2015 Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections


December 18, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, December 18, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, December 18, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Veda Florez, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Morgan Kelley, Anne Layzer, Jeanne Leoncini, Maddy Ruvolo, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts and Colleen Ksanda


Lynda Roberts welcomed the committee members and started the meeting with two announcements:

  • The department received a certificate from the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund for participating in the Smart Voter program. The certificate was presented on December 10th at the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) annual new law conference in Sacramento. Marin County was one of about 10 counties to receive the award. Anne Layzer said that Smart Voter will be changing to Voters Edge, and will be run by a coalition rather than the League of Women Voters.
  • Barbara Gaman (West Marin) notified Ms. Roberts in an email that she has decided to finish serving on the committee. Ms. Gaman has been serving since the beginning, and expressed her appreciation for the experience. She has decided to focus on other activities. At this time, no other member of her local group is interested in taking her place on the committee.

November 3, 2015, Election Review

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the Vote by Mail and Provisional Ballot Report.  The turnout of 35% was lower than in 2013, which was about 38%.


Members talked about possible reasons why the turnout was low, and noted the lack of both a college district race and contested races in San Rafael. A graph of turnout in UDEL elections over the last 10 years would be interesting.  Perhaps combining the UDEL with even-year elections would improve turnout, but this would likely push the ballot onto two cards and would increase the cost of return postage for vote-by-mail ballots. Some jurisdictions prefer their elections to have low turnout, and the odd-year election is in San Rafael’s charter. The cost per vote in this election was about $20. Jurisdictions reimburse the county for their share of the UDEL election costs; however, this is a big cost to the districts. If all local government seats went to ballot, there would have been 71 races involved.

Cat Woods talked about her experience of being a “floating” deputy or chief, and the difficulty of being assigned to an established team of poll workers. She asked whether or not a deputy is supposed to help a chief set up the polling place, and seemed to recall that it is mentioned in the job description card provided at training. Colleen Ksanda agreed that the polling place runs smoother with an established team, but she has about 5-10 floating chiefs and about 30 floating deputies. She has received some feedback about people not following current procedures because they fail to attend training. The deputy is not required to help set up, but this is the first time she has heard of a deputy that wouldn’t help. However, Ms. Ksanda will double check the job description card to be certain.

In reviewing the election statistics report, members thought it would be interesting to track the number of ballots that are postmarked timely and returned within three days of the election. In addition, it would be interesting to create a chart showing trends of why ballots are not counted. In response to questions, Ms. Roberts described the procedures used when following-up on vote-by-mail ballots that are challenged because there is no signature, the signature does not match, or voters use the wrong return envelope.

Vote by Mail

1) Follow-up of the December 15th Board of Supervisors meeting at which the Board approved the policy option to pay return postage for all returned vote-by-mail ballots.


Steve Silberstein said the discussion went well, and the supervisors were supportive. There was also one public comment of support. Anne Layzer said Ms. Roberts presented both sides of the issue, but one Supervisor asked why she had not made a recommendation. Ms. Roberts said she was hesitant to ask the Board to fund an on-going, discretionary expense and thought the item should stand on its own merit. Members acknowledged that this was the first time in 9 ½ years that the committee was mentioned in the newspaper. The Board’s decision may or may not help increase turnout, but it does send a valuable message about the importance of voting. There may be other reasons for low turnout other than postage. Even though this decision adds more expense, if the state moves to all vote by mail other expenses will be cut. The Board of Supervisors asked Mr. Roberts to track turnout and provide a report after a period of time to see if paying the postage made a difference. Members suggested comparing percent of eligible voters with registered voters, and tracking turnout by precincts. Mr. Silberstein suggested that another measure of success would be if other counties follow this model.

2) All vote-by-mail elections

Ms. Roberts reviewed the status of SB 450 (mail-ballot elections with vote centers). The Secretary of State wants the bill to go back to the legislature in February. There is some concern among assembly members about this bill. The proposed formula to determine the number of vote centers presents a big issue.  Using this model will be an opt-in choice.

CACEO supports the bill, but will review it in their monthly legislative committee meetings.

