2009 Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections


December 18, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, December 18, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, December 18, 2009 in Room 324A of the Civic Center. Present were: Esther Beirne, Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Marcia Hagen, Morgan Kelly, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Jeanne Leoncini, Carolyn Placente, from Grassroots, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein, Hoa Long Tam, and Eva Waskell, representing Linda Bagneschi Dorrance. Present from the Registrar of Voters were Melvin Briones, Elaine Ginnold, Colleen Ksanda, and Michael Smith.

November 3, 2009 Uniform District Election

Report on turnout, VBM and provisional ballots – Elaine Ginnold distributed a report that showed details about vote by mail and provisional turnout and reasons for why VBM and provisional ballots were not counted.

Novato Sanitary District election

Ms. Ginnold described the recount process for the Novato Sanitary District Election. The department used the Secretary of State’s post election manual tally procedures for contests with a less than .5% vote difference. After all of the ballots were counted, the third and fourth candidates in the District were only 13 votes apart. The candidates were invited to select additional precincts for recounting and observed the process, which lasted for two days. During the recount, the tally board found six discrepancies on three ballots. All of the discrepancies were because voters had marked on the edge of the ovals so that the scanner couldn't see their marks. When those votes were corrected by filling in the entire oval, the difference between the winning and losing candidates was 15 votes. Fourteen out of the thirty precincts in the district were recounted. Both candidates signed a letter to the Editor of the Marin IJ expressing their confidence in the results of the election and did not request a full recount. An issue with the boundaries of the Sanitary District arose in the November election that needs to be researched. The Registrar of Voters will follow up with the district to resolve this issue for future elections.

Reporting results for districts with multiple candidates

The Committee discussed the article written by Dick Spotswood in the Marin IJ on December in which he reported that due to a “quirk” in the vote counting software, results for multi-person races were reported as a percentage of votes cast rather than as a percentage of ballots cast. However, this was not a “quirk” in the system because the results of an election are always expressed as a percentage of the votes cast. It is the percentage of votes that determines whether or not a candidate or measure wins or loses the election. In multiperson races the percentages of votes cast will total 100%, whereas the percentages of ballots cast will total to more than 100%. Ms. Ginnold reported that the department has produced a report for Mr. Spotswood that shows the results based on the number of ballots cast and distributed a handout that shows the difference between the two types of reports.

Cancellation of voters in prison for felony – information

The CA Elections Code requires the Clerk of the Courts to provide the Registrar with a list of convicted felons twice each year. The law also requires the Registrar to cancel the voter registrations of any voter convicted of a felony who is presently in prison or on parole. However, it is not possible to determine from a list if the person is presently in prison or on parole. The Clerk of the Courts has provided the Elections Dept. access to the EJUS system, an electronic database that includes sentencing information for each person convicted of a felony so that we can tell if the person on the list is presently in prison. Access to the EJUS system helps prevent unnecessary cancellations of registered voters.

Statewide database – VoteCal and Marin County participation

Ms. Ginnold reported that the state now has a contract with Catalyst Consulting Group to develop the statewide voter registration database. The State is currently in the discovery phase of the project where it is asking for input from the counties on how VoteCal should work. (The Request for Proposal already has defined what the system will do; the Discovery Sessions seek input on how the system will do the work.) Marin County has been selected to participate in the discovery phase of this project. Tony Aquilino and Melvin Briones will be the representatives from our department. Marin also expects to be a pilot county to implement the new system for the November 2011 election.

New election legislation for 2010

Ms. Ginnold distributed a list of some of the new election laws for 2010.

Election Advisory Committee Meetings in 2010

The Committee reviewed the schedule of meetings for 2010.

Other business- website revision review

The Committee reviewed the proposed changes to the ROV website and made suggestions for revision. Ms. Ginnold will make the revisions and send it back out to the committee. Committee members can e-mail suggestions about the website to her.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:35 a.m. The next meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, January 22, 2010 in Room 324A of the Civic Center.

September 25, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, September 25, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, September 25, 2009 in Room 324A of the Civic Center. Present were: Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Cris Jones, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Eva Waskell, representing Linda Bagneschi Dorrance, and Cat Woods. Also present was Emmy Alexander from the Social Justice Program at Dominican College. Present from the Registrar of Voters were Colleen Ksanda, Elaine Ginnold and Michael Smith.

