Advisory Committee 2012 Annual Report

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

Marin County Registrar of Voters’ Election Advisory Committee
Annual Report for 2011 and 2012

By: Elaine Ginnold, Marin County Registrar of Voters, January 25, 2013

Marin Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 121,
San Rafael, CA 94903 • (415) 473-6456 • General email


The Marin County Registrar of Voters’ Election Advisory Committee was formed by the Registrar of Voters in July of 2006. The purpose of the Advisory Committee is to provide advice and recommendations to the Elections Department and the Registrar of Voters on voter participation and election integrity issues as they affect elections held in Marin County. The Advisory Committee:

  • Provides a link between the voting public and the Registrar of Voters.
  • Advises the Registrar of Voters to ensure that every voter has the opportunity to vote knowledgeably, safely and effectively.

The Annual Report includes Advisory Committee recommendations and actions taken by the Elections Department from July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012 in response to Committee recommendations. The period covered by this report includes the following elections: the November 8, 2011 city, school and special district election, the June 5, 2012 Presidential Primary Election, which was the first election held under the “Top Two Primary Act” passed by initiative in 2010, and the November 6, 2012 Presidential General Election. Election Advisory Committee members provided valuable advice and feedback for all of these elections. Highlights include:

Voter Outreach and Education

For the November 6, 2012 Presidential General Election, Marin County had 155,025 registered voters out of 176,604 eligible citizens (87.78%). With over 87% of its eligible citizens registered to vote, Marin has one of the highest percentages of registered voters in the state. Turnout in Marin County for the November Election was 87.37%, the highest of all 58 counties.

The Elections Department implemented the Secretary of State’s online voter registration program in October of 2012 and worked with Grassroots Leadership Network, St. Vincent de Paul, the League of Women Voters, City Clerks, libraries, high schools and post offices to distribute voter registration affidavits throughout the county. The online registration and wide availability of registration forms made it convenient for citizens to register to vote in time for the election.

A survey of voter participation in Marin County in the June 5, 2012 Primary Election was conducted by Professor Elizabeth Bergman, Political Science Professor at Cal State East Bay. The survey provided insights into what motivates voters to vote in elections and explained the reasons for the relatively low turnout in Marin County in the June 5, 2012 Primary Election.

Poll worker recruitment/training

Many Marin citizens volunteered to work at the polls in all three elections conducted during the period covered by this report so that all precinct boards were fully staffed on Election Day. A total of 756 poll workers staffed the polls for the November 6, 2012 General Election.


During the past two years, the Election Department added more voter self-service options to its website, Voters can now register to vote and get their voter information pamphlet and sample ballot online. Military and Overseas voters can now mark their ballot online and then fax or mail it back to the office. The Elections Department now offers candidates and campaigns the option of filing their campaign statements online. Beginning in the 2012 elections, voters could to use an app on their smart phones and tablets to see their ballots.

Vote by Mail

The number of voters who requested vote-by-mail ballots reached its highest level in the November 2012 election when a record 108,428 (69%) requested a vote-by-mail ballot. 88,109 of those ballots were returned and counted. In the November 6, 2012 election, vote-by-mail voters made up 65% of the turnout.

Election integrity

Participated in research on risk limiting audits conducted by Professor Philip Stark, Statistics Professor at UC Berkeley as authorized by AB2023. The goal of this research project is to develop and test practical methods for jurisdictions to conduct risk limiting audits of election results. Risk limiting means that the audit has a “big, pre-specified chance of catching and correcting incorrect electoral outcomes.” (Implementing Risk Limiting Audits, Hall et al, 2009).

The Registrar of Voters thanks Election Advisory Committee members for their dedication to improving the election process in Marin County and for its valuable feedback to the Elections Office during the past two years. Through its recommendations and feedback, the Election Advisory Committee has enhanced the election process for the benefit of all voters in Marin County.

The public is welcome to attend Advisory Committee meetings which are generally held on the third Friday of most months, from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, in room 324A of the Marin Civic Center in San Rafael. The Election Advisory Committee’s meeting schedule is posted at the beginning of each year on the Elections Department website. The meetings are open to the public.

Applications for membership on the advisory committee are accepted year-round. The application for committee membership is posted on the Elections website. For more information about the Election Advisory Committee, please contact Elaine Ginnold, Registrar of Voters, or call (415) 473-6401.

Marin County Election Advisory Committee — Membership as of December 31, 2012
Name Area of County
Greg Brockbank San Rafael
Linda Bagneschi Dorrance Novato
Esther Beirne San Rafael
Steve Burdo San Anselmo
Ericka Omena Erickson San Rafael
Veda Florez Novato
Barbara Gaman Inverness
Bonnie Glaser Mill Valley & Corte Madera
Shirley Graves Novato
Marcia Hagen Fairfax
Morgan Kelley San Rafael
Mark Kyle San Rafael
Anne Layzer Mill Valley
Jeanne Leoncini San Rafael
Sean Peisert San Rafael
Robert Richard Larkspur
Steve Silberstein Belvedere
Cat Woods Novato

Goal I: Voter Outreach and Education

Identify and eliminate barriers to registration and voting in Marin County to maintain Marin’s current high level of voter participation.