Ms. Roberts also reviewed the all vote-by-mail pilot programs in Yolo and San Mateo Counties. The pilots don’t include statewide elections, and governing bodies (city, county, and district) must adopt a resolution authorizing the election. Drop-off locations and some polling places are required; a polling place shall allow voters to request a ballot on Election Day if they haven’t received one or need a replacement. Ms. Roberts talked about the logistics of providing numerous ballot types at all the polling place locations. The recent election included 29 different ballot types. She suggested inviting someone from the elections departments of Yolo and San Mateo Counties to speak at an upcoming meeting.


The last version of the SB 450 legislation included a requirement that vote centers be open for at least 10 days prior to an election, which would present challenges such as recruiting poll workers. Not counting ballots at the vote centers could break down voter confidence.

There seems to be some opposition to vote-by-mail in the disabilities community, but the source really seems to be coming from voting equipment businesses. Maddy Ruvolo pointed out that there is concern from the disability community. Even though accessible machines are used infrequently, vote-by-mail does not guarantee that someone can vote independently and privately.  She gave the example of a blind person who may rely on a caregiver to mark their ballot. Ms. Ruvolo said the Secretary of State is exploring accessible vote-by-mail options, such as an emailed ballot that a voter can mark by using screen reader software.  The vote center model presents transportation issues.  Members raised the idea of mobile accessible voting; Ms. Ruvolo said Santa Cruz uses this option. Mobile voting would expand opportunities for people with disabilities.  Members also talked about the intent of the ADA law to make voting accessible but not discriminatory by treating people differently; that is why the accessible voting equipment is required at polling places.

New Laws

The committee reviewed summaries of the following new election laws:

AB 44 (statewide recounts). Permits the Governor or Secretary of State to order a state-funded manual recount of all votes cast for a statewide office or ballot measure if the difference in number of votes received is less than or equal to the lesser of 1,000 votes or 0.00015 of the number of all votes cast.

AB 363 (closing of the polls). Allows election officials to pick up ballots from polling places during the day in order to speed up vote counting at the central counting location.

Comments: Procedures need to be established to ensure secure chain of custody. Counting ballots at the polls adds an extra layer of security.

AB 477 (ballots and the Green Party). Allows voters to cure unsigned vote-by-mail ballot up to 8 days after the election. Establishes procedures by which the Green Party can participate in the presidential primary.

Comments: Eight days seems like a long period of time. Ms. Roberts said it may impact certification of small elections, but will better accommodate unsigned ballots received pursuant to the new postmark law (i.e. ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received within three days after the election).

AB 554 (precinct board members). Allows legal permanent resident high school students to serve as poll workers.

AB 1461 (voter registration—California new motor voter program). Requires the Secretary of State and DMV to establish the program.

Ms. Roberts provided additional information: This is intended to start in mid-2017 after the statewide database system (VoteCal) is live. Details and regulations need to be determined and the legislature needs to appropriate funds. Once implemented, the program will be prospective and include those applying for a new license, renewing a license, or changing address. Information will be gathered electronically, and the system will gather basic information regarding eligibility, including an attestation of eligibility. It will offer the opportunity to select party, language and vote-by-mail status. The Secretary of State’s office is responsible for public education.

Question: Is there any resistance from DMV? Ms. Roberts did not know.

AB 1504 (all-mailed ballot elections—pilot project). Adds Monterey and Sacramento Counties to the Yolo/San Mateo pilot program.

SB 415 (voter participation). For political subdivisions, requires consolidation with statewide elections if turnout for a regularly-scheduled election is at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout within the political subdivision for the previous 4 statewide general elections (commencing January 1, 2018).

Comments: Members raised questions about the impact of this law. Ms. Roberts said it may impact the odd-year UDEL election.

SB 439 (election procedures). Allows for conditional voter registration and provisional voting at satellite offices other than on Election Day. Also addresses standards and regulations governing the certification and use of electronic poll books and ballot-on-demand systems.

SB 505 (voter bill of rights). Authorizes the Secretary of State to revise the wording as necessary to ensure understanding.

2016 meeting schedule

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the proposed meeting schedule for 2016, and pointed out some possible changes in July and August. She will review the schedule again at the next meeting.

