2020 Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

 

March 26, 2021

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, March 26, 2021 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

The Election Advisory Committee met on Friday, March 26, 2021, via Zoom due to COVID-19. The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Veda Florez, Anne Layzer, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar, Liz Acosta, Sr. Program Coordinator, Greg Hayes, Manager of Logistics, Megan Stone, Elections Technician

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

Updates

At the last Committee meeting, questions about HR 1 were raised. Ms. Roberts reviewed the legislation and briefed the group with her findings. Without additional modifications, HR 1 would impact the Elections Department in a variety of ways, it would: Require pre-paid postage on vote-by-mail request forms; establish two weeks of early voting versus 10 days of early voting required under the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA); require early voting sites to be open 10 hours per day versus 8 hours under VCA; require a Risk Limiting Audit vs. the current requirement for an audit of 1% of precincts and vote-by-mail ballots; and require testing of the voting system 9 months before an election. Many elements of HR 1 have already been implemented in California. This legislation would apply nationally for federal elections.

Outreach

Megan Stone provided an update about the High School Elections Ambassador Program, now to be called the Student Elections Ambassador Program in an effort to be more inclusive. The committee that works on the youth outreach program continues to plan and develop the trainings of high school students and college-aged students. The group is also working with former ambassadors on new information resources about the program and promotional materials to highlight the rebrand with the youth perspective in mind. Ms. Roberts acknowledged the League of Women Voters of Marin for their involvement on the youth outreach committee.

Veda Florez discussed outreach for the May 4, 2021 Special Election involving two measures in the San Rafael City School Districts. Ms. Florez showed samples of social media flyers she will provide to partners in San Rafael to help notify voters about the election. The images will be shared in English and Spanish. Supervisors Rodoni, Connally and San Rafael City officials will add these graphics to their e-blasts. A new outreach partner is the Builders Association to reach a specific demographic. The Department continues to work with community partners, including the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, a radio station in the Canal Neighborhood, Canal Alliance, and the Alcohol Justice Center. Ms. Florez hopes to identify additional groups.

VCA Updates

Ms. Roberts provided a revised copy of the VCA implementation outline to remind Committee members about the requirements involved. At the last meeting, members were given a broad overview of the VCA project. At today’s meeting, Liz Acosta focused on two elements: The Election Administration Plan and the required advisory committees.

Election Administration Plan (EAP)
The EAP is a document and a process. Its purpose is to provide transparency and community input on the VCA transition. The document allows the Elections Department to share with the public a description of how the Department will meet the requirements and spirit of VCA. The EAP is also a process, so the public can provide input about how to best meet the community’s needs.

Basic elements of the EAP include identifying and meeting requirements for vote-by-mail and vote centers. Additionally, the Voter Education and Outreach Plan is a major aspect of the EAP. This portion is reviewed closely and approved by the CA Secretary of State’s office. This comprehensive aspect of VCA details specific requirements about getting public input, strategies around community presence, and anticipated costs.

Voting technology at vote centers and voting security are other key elements to the EAP. The plan will identify the equipment that will be used at the locations. There will also be a portion designated to contingency plans for security during reoccurring and unexpected emergencies.

Lastly, the budget must be outlined in the EAP. This includes the cost of VCA compared to the polling place model, start-up costs and potential savings over time.

The EAP process includes a variety of steps involving public input. Before a draft is published, the Department will seek general feedback from community groups. During the process of publishing, there will be additional public meetings and feedback. There will also be an opportunity to revise the EAP before and after sending the plan to the CA Secretary of State.

Planning to begin the public process by late summer or early fall presents some challenges. Due to COVID-19 and the virtual meeting environment, getting public input will look different than before and may be more difficult. Ms. Acosta asked the Committee to consider how COVID-19 impacts group meetings and presents barriers to participation, such as access to technology. She asked members to share strategies to overcome challenges.

Committee Discussion

  • Members suggested partnering with organizations such as Canal Alliance to learn how they meet with and work with their constituents.
  • Metro Transportation Commission could be an outreach partner. They hold meetings in a large hall with information stations so members of the public can spread out at different times/shifts and go to each table to write down or share their thoughts.
  • Hold meetings by streaming them live, like Community Media Center of Marin. Facebook and YouTube Live features are an option or consider a hybrid approach.
  • It is difficult for some people to meet virtually; in person may be easier once COVID-19 is more manageable.
  • Digital connection works better for others. Remote meetings benefit those who cannot easily attend an in-person event.
  • Consider contacting local HOAs for assistance with community interest.
  • Others suggested checking with Marin County Government and other departments such as Health and Human Services and Information Services and Technology to learn how they have reached the community or how their services could be utilized in this effort.