November 3, 2009 Election

Ms. Ginnold distributed an Election Fact Sheet (attached) and sample ballots to committee members. There are 147,859 voters for this election and 85,338 permanent vote by mail voters. The deadline to register to vote for this election is October 19. Committee members suggested including the date of the ballot mailing to overseas voters on the Fact Sheet. Committee members requested information about the number of overseas ballots returned and, of these, how many were returned by fax. Ms. Ginnold to report on this and on how we handle overseas voters who fill out the regular voter registration card at our next meeting.

There are 39 different styles of sample ballots. Some cities/towns have multiple ballot styles because of the different school and special districts that are on the ballot in different areas of the city.

Ms. Ksanda reported that the new poll worker training video will be ready for the training classes. It is longer than the first one and contains tutorials on how to set up and take down the Accuvote, Automark and voting booth for the disabled. We will post the video on our website in segments.

Anyone is welcome to observe the election process. The dates of different events such as the date of the Logic and Accuracy Test and the date that the opening and scanning of vote by mail ballots begins is printed on the Election Fact Sheet. If observers would like to come another time, they can call Elaine Ginnold to find out what the observable election activities are or just come to the office and ask to observe. Waskell reported that for the last five years Whatcom County, WA has had a program to train observes and allow them to observe all aspects of absentee ballot processing, an activity that helps raise public confidence in vote by mail elections.

Updates on Voter Outreach and Website

Ms. Ginnold reported that, based on the goals and objectives that the committee established at its annual meeting, the ROV office is seeking efficient ways to add voters to the files. One of the most effective ways we have found to do this is by working with the DMV on outreach to applicants for driver’s licenses.

Outreach to Driver’s License Applicants

The DMV provides the names of people who indicate that they want to register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license or DL renewal. We send voter registration cards to those persons who indicate on the form that they want to register to vote, but did not submit a registration card. The response rate increased significantly in late August after we revised the language of the message. Committee members suggested adding language to the message that advises voters to update their registration whenever they move. Ms. Ginnold to report on the numbers of returned registration forms at the December meeting.

Address Confirmation Cards

The ROV revised the language used on the card for voters to confirm an address change reported to us from the US Postal Service. The revised language is clearer with the result that more voters are filling it out correctly. Committee members suggested increasing the space provided on the card for voters to write in the information and highlighting the Spanish information on the card.

Website Revision

The ROV is revising its website to make it easier for viewers to find information. Committee members made the following suggestions:

  • Link to the county’s twitter function if and when the county website provides it.
  • Put a link to the sample ballot on the right side of the home page
  • Maintain a website update box in the office and schedule a time to update the site on a regular basis.

The website revision should be ready for our December meeting.

Elections Systems and Software’s Purchase of Premier Election Systems

ES&S has purchased Premier Election Systems. ES&S has assured Counties in California, including Marin,that that the company will continue to support the Premier equipment and programs and will honor the existing contracts counties have with Premier. ES&S plans to apply to the Secretary of State for certification of the new Premier equipment and software (except for the DREs). ES&S is studying how the two companies will be integrated and we should have more information about this within 90 days. The immediate impact for Marin is positive in that if the state certifies the new software, we will be able to use our optical scan ballots in the Automark machine and not have to order a separate ballot supply. The certification could be completed by the end of the year. Hart Intercivic, another election equipment company has filed an anti trust lawsuit to try to block the purchase.

In the event that the County decides to purchase new election equipment in the future, committee members agreed that it was important for auditing purposes to provide precinct totals at the precinct as we do currently.

The committee discussed the use of digital ballots and raised the question of whether the new digital scan equipment up for certification shows the whole ballot image or just the data. Committee also discussed whether it would have the capability of displaying the voted ballots images on the website on election night.

Highlights of New Election Laws for 2010

Committee members discussed the following bills that have been signed by the Governor and will be effective in 2010. See attached for a description of the bills:

AB 269 Election Observers

AB 306 State Ballot Pamphlets

AB 1337 Electioneering

SB6 Primary Elections

There are 35 other election-related bills on the Governor’s desk. The deadline to either sign or veto them is October 11.