Other Business

Ms. Roberts distributed a summary of comments from Tomales High students about the outreach program she and Maureen Hogan provide. She also distributed copies of an article from electionlineWeekly (October 8, 2015) praising the California Online Voter Registration system for its accessibility.

Veda Florez gave a brief report about her work last September organizing National Voter Registration Day events. This is the third year she has organized events on behalf of the Elections Department. Since its inception, the program has been a week-long effort around September 22nd, the official National Voter Registration Day. Activities this year included partnering with 11 other nonprofit organizations to get the word out through their events; raising public awareness by distributing English/Spanish leaflets in food bags distributed by various organizations; and inviting nonprofit groups to add a link on their websites to online voter registration. Events occurred in each of the supervisorial districts, and received radio coverage in West Marin. The department’s news release was published on the front page of the Marin Post, and the Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution acknowledging the registration drive. One student from the Young Democrats organized a registration drive as a separate event.

Greg Brockbank suggested that the committee consider discussing the Disclose Act, which would require more transparency about campaign funding. He also had two handouts addressing vote by mail and voting machines. Ms. Roberts will email copies to the committee members.

Ora Hatheway has spoken with people in Marin City and the Canal of San Rafael about participating on the Election Advisory Committee. She will provide more information to Ms. Roberts.

The next meeting will be held on Friday, January 15, 2016

September 18, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, September 18, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, September 18, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Veda Florez, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts and Colleen Ksanda


Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, opened the meeting.

Public Comment

Mr. John Ortega spoke about low voter participation in the Latino community, and the need for outreach. People need to be taught how to vote because the process can be confusing. He suggested having a meeting at Pickleweed Park (in the Canal) where people could register to vote and learn about the process. He acknowledged the need for a grassroots effort in addition to outreach by the Elections Department.

Ms. Roberts said it would be helpful if Mr. Ortega would submit his ideas in writing.

Vote-by-Mail Return Postage—Next Steps

Ms. Roberts will prepare an agenda item to take to the Board of Supervisors in December. She clarified that after the committee vetted the idea in August, her intent was to take this question to the Board so there would be a public process. Mr. Eilerman confirmed that ideas related to policy issues will go before the Board of Supervisors.

The committee briefly discussed Ms. Woods’ opinion piece that was published in the September 7th issue of the IJ (“County-paid stamps is not ‘peanuts’ for Marin voters”). Ms. Woods said she thought the idea needed to go public since debate within the committee appeared to be over.

Member Comments:

  • The public response has been positive in favor of the idea.
  • The opinion piece was an appropriate and respectful public airing of the concept.
  • The community is divided about attempts to push voting by mail.
  • Marin County has a 70% vote-by-mail rate even though the County does not currently pay for return postage.
  • In Oregon and Washington, the move to all voting by mail was gradual. It is hard to predict, but California will eventually move to all voting by mail.
  • For the U.S. Postal Service, voting by mail is not a big-ticket item, so how will changing to all voting by mail interface with them? Especially in light of cuts in service.
  • Opinions vary about whether or not paying the return postage will increase the turnout. It may increase in one segment of the population, but not others.
  • To what extend should registrars or the Secretary of State be pushing voting by mail?

Ms. Roberts will let the committee members know when the agenda item is scheduled to go before the Board of Supervisors.

Progress Reports

Goal 2—Voter Outreach

Ms. Roberts gave an update about her presentation at the Marin Communication/ Voces de Marin Forum held on September 15th. At the forum, she reviewed election dates and deadlines for the 2015-16 election cycle, and voter registration deadlines and eligibility requirements. She reviewed the purposes of the Election Advisory Committee and Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee, and gave a quick overview about running for office. The Elections Department provided folders of educational materials that could be used in the communities as outreach tools.