In response to these comments, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Acosta added that there will likely be a broad strategy of both in-person and virtual methods because the goal is to get as much community participation as possible. The Committee was thanked for their constructive suggestions.

A member asked for an explanation of the differences between the November 2020 model and VCA. Ms. Roberts explained that the EAP was not required for November 2020; VCA site selection requires fifteen criteria to consider; and ballot-on-demand equipment will be used under VCA.

Formation of Language Accessibility Advisory Committee (LAAC)

There are two accessibility committees required under VCA: The Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC), which is already an established committee with the Elections Department, and the Language Accessibility Advisory Committee (LAAC). The VAAC targets services for voters with disabilities and the LAAC targets services for voters with language needs.

Ms. Acosta presented a draft of the LAAC formation document and asked for feedback about the plan. Ms. Acosta added that there have been some initial discussions already with VCA partners about the LAAC. Ms. Acosta is already working with the 30 partnering VCA organizations but plans to begin working with the LAAC next month.

Ms. Roberts added for those who had not had a chance to review the LAAC formation document, to please provide any feedback by Friday, April 2. Committee members discussed their initial thoughts on the draft.

One member stressed the importance of including English and bi-lingual speakers during the formation of the LAAC, and to also include the disability community, or the VAAC, because of particular ways of communicating. Another member, who was involved as a partner with the November 2020 Election outreach, noted that last year there was a request to translate materials into various additional languages and that may be something to consider with the LAAC. Ms. Roberts mentioned that VCA specifies following the language requirements, which for now include Spanish and Vietnamese in Marin. The LAAC will help with reviewing printed materials for plain language which may help when translating materials into other languages.

Committee Discussion

In response to a member’s question, Ms. Roberts informed the Group that the VCA implementation is planned to be ready for the 2022 Primary Election. SB 29 (signed by the Governor in February 2021) allows counties to maintain aspects of the November 2020 Election model throughout 2021.

The Committee briefly discussed the Recall Election effort of Governor Newsom, reviewing the potential timeline of that election and how many signatures Marin County received by the deadline.

Progress with VCA implementation will continue to be brought forward to the Committee, but members were encouraged to request other agenda items for future meetings. Requests included: Learning more about the vote-by-mail ballot curing process, including challenged ballots procedures in Marin and in other counties; and learning about poll worker training and how it will be adjusted under VCA.

There was a discussion about BallotTrax, the vote-by-mail ballot tracking service implemented last year by Marin County. One member suggested it continue to be advertised and encouraged amongst Marin voters.

Ms. Roberts will brief the Committee at a future meeting about proposed legislation that would impact elections.

Meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, April 16, 2021.

February 19, 2021

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, February 19, 2021, 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

The Election Advisory Committee met on Friday, February 19, 2021, via Zoom due to COVID-19. The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Veda Florez, Lanie King, Anne Layzer, Damian Morgan, Tom Montgomery, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman, Assistant County Administrator

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar, Colleen Ksanda, Manager of Polls and Poll Workers, and Megan Stone, Office Assistant

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending. Ms. Roberts welcomed guest Stephanie McNally, Advocacy and Policy Sr. Manager for Canal Alliance. During the November election cycle, Ms. McNally engaged in voter registration and outreach to the Latino and immigrant community, sponsored a pop-up ballot drop box, created a polling place observer program, and continues to work with Liz Acosta with the Voter’s Choice Act outreach since early 2020. Ms. Roberts also acknowledged Jahmeer Reynolds, Community Schools Manager for Sausalito Marin City School District, who was not able to attend February’s Committee meeting. Both guests have been invited to join the Committee as members and plan to formalize their membership ahead of the next meeting.

High School Elections Ambassador Program

Megan Stone gave the Committee a brief update about the status of the youth outreach program. Ms. Stone and members of the League of Women Voters of Marin County continue to partner on this effort. Since the beginning of the new year, the group has met to de-brief from last year’s program and plan a course of action for the 2021 recruitment. The group is working on restructuring the program to expand participation and include more students. A few former student ambassadors are continuing to work with the group in a consulting capacity to provide a youth perspective during planning.

Vote Centers

Background

Liz Acosta gave a presentation to the Committee regarding the status of the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) implementation. Ms. Acosta began with an overview of work accomplished in 2019-2020. This included researching the VCA model and understanding procedures of other VCA counties, learning about the County, and reaching out to potential partners, developing templates/forms/tools for moving forward, and beginning to estimate the cost of implementation. When COVID-19 required shifted focus from the VCA project to the November election, the early groundwork helped administer the November 2020 Election by having an established outreach framework, knowledge of drop-box and polling place location requirements, and fiscal familiarity to help with COVID grant money reimbursements.

