Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, January 20, 2017, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center
A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, January 20, 2017, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Cathleen Dorinson, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Jeanne Leoncini, Peter Mendoza, Tom Montgomery, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.
Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, and Colleen Ksanda, Manager of Polls and Poll Workers
Lynda Roberts welcomed committee members and opened the meeting with a quote describing election management.
“Election management is a legally intensive and unusually complex set of time-bound interconnecting processes that must sequence almost perfectly for the election to be conducted successfully.” From Resolving the Unexpected in Elections: Election Officials’ Options, published October 8, 2008, authors Bishop, Graff, Hoke Jefferson, Peisert.
The Committee’s goal has been defined as, “Continued engagement with the voting public by building integrity and voter confidence, and providing outreach and education.”
Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the objectives from 2016 for review at the February meeting.
The Committee reviewed the following legislation passed in 2016. Ms. Roberts plans to review Senate Bill 450 in more detail at an upcoming meeting.
AB 1494: Permits a voter to voluntarily show how s/he voted.
AB 1921: Any person may return a vote-by-mail ballot; prohibits compensation. When a ballot is returned to the wrong county, requires elections official to return to correct county within 8 days after receipt.
AB 1970: Requires Secretary of State to promulgate regulations establishing guidelines for processing vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.
AB 2252: Remote accessible vote-by-mail system will allow a voter with disabilities, or a military or overseas voter, to mark an electronic ballot, print it, and return it to the elections official. Remote accessible vote-by-mail system will have to be certified or conditionally approved by the Secretary of State prior to use.
AB 2455: Requiring California State University and California Community Colleges to implement voter registration at the time students enroll for classes.
SB 450: California Voter’s Choice Act authorizes any county on or after January 1, 2020, to conduct all vote-by-mail elections if certain conditions are satisfied, including implementation of vote centers.
Senate Bill 1288, ranked choice voting, was vetoed by the Governor. In his veto message, Governor Brown said, “In a time when we want to encourage more voter participation, we need to keep voting simple. Ranked choice voting is overly complicated and confusing. I believe it deprives voters of genuinely informed choice.”
On January 6, 2017, Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, designated election systems as critical infrastructure. This includes such things as storage facilities, polling places, centralized vote tabulation locations, information technology infrastructure and systems used to maintain voter registration databases, voting systems, systems that count, audit, and display election results on election night on behalf of state governments, and postelection reporting used to certify and validate results.
The designation 1) enables DHS to prioritize its assistance to state and local election officials to reduce system vulnerabilities, understand threats to election infrastructure, and respond to incidents and malicious cyber actors for those states and local jurisdictions that request assistance; 2) makes clear both domestically and internationally that election infrastructure enjoys all the benefits and protections of critical infrastructure that the U.S. government has to offer; 3) makes it easier for the federal government to have full and frank discussions with key stakeholders regarding sensitive vulnerability information. Secretary Johnson has stated repeatedly that the designation does not involve Federal intrusion, takeover, or regulation of any kind.
Bob Richard raised the following issues about election integrity.
No Party Preference Voters
Text of the statute is vague and counties interpret it differently. For example: Do registrars have an obligation to educate NPP voters about crossover voting? Should NPP voters be asked at the polling place which party ballot they want? The Democratic Party allows crossover voting, except for central committee candidates. This creates different ballots for voters and causes confusion. It is important to clarify the procedures and have uniformity across counties.
Ms. Roberts said the Secretary of State’s Office is considering legislation to address this problem. They realize, too, that the Elections Code is unclear about requirements to notify or educate voters about the crossover process.
Committee members were concerned that privacy may be compromised when voters ask for a specific ballot or ask for assistance. For example, how can curbside voting remain private while voters enter and exit the polling place? Colleen Ksanda, polling place/poll worker manager, will review the concern about privacy of curbside voting.
The Committee talked about the Automark accessible marking device. Poll workers don’t know if the machine is actually working until the rover runs the test ballot. Ms. Ksanda explained the procedures for the Automark. The machines are tested in advance, but sometimes during deployment the functionality is disrupted and requires troubleshooting. Polling place inspectors are trained to handle minor problems, and Election Day rovers handle major problems. Rovers have a list of polling places where voters have used Automark machines in past elections, and on Election Day they check those machines first. The Elections Department staff will also help troubleshoot problems over the phone so voters don’t have to wait, or send a logistics staff person into the field to solve the problem.
Vote by Mail
The ability for voters to request a replacement vote-by-mail ballot creates the possibility for voters to vote twice, and feeds the rumor mill about fraudulent voting. Deliberate fraud would only be caught after the election. Any potential for voting twice could be eliminated by counting all the vote-by-mail ballots after the election.
Ms. Roberts explained that voters requesting a second ballot are required to include a statement under penalty of perjury that they failed to receive, lost, or destroyed the original ballot, and acknowledge that they understand voting twice is a crime. Under the current timeframe to certify an election, it would be impossible to wait to count vote-by-mail ballots until the polling place rosters are processed. Experience shows that due to poll worker error, it may appear that someone voted twice when in fact they did not. The number of incidents is very low, and the procedure is to give a list to the District Attorney’s Office.
Even though the number may not change the outcome of an election, Mr. Richard said public perception is a concern. Perhaps more public education could help.
The post office may not always stamp a postmark on business reply mail (which is used for the vote-by-mail ballot return envelope), so the ballot would not be counted even if received within the three-day window.
Ms. Roberts provided copies of Elections Code section 3020 that describes the criteria for accepting ballots that are returned within three days of the election. If an envelope does not have a postmark, but the voter has dated it on or before Election Day, the ballot can be processed. Prior to each election, department staff members meet with post office representatives to review procedures and past problems. During the November election, post office representatives contacted Ms. Roberts several times to make sure there were no postal service problems.
During the June election, a voter raised a concern about posting street indexes. Ms. Roberts said this practice is required by Elections Code, and provided a list of code sections addressing the requirements.
A member asked about opting-in to receive election-related news releases. People can do this on the Marin County Newsroom web page.
The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, February 17, 2017.