Veda Florez gave an update about the Forum and National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) events scheduled for September 20-26, and distributed copies of flyers. At the Forum, she spoke about voter registration and National Voter Registration Day, and how people can help personally and professionally by distributing registration materials. For NVRD, Ms. Florez has been speaking with members of various communities in an effort to get partners to reach out within their specific communities, such as the Latino communities in the Canal area. The Marin County Post, a publication centralized in Marin City, published the press release about National Voter Registration Day events, and the Board of Supervisors would be adopting a proclamation on September 22nd acknowledging the events. Ms. Florez explained that the Young Democrats will hold a separate outreach effort in conjunction with NVRD since the Elections Department’s effort is nonpartisan.

Anne Layzer was also a speaker at the Forum and talked about the work done by the League of Women Voters to facilitate candidate debates and provide the Easy Voter Guide. She also told a story about difficulties around engaging people who may be apprehensive or worried about voting. Some years ago, she witnessed a situation in West Marin where people were very nervous about participating in just a straw vote.

Member Comments:

  • What about efforts in Southern Novato to reach the Latino community? Ms. Florez said she is working with the Novato Human Needs Center.
  • Mr. Ortega has a good background in the Latino community and has worked hard in the Canal area over the years. Perhaps he could be of assistance.

Ms. Roberts referred to an idea from a prior advisory meeting about inviting groups or community representatives to attend a meeting and provide feedback that will assist with creating meaningful outreach efforts. She will follow-up.

Goal 3—Voter Education

Ms. Roberts reviewed changes to informational pages that are published in the Voter Information Guide. Over the summer, staff members revised and simplified the pages based on the best practices manual published by the League of Women Voters. The revised pages include Vote by Mail, Vote at the Polls, Access or Language Needs, and the back cover. Ms. Roberts will incorporate committee members’ suggestions in the June 2016 Voter Information Guide. The committee also reviewed draft news releases for the upcoming election, and made suggestions.

Goal 4—Departmental Ongoing

Ms. Roberts gave a report about her meeting with Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools. After the advisory committee meeting in May, Ora Hatheway met with Ms. Burke to pass along a folder of information that was created by the Elections Department for use in high school presentations. Ms. Burke later contacted Ms. Roberts about the possibility of providing a folder to each of the high school principals. In August, Ms. Burke and Ms. Roberts collaborated on an email recognizing the importance of civic education that was sent to high school principals about voter education weeks designated in the California Education Code. Ms. Roberts and Ms. Burke plan to organize registration events prior to the June 2016 election, and test the program at a few high schools.

Marin County Study—Unregistered Residents Analysis

The committee reviewed Professor Elizabeth Bergman’s study titled “Marin County Study—Unregistered Residents Analysis.” Members found the report to be problematic due to errors and confusing information. Ms. Bergman could not attend the meeting to answer questions due to her year-long sabbatical. One member suggested that perhaps someone at that Statewide Database could review the report.

CACEO Legislative Committee Meeting Update

The committee reviewed a list of election-related legislation.

Member Comments:

  • AB 1100 (Ballot initiative, filing fees), came about because of a blatantly unconstitutional initiative. The idea was to charge a higher fee to discourage frivolous initiatives. AB 1100 will create a hurdle for people without money, but won’t impact people who have sufficient funds to pay the higher fee.

Other business

  • Anne Layzer said the League of Women Voters will be recording seven candidate debates for the November 3rd election. The debates will be available on Community Media Center of Marin (CMCM).
  • Ora Hathaway said she will provide a written report presenting her outreach ideas.
  • Bob Richard asked to have a discussion at a future meeting about voting by mail.

The next meeting will be held on Friday, December 18, 2015

August 14, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, August 14, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, August 14, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Veda Florez, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, Colleen Ksanda, Dan Miller and Tony Aquilino


Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, opened the meeting.

November 3rd UDEL Election

Races and Measures on the Ballot. Dan Miller distributed copies of the nine measures that will be on the November ballot. Out of 71 contests and 167 candidates that pulled papers, 19 jurisdictions will go to ballot, with a total of 88 candidates. The usual jurisdictions will be on the ballot, including Novato Unified School District and Tamalpais Community Services District. However, two districts were a surprise: Homestead Valley Sanitary District will be on the ballot, and College of Marin will not be on the ballot. Homestead Valley was last on the ballot in 2001, and the last time College of Marin was not on the ballot was 1981. Races for San Rafael, Larkspur and Fairfax will not be on the ballot.