Other business

Michael Smith reported that the County Clerk function will be placed with the Assessor/Recorder, but there is no news yet on the reporting status of the Registrar of Voter’s function.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on Friday, December 18, 2009.

August 21, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, August 21, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, August 21, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center.

Present were: Esther Beirne, Yvette Cashmere, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Cris Jones, Jeanne Leoncini, Anne Layzer, Hoa Long Tam, Eva Waskell, representing Linda Bagneschi Dorrance, and Cat Woods. Also present were: Elaine Ginnold and Colleen Ksanda from the Registrar of Voters’ Office.

June 8, 2010 Direct Primary Election

Committee members reviewed two reports relating to the June 8th election: Report on turnout in Gubernatorial Primary Elections in Marin County from 2002 to 2010. This report showed that turnout in Gubernatorial Primary Elections in Marin County has increased from 47.52% to 51.31% from 2002 to 2010. The report also showed that during this time period, the number of voters voting at the polls has decreased from 57.23% to 34.68% while the number of voters voting by mail has increased from 42.77% to 65.32%. While there appears to be a correlation between the increase in vote by mail voters and the increase in turnout, turnout is also driven by the type of election and candidates and issues that are on the ballot.

Legislative proposals by Secretary of State

Ms. Ginnold reported that the Secretary of State is preparing the following two legislative proposals:

  • Same day and Election Day Registration – This bill would allow voters to register and vote a provisional ballot at the election office after the registration deadline until 8:00 p.m. on election day. The ballot would be counted after the election provided that the voter’s registration information was valid.
  • Post Canvas Audit – This bill would allow counties to conduct a hand count audit after certification of the election in contests where there is less than a .5% margin of victory between the winning and losing candidate or measure. This bill would help large counties which do not have time to complete their hand counts in close races within the canvass period. It most likely would not affect Marin County because, with fewer precincts, the hand count audit required for close races would usually be finished within the canvass period after the election

Neither of these proposals has been introduced yet.

Goals and Objectives for 2009-10:

Committee members brainstormed and selected the objectives for achieving the goal of having the highest level of voter registration and turnout in the state: The key objectives selected are:

1. Gather statistics to gauge the effectiveness of voter outreach efforts. See if there is a way to use the census for this.

2. Find new ways to increase voter registration and turnout in all populations and categories, including the following:

  • Use new technologies to educate voters about the registration and voting process (facebook, twitter, my space)
  • Partner with organizations to reach underrepresented populations
  • Explore grants to non profit organizations for outreach and education
  • Develop PR pieces and find new outlets for them

3. Provide information to the public on different ways to vote (by mail, early, polls)

4. Share best practices between counties

Voter information re-written in “plain English”

Ms. Ginnold distributed copies of five information pages that will be published in the Voter Information Pamphlet for the November election and posted on the ROV website. The pages were revised into “plain English” so that the information is easier for voters to understand.

Candidate information on website

Ms. Ginnold distributed spreadsheets of the candidates on the ballot and those off the ballot which are now posted on the ROV website for the November election. The spreadsheets are easier to read and understand than the current report which is from the ROV election management system and is confusing to the public because of the way the information is presented.

Update on Federal and State certification of Premier voting equipment.

Ms. Ginnold reported that the Federal Election Assistance Commission has completed their certification of the new Premier voting system. This certification includes Premier’s high speed scanner for vote by mail ballots, the ability for the Automark to read Accuvote ballots, and a digital ballot scanner for the precincts. The Committee requested that if Marin County decides to purchase a new voting system, find out if it can handle Ranked Choice Voting. The committee suggested that it would be helpful to find out what the public perception of digital vs optical scan is, and whether it would be possible for the public to get the raw data of the vote count on election night so that they could analyze it.

Timeline for Redistricting Commission

Ms. Ginnold distributed a timeline for the application process for the new CA Redistricting Commission. The handout included the website address of the state auditor, who is responsible for the application process. The Committee requested that the ROV provide a link from its webpage to the State Auditor’s webpage for the public.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 324A of the Civic Center.

