumbent’s voter registration, including party affiliation and home address, are not automatically linked to the incumbent module in the Election Information Management System. Mr. Brockbank creates his report using information from the incumbent module, along with additional research on his part.
Forty-three jurisdictions will be included in the November election. This includes school districts, special districts, cities and towns. There are 137 incumbents—potentially over 200 candidates if all jurisdictions go to ballot. Mr. Miller distributed copies of the updated and simplified Candidate Guide, which is posted online. The offices with short terms (2 years) will be printed later as an addendum. Mr. Miller is currently gathering information from the districts about the seats that will be open in their districts, and he should have all the information by the end of June.
The filing period starts on July 13 and ends August 7. If an incumbent does not file, the period is extended to August 12. Candidates for city/town offices will file with their city/town clerk. The Clerks forward candidate information promptly to the Elections Department, and Mr. Miller is prompt in keeping the list updated. However, many candidates wait until the last week or last day to file, so it takes more time to update the list.
In response to questions, Mr. Miller said that ballot designations for state offices are approved by the Secretary of State’s office; for local candidates, he and the Registrar review the designations to ensure they comply with the Elections Code. Local offices have no term limits, and in some small districts, the same people have served for more than 10 years because no one runs against them.
Mr. Miller showed a PowerPoint presentation he is working on to use for candidate training purposes, and asked for feedback. He has considered holding a “candidates” night to educate people who might be interested in running for public office. Members gave feedback about simplifying some of the wording, clarifying some of the concepts, and revising some of the formatting.
May 5th Special Election
Ms. Roberts distributed copies of a vote-by-mail report for the election. She pointed out that because of the new law, postmark +3, the Department processed 26 vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked timely and received within three days after the election.
Review Proposed Goals & Objectives for 2015
The Committee reviewed revisions to the 2015 goals that were made since the April meeting, and also discussed the question of whether or not the Elections Department should pay for postage on all returned vote-by-mail ballots. Mr. Richard distributed summaries from two academic articles addressing the topic of vote by mail. The study, Who Votes By Mail? suggests that efforts to promote vote-by-mail primarily makes it easier for current voters to participate but does not necessarily mobilize nonvoters, thus increasing the gap between routine voters and those who don’t vote. Promoting vote-by-mail can be one-sided if not combined with outreach to nonvoters.
The following goals and objectives were revised based on suggestions from the April meeting.
Goals & Objectives
Under Goal 2—Voter Outreach, objectives two and three were revised, and objective four was added. The objectives now read:
- Review current efforts and hold brainstorming session to develop new ideas.
- Continue to develop events associated with voter registration, such as National Voter Registration Day.
- Review Dr. Bergman’s analysis of voters who are eligible to vote but not registered. The report is scheduled to be completed before the end of June 2015.
- Identify ways to measure registration rate (percentage of eligible voters who register to vote) and turnout rate (percentage of registered voters who vote) by racial and socioeconomic demographic group, in order to measure the success of outreach efforts to under-served communities.
Under Goal 3—Voter Education, objective four was revised and objective five was added. The objectives now read:
- Clarify and simplify informational pages in the voter information pamphlet.
- Create additional pages for the voter information pamphlet to build voter confidence.
- Invite speakers from specific community groups to talk about voter education.
- Discuss ways to involve the media in educating voters, such as using community media Center of Marin.
- Continue to educate voters about their option to vote by mail and track their ballot online.
Objective five is the same as specified for 2014. Members had nothing else to add at this time.
Before moving on to a discussion about paying postage for all returned vote-by-mail ballots, a question was asked about when to evaluate goals and check progress since there are only three meetings left this year, and not much work has been done. Ms. Roberts suggested that these goals carry forward through next year, and make this a two-year process. Future agendas will include specific goals and objectives to be discussed.
Vote-by-Mail Return Postage
Members then discussed the question of whether or not the Elections Department should pay postage for all returned vote-by-mail ballots. Ms. Roberts distributed a packet containing information she presented to the Board of Supervisors at the mid-year budget meeting, and information provided at prior Election Advisory Committee meetings (survey of counties currently paying return postage, potential cost, graphs showing trend in vote-by-mail voting). Ms. Roberts said she is taking a neutral position on this issue, but wanted to “play Devil’s advocate” before opening the discussion. She pointed out that even though Marin County does not pay return postage for all the vote-by-mail ballots, we still have a higher vote-by-mail percentage than San Francisco, which does pay return postage.
The Committee Members provided their comments.
- Ballots with non-sufficient postage are being delivered and not returned to the voter, so voters aren’t being lost.
- Paying the return postage may bring in more ballots prior to Election Day, and lessen the number of ballots dropped at polling places on Election Day.
- Having fewer ballots dropped at polling places could benefit the Elections Department since they could count more prior to the election with fewer to count after the election.
- Paying the return postage may not affect the number of voters, but could benefit the Elections Department. Is it worth the cost?
- Voters may prefer dropping their ballot in the mail rather than taking it to a polling place.
- A pilot program would provide useful information.
- Conducting a pilot program could be risky since it could create an impression that postage will be paid going forward.
- Maybe most people take their ballot to the polling place on Election Day because they complete their ballot the day before the election.
- Members expressed their ambivalence about paying all return postage, due to the ongoing cost. Funds spent on postage could perhaps be better used on outreach efforts.
- The Elections Department would need to weigh whether the possibility of reducing the number of ballots coming in after the election is worth the ongoing cost.
Ms. Roberts learned recently about legislation that was introduced this year that if passed, would require counties to pay the return postage on all vote-by-mail ballots (AB 800). As of May 14th, AB 800 has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File because it has a fiscal impact; the bill may be heard later. AB 800 could potentially be a reimbursable mandate. Given that, Ms. Roberts has questions about whether or not claims for reimbursement would be honored from counties that voluntarily implemented the program prior to the mandate.
Mr. Eilerman pointed out that the legislative process requires decisions to be made by the end of July or early August, so the Election Advisory Committee could have more information by their August meeting. Ms. Roberts suggested that postmark +3 will provide useful information after the November election.
The Committee Members decided that this issue should be discussed again when more members are present and the advocates have an opportunity to express their points of view.
Ms. Roberts will agendize this topic for the August meeting.
Review/Revise Annual Report News Release
The Committee reviewed the draft news release. Ms. Roberts asked if at least one member would provide a quote. Ms. Woods volunteered. Ms. Hagen suggested adding a sentence stating that the Committee works from the citizens’ point of view to make improvements to the process by offering suggestions and assisting with outreach. The County’s Public Information Officer will review the release before it is finalized.
Members suggested that a copy of the annual report should be given to the Marin County Independent Journal, and copies should be given to the city libraries (Sausalito, Larkspur, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, and Tiburon/Belvedere). The report can also be used in outreach efforts.
Ms. Roberts distributed copies of an outline summarizing current-year legislation focused on vote-by-mail, electronic ballot transmission, voter registration, and early voting.
In response to a question raised about the recent mosquito district election, Ms. Roberts provided information about Proposition 218, which was the procedure used in this election.
The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, August 14, 2015.