Contest/Candidate List. Prior to the meeting, Anne Layzer raised two questions: Why offices on the filing document posted online are labelled "not on ballot”, and why none of the town/city races had any candidates listed until the end of filing. The public would like to know who took out papers.

Tony Aquilino addressed the first question. The report in the election management system can be revised to show candidates who pulled papers rather than indicate who will be on the ballot. Mr. Aquilino will remove the “on ballot” label. Mr. Miller said candidates can withdraw prior to the filing deadline, so it would be misleading to indicate who is on the ballot until after the deadline. Regarding information from the city and town clerks, in the past Mr. Miller has asked for updates about who pulls papers for city and town races; he can talk with the clerks again. During the filing period, Mr. Miller can usually update the candidate list each day by 4:30 p.m. However, there is a lot of work at the end because many candidates wait until the deadline to file their papers, and he has to verify nomination signatures before updating the list of candidates. Some counties have online filing; Mr. Miller is checking into this.

Ms. Roberts holds quarterly meetings with the city and town clerks; the next one will be in October. She will agendize a discussion about candidate filing and suggested that Ms. Layzer attend the meeting.

Vote-by-Mail Return Postage

Discussion continued from May 15, 2015 meeting. Ms. Roberts distributed copies of information used in the last discussion about this topic, and asked Mr. Silberstein, who proposed the change, for his input. Mr. Silberstein made the following points: Some people may not vote because they don’t have postage at home; the cost to the county would be minimal relative to the overall cost of elections that range from $800,000 to $1,000,000; this may or may not encourage more vote-by-mail voting, but it makes it easier for those who do vote by mail.

Committee Discussion

  • No one is being disenfranchised by not paying the return postage.
  • Perhaps the elections department could conduct a survey to find out who does not return their ballot due to postage.
  • Legislation being considered would make it possible to include a live ballot in every sample ballot booklet. Counties are engaging in pilot programs pertaining to all vote-by-mail elections.
  • The approximate cost of $50,000 is not a lot.
  • It is unknown if postage presents a big problem for voters.
  • Vote-by-mail saves time for people.
  • Having the county pay the return postage sends the message that voting is important for democracy.
  • Vote-by-mail impacts precinct consolidation so can help save money.
  • Perhaps more voters will mail their ballots in advance rather than dropping them at polling places on Election Day, especially now that the postmark counts. This would allow for more ballots to be included in the election night count.
  • Voter education will be important, including information about saving the county money by dropping the ballot at a polling place, or paying the return postage.

Nine of the ten committee members support having the Elections Department pay the return postage on vote-by-mail ballots. Ms. Roberts will review this information when she meets again with the Assistant County Administrator.

Progress Reports on Goals and Objectives

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the 2015 goals and objectives.

Goal 1—Election Integrity/Voter Confidence (New Voting System). Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the minutes from the July 31st meeting of this subcommittee. Cat Woods reported on behalf of the subcommittee. She distributed a summary of meeting notes that she reviewed. The subcommittee needs to discuss issues that will impact current procedures, such as central counting of ballots, in order to develop a recommendation. They also need to consider things that will be potential public issues.

Goal 2—Voter Outreach. Veda Florez talked about upcoming outreach events. The first event is on September 15th. She and Ms. Roberts have been invited to speak at the Marin Communications Forum/Voces de Marin meeting about civic and voter participation. This is a good opportunity to reach out to leaders in the Latino community. Ms. Florez also talked about National Voter Registration Day (September 22nd), and her plan for events during the week of September 20-27. This is the third year Marin County Elections Department has been promoting this program. She distributed copies of a poster and promotional letter that she is working on. Ms. Florez is hoping to partner with nonprofit organizations that are not usually engaged in voter registration by having them add a link to their websites to help promote the events. This will target specific communities. She is also coordinating voter registration tables in various locations. In addition, Ms. Florez is providing Elections Department brochures to organizations for distribution with food bags. The brochures are intended to answer basic questions. Future efforts may include social media targeting youths and Spanish-speaking communities. One committee member suggested that she work with the libraries.