July 17, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, July 17, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


The annual meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, July 17, 2009 in room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. Members present were: Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Ericka Erickson, Marcia Hagen, Chris Jones, Morgan Kelley, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein, Hoa Long Tam. Also present was Eve Waskell. Present from the Registrar of Voters’ Office were Melvin Briones, Elaine Ginnold, Colleen Ksanda and Michael Smith.

Goals and Objectives for 2009 -10

Ms. Ginnold presented the Committee’s Annual Report for 2008-09 and reviewed its organization. The goals and objectives are based on Committee suggestions. The report includes a description of the action the Registrar of Voters took to implement each objective and the impact of the action. Committee members offered the following feedback:

  • When reporting on voter turnout, include the percentage of voters eligible to register in addition to the percentage of those already registered.
  • Updating the voter files with move information is only half the battle of increasing the percentage of registered voters. Need to also develop effective ways to register new voters moving into the county.
    Examples to reach homeowners would be working with PG&E or using property transfer information. Need to use outreach methods that will also work for renters.
  • Solicit feedback from voters to assess the effectiveness of our outreach efforts. Example: add “how did you hear about this?” question on mailings to voters
  • Educate poll workers not to assume that homeless voters need provisional ballots, but to first check the Roster to see if they are listed.
  • Add information to the VBM ballot that voters must turn in their ballots at a polling place in the county where they are registered to vote.
  • Find out about the on line poll worker training program developed for Ohio by HAVA Partners to see if it could be implemented in Marin at a reasonable cost.

The committee discussed the summary data on registered voters in Marin County that was compiled by Political Data, Inc. Ms. Ginnold to e-mail this report and the precinct level data to committee members. There was discussion on the sources used to gather the data on the report. The main sources for the data were the Marin County voter file and the 2000 census data. Member asked if the census data used for the report had been updated since 2000. Ms. Ginnold to find out an let committee know.

Colleen Ksanda distributed the Poll Worker Newsletter for 2009. The news letter will be included with the recruiting letter for the November election to 4300 pollworkers.

Ms. Ksanda invited committee members to be extras for the new poll worker training video and passed out a sign up sheet. 20 extras are needed to play voters on the video. Filiming will be on July 23 from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. at Marin Center, Avenue of the Flags, Toyon Room. Friends and family are welcome to participate. Extras should not wear red, white, stripes or patterned clothing.

Goals and Objectives for 2009 -10

Greg Brockbank brought up the campaign pledge form that the Marin League of Women Voters is asking candidates to sign and asked that information about it be discussed at a future meeting. There was discussion about whether it was an appropriate subject for the committee’s agenda. After discussion, the committee voted to ask representatives to provide information about the different aspects of the issue at the meeting in September for the sole purpose of becoming better informed about the issue. Ms. Ginnold will schedule a presentation for the September meeting and she and Michael Smith will establish ground rules for it.

April 17, 2009

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.

Other business

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.

March 20, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, March 20, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, March 20, 2009 in Room 324 A of the Civic Center.

Present were: Greg Brockbank, Yvette Cashmere (Grassroots), Bonnie Glaser, Barbara Gaman, Marcia Hagen, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein and Cat Woods. Also present was Waylin Tam. Melvin Briones, Elaine Ginnold and Colleen Ksanda were present from the Registrar of Voters’ Office.

Ms. Ginnold distributed a report on the May 19, 2009 Statewide Special Election. There will be 97 polling places, or 11 fewer than in the November General Election. Colleen Ksanda reported that 11 polling places were unavailable for the May election as they had other events scheduled. One of the 11 polling places was replaced and for the others, voters are being assigned to other polling places near where they live. (see report attached).

Committee members discussed the ROV plan to send post cards informing approximately 5000 new voters of the availability of permanent vote by mail status. Steve Silberstein suggested that the card be mailed to all non-permanent VBM voters. Committee members suggested that the ROV do an analysis of the responses to these mailings before deciding to mail the card to more voters.