Implementation

The November Election acted as a pilot for the vote center model. Now attention has been directed back to VCA implementation. Staff is meeting in small, focused work groups to discuss details and make procedural decisions. Some of these small groups include:

  • Locations: drop boxes and polling places—where they will be located and staffing needs
  • Logistics: procedures, training, equipment
  • Outreach and Education: working from other counties’ best practices and experiences from the 2020 November Election
  • Vote by Mail: procedures and new laws
  • Budget: updating cost estimates, already purchased a lot of equipment for November 2020, identifying what else is needed

The Election Administration Plan (EAP) is a written plan of how Marin will implement VCA in this County. It is required by law and involves an extensive public input process. The EAP also includes an outreach plan that describes how the public will be educated about vote centers. VCA requires a VAAC (Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee) and a LAAC (Language Accessibility Advisory Committee). The Department has a VAAC but will need to create a LAAC and is currently recruiting members.

Discussion/Comments

The group acknowledged the work done by Liz Acosta and Megan Stone on the 2020 November Election outreach and education campaign. Additionally, the following questions were asked:

Implementation (cont.)

Staff is currently focused on locations and logistics planning regarding the processing of voters. Many polling places or drop box locations from November 2020 have expressed interest in hosting again. Ms. Acosta reviewed the required 15 criteria specified in the VCA, examples include language access, space, connectivity, and public interest.

The Department will need a minimum of 18 vote center locations. Current legislation requires 1 vote center per 50,000 voters 10 days before an election and 1 vote center per 10,000 voters starting 3 days ahead of Election Day. Data from other VCA counties show that vote centers are not used much 10 days before an election, and some have encouraged the State to review the formula in the future. Ms. Roberts and election staff confirmed that the CA Secretary of State’s office and other CA counties have a shared communication platform and often share helpful information with one another. During open discussion, it was agreed that due to the newness of the VCA model, voters will need to be trained about the more voting days aspect of VCA.

Ms. Acosta continued to discuss further outreach and logistics components of implementation. Outreach is a crucial aspect of VCA implementation, and the Department is positioned nicely from work done in November 2020. However, VCA requires specific kinds of outreach, and methods and timing are important. New information from Census data provided at the end of the year will drive those efforts.

Observing the logistics component of other VCA counties will be helpful to determine Marin’s VCA implementation of equipment, line management, crowd control, and procedural changes. All will impact how staff is trained.

Discussion/Comments (cont.)

The Committee asked questions about the budget and cost comparison between the current model and VCA. Ms. Roberts offered ideas from other counties’ practices. Ms. McNally shared her experience as a pop-up drop box and the challenge that some communities are less likely to vote by mail. The group added ways the Department can make the vote center model a more communal experience similar to polling places. Mr. Eilerman thanked Ms. Acosta for her thorough presentation and acknowledged Ms. Roberts and the elections staff for their work in the November 2020 Election.

Ms. Acosta briefly reviewed the Implementation Milestones chart that was sent to the Committee in advance. Ms. Roberts noted that this meeting was to provide an overview to the Committee of the scope of work and a draft of the EAP will be brought to the group soon.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.
The next meeting will be held on Friday, March 19, 2021.

January 15, 2021

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, January 15, 2021, 9:30 AM
Teams Meeting

Minutes

The Election Advisory Committee met on Friday, January 15, 2021, via Microsoft Teams due to COVID-19. The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Cathleen Dorinson, Veda Florez, Bonnie Glaser, Lanie King, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman, Assistant County Administrator

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar, Greg Hayes, Manager of Logistics, Colleen Ksanda, Manager of Polls and Poll Workers, Megan Stone, Elections Technician

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting, thanked everyone for attending, and called roll. General housekeeping reminders regarding Microsoft Teams functions were noted. Ms. Roberts then acknowledged the Elections Department staff for their work done during the November 2020 Election and referred to a complimentary article that was shared with the Committee from the Marin Independent Journal.

November Election Review/Discussion

Voter’s Choice Act

Now that the election has concluded, the Elections Department will continue the process to implement the vote center model under the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA). The November 2020 Election was an excellent trial with the vote center/polling place hybrid model adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Transitioning to the Voter’s Choice Act ahead of the June 2022 Primary Election will be the big project of 2021. Liz Acosta, who is heading the VCA transition, will speak more about the project status at the February Committee meeting.

November Outreach and Communication Efforts

Due to the pandemic, the Elections Office took on an above average voter outreach strategy to prepare voters for the 2020 November Election changes.