Ora Hatheway gave a report about efforts to target the Canal and Marin City areas and public housing residents by finding 1-2 representatives from these communities that may be able to join the Election Advisory Committee. She has been talking with Douglas Mundo, Canal Welcome Center, and will ask David Escobar for potential leads when she meets with him on August 18. She has a variety of ideas about attracting participants from these specific communities, such as paying a stipend to attend meetings and providing training about participating on committees. Ms. Hatheway also reported that after the Election Advisory Committee meeting in May, she met with Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools, and left a folder of educational information that had been created by the Elections Department for use in high school presentations. Ms. Burke was enthusiastic about the folder. Regarding participation on the Elections Advisory Committee, one member asked for an outline from Ms. Hatheway so the full committee can discuss her ideas. In addition to her report, Ms. Hatheway distributed copies of an article about inequality.

Goal 3—Voter Education. Ms. Roberts showed a short video clip about voting by mail that she plans to push out starting in September. The clip was created from an instructional video that the Elections Department has posted on its website. The short clip has also been translated into Spanish. Committee members suggested that when the videos are updated in the future, they include information about voting that will target youths and convicts, and remind people about their right to vote by mail without coercion.

Goal 4—Departmental Ongoing. Colleen Ksanda distributed copies of the poll worker outreach newsletter. The newsletter was mailed to 4,000 potential poll workers along with a recruitment letter and response postcard. Recruitment for the November election is going well; 543 poll workers are needed and so far 322 people have responded. Ms. Ksanda reviewed the contents of the newsletter and asked members for ideas. All newsletters are posted on the department’s website under the Poll Workers link. Regarding polling places, one polling place in Novato was lost and the nearest suitable replacement is a church located out of the precinct. Two schools in Tiburon will no longer provide a polling place, so Ms. Ksanda is planning to use Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Other business

There was no other business.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, September 18, 2015.

May 15, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, May 15, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Cat Woods.

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, Colleen Ksanda, Maureen Hogan, Dan Miller, and Chris Winer


Lynda Roberts opened the meeting. She distributed copies of the agenda, minutes from the April 17 meeting, and the revised meeting schedule.

Recent Outreach Efforts

Maureen Hogan talked about recent outreach efforts at Tomales High School, Health and Human Services, and Bay Area Outreach Committee.

Tomales High School. In March, Ms. Hogan, Ms. Roberts and Ms. Ksanda met with the Tomales High Civics class to talk about the importance of voting, registering to vote, and poll worker program for high school students. Ms. Hogan showed Committee Members an example of the information folder that each student received; twelve students registered to vote. The students’ Thank You letters expressed their enthusiasm about the presentation, and a follow-up email from the teacher said at the end of the class, students engaged in a conversation about voting.

Health and Human Services.  Also in March, Ms. Hogan gave a presentation at two Health and Human Services’ staff meetings about the National Voter Registration Act of 1992, and their role in complying with the Act. She reported that from January 2008 through December 2011, the Elections Department received 115 registration cards that were given out by H&HS. From January 2012 through May 14, 2015, 1,074 registration cards were returned to the Elections Department. Ms. Hogan distributed a copy of NVRA requirements and said it is exciting to assist with the H&HS required annual training.

Bay Area Outreach Committee. The BAOC is comprised of nine Bay Area counties, and meets to discuss unified voting messages for the area. For 2016, they have decided to use Ready? Set, Vote! as the unified message. The message is intended to be used in public transportation venues, such as BART and on the backs of buses. Marin County has not done this type of advertising before. The intent is to have voters exposed to the same message wherever they are traveling throughout the Bay Area. The BAOC will meet again in June.

Ms. Roberts asked for feedback about the idea of paying for ad space on the back of a bus. Committee Members made the following comments:

  • It would be hard to say if the advertising would be effective. It might be better to use funds to target key populations.
  • Reminders can be helpful for everyone, and combining a mass message with targeted outreach could be effective.
  • Working at a grassroots level (i.e. attending community meetings or holding meetings) and addressing myths about registering might be more productive than just a mass message. Perhaps making a video or series of videos could help dispel myths, such as the myth about ex-felons’ ability to register, the myth about not being called to jury duty if one is not registered to vote, and the myth that high schools don’t teach civics classes.
  • The importance of voting in local races also needs to be addressed. Politicians listen if enough people participate in the process.
  • Making voter registration forms available in more places where new residents might visit, such as real estate offices.
  • Perhaps the Elections Department could work with students who are currently involved in leadership roles to increase enthusiasm in other communities. Or EAC committee members could reach out to civics teachers. Maybe students could receive credit for their civic engagement.