Goal 1
Goal Action Taken Impact
Continue to identify precincts of the county with below average participation and focus voter outreach efforts in those precincts. Implemented online voter registration for the November 2012 Election; Translated VBM instructions into plain English; worked with Spanish speaking media specialist and with Grassroots Leadership Network to focus voter outreach efforts in the County. Produced and distributed public service video on voter registration and voting before 6/5/2012 and 11/6/12 elections. Turnout in November 2011 election was a record high of 39.01% for a November odd year election, compared with a 37.69% turnout in 11/09 and a 35.01% turnout in 11/07. Turnout in the November 2012 Presidential General election was 87.37%, the highest in California. Survey of voter participation in Marin County was conducted after the June 5, 2012 Election. It provided insights into what motivates voters to vote and will help focus voter education efforts.
Work with community based facilities such as health clinics to reach low income and minority voters. Registrar of Voters met with community based facilities and participated in the Secretary of State quarterly conference calls to these facilities to review procedures for registering voters. Conference calls and meetings with local election officials help resolve issues and lead to increased understanding and participation of agencies which are required to offer their clients a voter registration form by the federal NVRA law.
Educate voters and poll workers on the vote-by-mail (VBM) process, especially that all VBM ballots are counted. Translated vote-by-mail Voter Instructions into plain English. Added information on last day to mail ballot and procedures for VBM voters who decide to vote at polls. The number of VBM ballots rejected due to no signature dropped from 11.49% of rejected ballots in 11/8/2008 election to 7% of rejected ballots in the 11/6/2012 election. The percentages of VBM ballots not counted because signatures don’t match or because they are too late remain at 43 to 44% of rejected ballots.
Educate voters about what to do if they decide to vote at the polls. Information about turning in both the ballot and envelope were included in the VBM Instructions for the 11/6/2012 election. The Vote by Mail Instructions need further revision to make it clearer to VBM voters to bring their VBM ballot and envelope with them to surrender if they decide to vote at the polls.

Goal 2: Poll worker recruiting and training:

Implement poll worker recruiting methods that maintain current high level of poll worker participation. Continually review and update poll worker training methods and materials.

Goal 2
Goal Action Taken Impact
Implement methods to make sure that poll workers assigned to each task have the ability and training to carry out the task successfully. Followed up on reports and observations of poor poll worker performance. Where no improvement is likely, poll workers are not hired back to work in future elections. The Elections Office receives feedback about poll worker performance from voters, other poll workers and Rovers. The Office follows up on reports of poor performance and takes action accordingly.
Stress importance of provisional ballots to both voters and poll workers and suggest how to organize the polling place to process provisional voters efficiently. Instructed poll workers to direct provisional voters fill out their provisional envelopes at the voting booth rather than at the voting table. Revised envelope to make it clearer and easier to use for the 11/6/2012 Election. Poll workers now direct provisional voters to the voting booth rather than the voting table to fill out the provisional envelope. The number of provisional ballots reached a high of 6,491 ballots for the 11/6/2012 election due to the number of vote-by-mail voters who went to the polls to vote but did not have their VBM ballots to surrender. These voters must vote provisionally by law.
Consider online training for poll workers, especially for clerks. Surveyed poll workers and found unenthusiastic response to online training. Will continue to explore online poll worker training further. In the meantime, will continue to post poll worker training material on the Elections website.
Reduce hours for poll workers/implement split shifts. State law requires polls to be open from 7 AM to 8 PM. Clerks may work split shifts when they can recruit a partner. Split shifts approved on request.
Reduce time it takes poll workers to update street index. Conducted pilot programs using electronic rosters in several precincts in 6/5/12 and 11/6/12 elections. Feedback from poll workers is that while an e-roster would help reduce poll worker error, improvement is needed before they are deployed to all polling places.

Goal 3: Communication

Continue to review and update the website to improve services to the public.

Goal 3
Goal Action Taken Impact
Explore options to provide a searchable database of candidate financial filing information. Installed new program that allows candidates and campaigns to file online and provides a searchable database of the reports filed. Most candidates for county offices used the online filing program for the June 5, 2012 election.
Revise report on candidate filing status before an election. Current report is cumbersome to use. Revised report to remove clutter that made report difficult to understand. Received feedback that report on candidates’ filing status is clearer and easier to understand.
Provide sample ballot and voter information pamphlet online. Provided a smart phone app for the sample ballot and state pamphlet. Ballot and Voter Information Pamphlet was put online just before the 11/6/2012 election. Continue to work with IST Dept. to provide subscription service to allow voters to choose to get their sample ballots online for elections in 2013. Approximately 30 voters opted to get their sample ballots through the smart phone app for the June 5, 2012 election. Approximately 500 overseas voters received all of their voting materials online in the November 6, 2012 election.
Provide link to city websites to enable online look-up of who has filed for office in the cities. Links to city clerks’ offices are now on Elections website under “Related Links.” Links to city/town websites on the Elections website makes it easier for people to find the information they need.

Goal 4: Election Integrity and Voter Confidence

Identify methods and practices that enhance the integrity of the voting process and increase voter confidence.

Goal 4
Goal Action Taken Impact
Promote the Annual Report and work of the Election Advisory Committee and the Registrar of Voters’ Office via website and news media. Participate in research on risk limiting audits in one election in 2012. Annual report and minutes of election advisory committee is posted on ROV website. Participated in a risk limiting audit after the June 2012 election. However, was unable to complete the audit due to the lack of time before the November 2012 election. Information about activities and recommendations of Election Advisory Committee is available to the public through the website.

Plan to complete the risk limiting audit of the June 2012 election by March of 2013.