Ms. Roberts noted additional strategies including a variety of Marin Voice articles and speaking engagements by the Registrar, including the Novato Rotary, KWMR, First 5 Marin, Ross Valley Rotary, Marin Coalition, League of Women Voters of Marin, Marin Forum, and KPIX. Ms. Roberts also acknowledged the League of Women Voters for their many letters to the editor and the role the organization played in supporting the office outreach efforts.

Megan Stone, who co-lead the November 2020 Election Outreach effort, thanked the Committee members for their support during the election. Ms. Stone recognized over 30 organizations and individuals throughout Marin County who participated in a Community Outreach Partner group formed by the Elections Department to reach out to voters ahead of the Election. Partners dedicated themselves to this effort when called to serve by using their social media, sending email blasts, displaying outreach materials, holding voter registration drives, and hosting drop-boxes and polling places. It is largely thanks to the group that Marin saw a larger than normal vote-by-mail turnout and mitigated voter questions. The group held a wrap-up meeting to get partner feedback about the outreach campaign and discussed what worked and what needed improving. Ms. Acosta re-introduced the VCA Project at the meeting and hopes to continue working with the community partners during the transition to VCA.

The Committee provided their own feedback regarding the Election outreach. There was a discussion about Ballot Trax, a new vote-by-mail tracking service provided by the California Secretary of State’s Office. Some members felt the messaging did not seem complete and some were disappointed with the messaging wording. Of Marin voters, 33% (57,658) signed up for this service during the November election. Committee member Lanie King added that in her experience many high school students signed up for Ballot Trax and that pre-registration amongst Marin youth appears to be high. Ms. Stone will follow up with Ms. King regarding the High School Elections Ambassador Program.

Polling Places

Colleen Ksanda gave an update of her experience from the November election. Due to the pandemic and legislation passed in the summer of 2020, the Elections Department decided to use the super-consolidated polling place model rather than the standard one-day polling place model. For many reasons this model seemed to work best for Marin, including providing an opportunity to pilot vote centers.

Ms. Ksanda outlined the challenging process of reserving the locations and assigning voters to those locations. This process involved securing locations for more than just one day, needing larger locations due to physical distancing and more voters per location, and focusing on underserved areas of Marin. Many typical locations would not agree to host a polling place due to the pandemic, and some cancelled after signing on. This required having back-up locations, and contingency plans in the event of a PSPS during fire season. The Elections Department had 29 locations, however only 18 were required. COVID-19 required many conversations about how to safely serve voters at the polling places if some voters did not comply with local health orders. Fortunately, there were no problems of this type at polling places.

Lessons learned from this experience include securing locations as early as possible, having a contract with each location, and maintaining the minimum number of required locations rather than having more than is required.

A Committee member noted that VCA counties tend to start with more vote centers than required and gradually reduce the amount of locations. Nancy Bell spoke about her positive experience working at the Marin City polling place.

Drop Boxes

Ms. Roberts acknowledged how successful the new large-scale drop-box effort was and thanked Greg Hayes for his thorough record keeping and procedures. Ms. Roberts also thanked Dan Eilerman and the other County departments for their role in supporting the drop box collection.

Committee Discussion

During Committee discussion, one member shared that they felt the Mill Valley drop-box was in an unusual spot and perhaps can be changed for the next election. For future elections, it would help if the Elections Department had consistent looking boxes and put a photo of what they look like on the website.

In response to a member’s concern, Mr. Hayes noted the drop-boxes did not get too full, but some voters did not push their ballot in all the way, giving it that appearance.

Ms. Ksanda reviewed polling place procedures regarding the live computers and vote-by-mail surrendering.

Ms. Roberts reviewed vote-by-mail processing and the timing constraints for processing ballots too early by law.

Lastly, the group was informed that observers were required to schedule an appointment in November due to the pandemic and space/safety concerns.

National Voter Registration Weeks

Veda Florez outlined her outreach efforts during the 2020 National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) and National Voter Registration Week (NVRW). The in-person efforts were hindered by COVID-19, as opposed to prior annual events. Instead, Ms. Florez relied on partnering organizations and their one-on-one communications, as well as participating in webinars and other virtual methods. The Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution for NVRW and Ms. Florez set up a self-serve table at the Civic Center for National Voter Registration Day.

Final Comments

Ms. Roberts shared with the Committee letters sent from a Marin third grade class thanking the Elections Department staff for their commitment to democracy during the pandemic.

Ms. Roberts emailed a copy of the Reports of Registration from the CA Secretary of State that included registration and pre-registration numbers 15 days ahead of the election. She also noted from that report over 90% of Marin eligible voters are registered. In the same email she sent a presidential election comparison, drop box statistics, and a 2020 new law update.

Meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, February 19, 2021.