Ms. Roberts said the Elections Code designates two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall for voter registration outreach at high schools.  Ms. Roberts plans to meet with the County Superintendent of Schools to talk about an outreach event.

A question was asked about the number of registrations received through DMV. Ms. Hogan explained the process of registering through DMV and said the Department receives many DMV registrations.

November 2015 UDEL Election (Uniform District Election)

Dan Miller made a presentation about the upcoming November UDEL election. Ms. Roberts distributed copies of Committee Member Greg Brockbank’s list of non-partisan offices coming open for the November election. Mr. Brockbank’s report helped catch a flaw in the election management database, which can now be addressed. Changes to an incumbent’s voter registration, including party affiliation and home address, are not automatically linked to the incumbent module in the Election Information Management System. Mr. Brockbank creates his report using information from the incumbent module, along with additional research on his part.

Forty-three jurisdictions will be included in the November election. This includes school districts, special districts, cities and towns. There are 137 incumbents—potentially over 200 candidates if all jurisdictions go to ballot. Mr. Miller distributed copies of the updated and simplified Candidate Guide, which is posted online. The offices with short terms (2 years) will be printed later as an addendum.  Mr. Miller is currently gathering information from the districts about the seats that will be open in their districts, and he should have all the information by the end of June.

The filing period starts on July 13 and ends August 7. If an incumbent does not file, the period is extended to August 12. Candidates for city/town offices will file with their city/town clerk. The Clerks forward candidate information promptly to the Elections Department, and Mr. Miller is prompt in keeping the list updated. However, many candidates wait until the last week or last day to file, so it takes more time to update the list.

In response to questions, Mr. Miller said that ballot designations for state offices are approved by the Secretary of State’s office; for local candidates, he and the Registrar review the designations to ensure they comply with the Elections Code. Local offices have no term limits, and in some small districts, the same people have served for more than 10 years because no one runs against them.

Mr. Miller showed a PowerPoint presentation he is working on to use for candidate training purposes, and asked for feedback. He has considered holding a “candidates” night to educate people who might be interested in running for public office. Members gave feedback about simplifying some of the wording, clarifying some of the concepts, and revising some of the formatting.

May 5th Special Election

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of a vote-by-mail report for the election.  She pointed out that because of the new law, postmark +3, the Department processed 26 vote-by-mail ballots that were postmarked timely and received within three days after the election.

Review Proposed Goals & Objectives for 2015

The Committee reviewed revisions to the 2015 goals that were made since the April meeting, and also discussed the question of whether or not the Elections Department should pay for postage on all returned vote-by-mail ballots.  Mr. Richard distributed summaries from two academic articles addressing the topic of vote by mail. The study, Who Votes By Mail? suggests that efforts to promote vote-by-mail primarily makes it easier for current voters to participate but does not necessarily mobilize nonvoters, thus increasing the gap between routine voters and those who don’t vote. Promoting vote-by-mail can be one-sided if not combined with outreach to nonvoters.

The following goals and objectives were revised based on suggestions from the April meeting.

Goals & Objectives

Under Goal 2—Voter Outreach, objectives two and three were revised, and objective four was added. The objectives now read:

  • Review current efforts and hold brainstorming session to develop new ideas.
  • Continue to develop events associated with voter registration, such as National Voter Registration Day.
  • Review Dr. Bergman’s analysis of voters who are eligible to vote but not registered. The report is scheduled to be completed before the end of June 2015.
  • Identify ways to measure registration rate (percentage of eligible voters who register to vote) and turnout rate (percentage of registered voters who vote) by racial and socioeconomic demographic group, in order to measure the success of outreach efforts to under-served communities.