Registrar of Voters’ staff described changes that will be implemented for the May 19th election that will streamline the elections process both at the polls and at the office. Following is a description of the changes:

  • ICR Roster scanning. After every election, the election office is required to record the voting history of every voter – that is whether or not the voter voted and how (by mail, at the polls or provisionally). In past elections, this information has been gathered from the Roster by hand for individual voters who voted at the polls. In future elections, the ROV will be using Intelligent Character Recognition technology to scan the Rosters to automatically record who voted.
    As part of this change, the “Buff Rosters” will be replaced with “Street Indexes” which list the streets in the precinct alphabetically and the voters on each street by address in numerical order. There will be cross reference numbers in the Street Index and Roster and poll workers will have colored pencils to make updating the Street Index easier for them.
    Committee members suggested that the words, “take oath” be printed in the Remarks column next to the names of inactive voters listed in the Roster. Melvin Briones to follow up on this.
    Committee members also suggested that a sign be placed on the official table at the polls that says, “if your name is not listed on the Roster you have the right to vote a provisional ballot.” Ms. Ginnold reported that all poll workers are now trained to first offer a provisional ballot if the voter’s name is not on the Roster. Voters are currently advised of their right to cast a provisional ballot on signs inside the polls.
  • Due to the number of vote by mail ballots turned in at the polls, the ROV will supply each polling place with a new Vote by Mail ballot box for ballots that don’t fit into the side compartment of the ballot box when it fills up.
  • Every polling place will have new self-standing signs to alert voters to the location of the entrance to the polls.
  • Update of poll worker training video – Colleen Ksanda is working on an update to the existing poll worker training video to be ready for the November 09 election.

Secretary of State’s Post Election Manual Tally draft regulations: Committee members reviewed the Secretary of State’s revised draft regulations for post election manual tallies in close elections. These regulations and any changes made to them during the comment period (ends March 30) will be effective for the May 19th election.

Committee members discussed some of the many legislative proposals that have been introduced this year. Bob Richard reported on several bills that would allow a form of ranked choice voting. In particular, AB 308 would allow military and overseas voters to vote a special runoff ballot in addition to their regular ballot in a general election when the time between the primary and the runoff general election is short. AB 1121 is a repeat of AB 1294 that passed the legislature but was vetoed last year. It would allow some general law cities and counties to use ranked voting to conduct a local election.

Other business

Cat Woods reported on a meeting she attended that was held by the Secretary of State to discuss the Transparency Project in Humboldt County. In Humboldt County, the counted ballots are rescanned using another voting system and scanner. The results are put on DVD to share with the public. Ms. Woods asked what we would have to do in Marin County if we decided to go this route. Ms. Ginnold will arrange for someone from Humboldt to give a presentation on the transparency project to the committee at a future meeting.

There will be a special parcel tax election on June 2, 2009 in Novato Unified School District.

Anne Layzer asked that information about the Ross Valley Flood Control election and proposition 218 elections be included in a future agenda.

The meeting in May was cancelled due to the Special Statewide Election and there is no meeting scheduled in June. The committee will hold its annual meeting on July 17th in room 324A.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on April 17.

February 20, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, February 20, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, February 20, 2009. Members present were: Ericka Erickson, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Anne Layzer, Rob Richard, and Steve Silberstein. Also present were: Melvin Briones, Elaine Ginnold and Colleen Ksanda from the Registrar of Voters’ Office.

Voter Registration

Committee members discussed the additions of the number and percentage of eligible voters and the number and percentage of vote by mail voters in the 7 Marin County precincts targeted because of low voter turnout in elections prior to 2006. Because updated census data is not available at the precinct level, the percentage of eligible voters in these precincts is based on the countywide percentage of registered voters to eligible to register for each year. The vote by mail turnout was higher in the Nov. 2008 election than it was in the Nov. 2004 election in all precincts but 5228, where it was slightly lower.

Voter file activity

The Committee discussed a report on voter file activity in Marin County. The report shows that there were 48,411 changes or additions to the voter file in 2008. 50% of the activity in the voter file was from new registrations or voters who were re-registering. About 30% of the activity was from voters updating their existing registrations with changes to name, address, or political party. Approximately 9% of the total activity was due to registration cancellations and 10% of the activity was due to voters moving into or within the county. Voter registration grew nearly 10% from 141,013 registered voters in January 2008 to 155,640 for the November 4, 2008 election.

Federal initiatives on voting

Committee discussed possible future Federal voter registration initiatives including Election Day registration, universal registration, on line registration, and additional restrictions on removing voters from the rolls.

