Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, March 26, 2021 9:30 AM
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
Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.