Post election auditing

Ms. Ginnold reported on the situation in Humboldt County after the November 2008 election, where a gap of approximately 200 votes was found between the Premier Optical Scan results and the ballots that were later scanned for the Registrar of Voters’ Transparency Project. The discrepancy was due to an anomaly in the GEMS 1.18.19 ballot counting software, which is used by Humboldt, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. In 2004, the company had notified all counties of procedures to use to prevent the anomaly, but Humboldt County hadn't followed the procedures. The anomaly was corrected in a later version of the software, 1.18.24, which is the version used in Marin and the rest of the counties that use GEMS. This discrepancy could also have been found through the reconciliation step of matching the VBM ballots received and credited as good to those counted and researching the difference. The Secretary of State will hold a hearing on whether the GEMS version 1.18.19 should be decertified on March 16th at 10:00 a.m. in Sacramento.

Overseas voters

Ms. Ginnold distributed a report on how registration, application, ballots and counting for overseas voters are handled. See attached report. California election law allows overseas voters waive their right to privacy and fax their ballots back to the election office. For the November 2008 election, about 200 Marin County overseas voters faxed their ballots to the election office. Faxed ballots must be duplicated onto a regular ballot so they can be counted. Committee members commented that allowing solutions that rely on different technology, depending on who the voters are, are complicated and result in voters having different degrees of access to the voting process.

Uniform Vote Counting Standards

Ms. Ginnold distributed the Uniform vote Counting Standards from the Secretary of State’s office. These standards help election officials in California interpret voter intent issues during a recount. The standards are posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Election legislative proposals

The Committee discussed some of the proposed election legislation for 2009 from the 2/13/09 version of LA County’s report, Bills of Special Interest for the 2009-2010 legislative session, which summarizes election related bills which have been introduced to the State Senate or Assembly. One of the more interesting bills, ACA 6, would require all partisan candidates in a primary election to be listed on one ballot and, if no candidate receives a majority of the vote, then the top two candidates would be on the ballot for the November general election. Primaries are conducted this way in the State of Washington. Bob Richard mentioned that the purpose of this proposal is to eliminate partisan primary elections and go to a runoff for the top 2 candidates. He suggested that the question that should be debated is: should the government have a public process for nominating candidates in a partisan primary? Our current primary system is the result of an election reform measure that dates back to the progressive movement in the early 20th century. It was instituted to solve the problem of the closed political organization that gives a small number of people the ability to determine who would run for office. Bob proposed that having an instant runoff election would be a better option, since under the system proposed in ACA 6, the same candidate’s name could appear on the ballot more than once.

May 19th Statewide Special Election

Ms. Ginnold reported that the governor is expected to sign a bill today calling for a statewide special election for May 19. Colleen Ksanda reported on the difficulty the county could face in finding enough polling places for the election. Usually, she reserves polling places a year in advance. With the special election coming with such short notice, some of the polling places may not be available to us. Our plan is to consolidate voters into the polling places that are available for this election. Steve Silberstein suggested that we repeat a mailing to non permanent VBM voters letting them know of the permanent VBM option.

Other business

In other business, the committee requested information on what actions are being taken at the federal level to develop standards to make the election process more uniform from one state to another. They also asked that we revisit the primary election issue at a future meeting.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be on Friday, March 20.

January 23, 2009

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, January 23, 2009, 9:30 a.m.
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, January 23, 2010 in Room 324A of the Civic Center.

Present were: Esther Beirne, Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Morgan Kelley, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Carlos Sanchez, Steve Silberstein, Barbara Tomber, Cat Woods. Also present were: Yvette Cashmere from Grassroots, Matthew Hymel, County Administrative Officer, Michael Smith, Treasurer/Tax Collector, Roy Givens, Assistant Treasurer/Tax Collector, and Elaine Ginnold, Melvin Briones, and Colleen Ksanda from the Registrar of Voters.

Registrar of Voters function

Matthew Hymel and Michael Smith described their thoughts about the Registrar of Voters function in light of the passage of Measure B in the November 4, 2008 Election. The first priority is to hire a finance director to oversee the functions of the Auditor-Controller and then to expand the position’s duties to include the functions of the Treasurer-Tax Collector at the end of Michael Smith’s term on 12/31/2010. In general, elections in Marin County should be fair, unbiased and run professionally. Some of the options for the Registrar of Voters are: The ROV as a separate department head appointed by and reporting to the Board of Supervisors, or to another elected or appointed official such as the County Administrator, County Counsel, Director of Finance, or Assessor. It would be an arrangement where the ROV function has a level of independence, but the appointing authority has the ability to provide enhanced support. The timeline to determine the most appropriate structure is the end of 2010. The intent is to make the transition smooth and continue to provide good public services. The committee will have other opportunities for input into this topic.

Several members of the committee expressed the hope that the ROV position would be filled by a professional search and not by political considerations. Members asked about the mechanisms in place to make sure that there would be a professional search process whenever this position has to be filled. Another point raised was that it is important to define the job and how would it be evaluated. One of the ways suggested to evaluate performance would be to look at the level of voter participation and aim for 100% voter registration and turnout.

When can voters be cancelled?

The Committee continued their discussion from last month’s meeting about when voters can be cancelled. Ms. Ginnold distributed a chart which showed when a voter’s registration can be cancelled. In summary, these are as follows: Voter’s written request to be removed from the voter file; written notification of the death of a voter, Judge’s declaration of voter’s mental incompetence with voting rights specifically taken away; Court sentencing document showing that a voter is in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony; written notification by Secretary of State or by voter that voter has moved and reregistered in another county or state; voter has not voted in 4 federal general elections and has never responded to county’s request for address confirmation.

Committee members asked how we could tell if a voter registered in and voted in more than one state. At present, there is no way that we would know this, however, as states develop their statewide databases, this information may become available. As to felon voting, Ms. Ginnold will contact the Marin Clerk of the Courts to make sure we are getting the sentencing information we need about voters who are in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony and that we are notified when a voter’s voting rights are taken away due to a conservatorship order.

Voter outreach results in targeted precincts

Ms. Ginnold distributed a report showing registration and outreach in 8 precincts targeted for voter outreach. Precinct 3600 had a lower turnout percent than the other 7 precincts, where turnout increased between 2004-2008. Further study is needed to identify the reasons for this. Yvette Cashmere suggested that Grassroots could explore this issue. Committee asked that the data on the number of eligible voters be added to the report. Bonnie Glaser provided website addresses that have the data. Steve S. suggested that information on the number of new registrations, cancellations and inactive voters would be helpful in understanding voter turnover. The number of vote by mail voters in these precincts, and outreach to those voters who do not vote by mail would also be helpful. Ms. Ginnold will bring information about these questions to the next meeting.

Election Costs for the November 4, 2008 election

The Committee reviewed a handout showing election costs from the Feb. 5, 2008 and the November 4, 2008 elections. Election costs are influenced by several different factors, such as the type of election, the number of registered voters, and the number of ballot styles created by local races. The most costly items for an election are personnel, ballots and sample ballots.

Highlights of proposed election legislation for 2009

Ms. Ginnold distributed a report on election legislation that has been introduced into the state legislature for the 2009-10 session. Because there was not sufficient time to discuss it, the committee agreed to wait for an updated report and discuss the new legislation at its February meeting.

Secretary of State’s post election audit task force

Ms. Ginnold let the committee know that the Secretary of State has convened a task force to look at post election auditing, in particular at the trigger for additional counting in a close contest. Of the counties that were required to count more that 1% of the precincts, most had difficulty finishing the count by the certification deadline. Marin County was not required to count additional precincts after the 11/4/08 election.

Advisory Committee meeting schedule changes

The Committee agreed to the changes to scheduled Advisory Committee Meetings in 2009.

  • Change May 15th meeting to May 22nd
  • Change Sept. 18 meeting to Sept. 25th

Suggestions for future agenda items:

Committee members made suggestions for agenda items for future meetings as follows:

  • Information about overseas voters – registration, application, ballots, counting
  • Information about hand recounts like the one in Minnesota and what counts and what doesn’t count on a ballot.
  • True Ballot and the Humbolt County Transparency Project which found errors in the original count.
  • Data on volume of activity in the voter file

The meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m. due to the scheduling of another meeting in the room. The next meeting will be on Friday, February 20 at 9:30 a.m. in room 324A of the Civic Center.