Under Goal 3—Voter Education, objective four was revised and objective five was added. The objectives now read:

  • Clarify and simplify informational pages in the voter information pamphlet.
  • Create additional pages for the voter information pamphlet to build voter confidence.
  • Invite speakers from specific community groups to talk about voter education.
  • Discuss ways to involve the media in educating voters, such as using community media Center of Marin.
  • Continue to educate voters about their option to vote by mail and track their ballot online.

Objective five is the same as specified for 2014. Members had nothing else to add at this time.

Before moving on to a discussion about paying postage for all returned vote-by-mail ballots, a question was asked about when to evaluate goals and check progress since there are only three meetings left this year, and not much work has been done. Ms. Roberts suggested that these goals carry forward through next year, and make this a two-year process. Future agendas will include specific goals and objectives to be discussed.

Vote-by-Mail Return Postage

Members then discussed the question of whether or not the Elections Department should pay postage for all returned vote-by-mail ballots. Ms. Roberts distributed a packet containing information she presented to the Board of Supervisors at the mid-year budget meeting, and information provided at prior Election Advisory Committee meetings (survey of counties currently paying return postage, potential cost, graphs showing trend in vote-by-mail voting). Ms. Roberts said she is taking a neutral position on this issue, but wanted to “play Devil’s advocate” before opening the discussion. She pointed out that even though Marin County does not pay return postage for all the vote-by-mail ballots, we still have a higher vote-by-mail percentage than San Francisco, which does pay return postage.

The Committee Members provided their comments.

  • Ballots with non-sufficient postage are being delivered and not returned to the voter, so voters aren’t being lost.
  • Paying the return postage may bring in more ballots prior to Election Day, and lessen the number of ballots dropped at polling places on Election Day.
  • Having fewer ballots dropped at polling places could benefit the Elections Department since they could count more prior to the election with fewer to count after the election.
  • Paying the return postage may not affect the number of voters, but could benefit the Elections Department.  Is it worth the cost?
  • Voters may prefer dropping their ballot in the mail rather than taking it to a polling place.
  • A pilot program would provide useful information.
  • Conducting a pilot program could be risky since it could create an impression that postage will be paid going forward.
  • Maybe most people take their ballot to the polling place on Election Day because they complete their ballot the day before the election.
  • Members expressed their ambivalence about paying all return postage, due to the ongoing cost. Funds spent on postage could perhaps be better used on outreach efforts.
  • The Elections Department would need to weigh whether the possibility of reducing the number of ballots coming in after the election is worth the ongoing cost.

Ms. Roberts learned recently about legislation that was introduced this year that if passed, would require counties to pay the return postage on all vote-by-mail ballots (AB 800). As of May 14th, AB 800 has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Suspense File because it has a fiscal impact; the bill may be heard later. AB 800 could potentially be a reimbursable mandate. Given that, Ms. Roberts has questions about whether or not claims for reimbursement would be honored from counties that voluntarily implemented the program prior to the mandate.

Mr. Eilerman pointed out that the legislative process requires decisions to be made by the end of July or early August, so the Election Advisory Committee could have more information by their August meeting. Ms. Roberts suggested that postmark +3 will provide useful information after the November election.

The Committee Members decided that this issue should be discussed again when more members are present and the advocates have an opportunity to express their points of view.

Ms. Roberts will agendize this topic for the August meeting.

Review/Revise Annual Report News Release

The Committee reviewed the draft news release. Ms. Roberts asked if at least one member would provide a quote. Ms. Woods volunteered. Ms. Hagen suggested adding a sentence stating that the Committee works from the citizens’ point of view to make improvements to the process by offering suggestions and assisting with outreach. The County’s Public Information Officer will review the release before it is finalized.

Members suggested that a copy of the annual report should be given to the Marin County Independent Journal, and copies should be given to the city libraries (Sausalito, Larkspur, Mill Valley, San Anselmo, and Tiburon/Belvedere). The report can also be used in outreach efforts.

Other Business

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of an outline summarizing current-year legislation focused on vote-by-mail, electronic ballot transmission, voter registration, and early voting.

In response to a question raised about the recent mosquito district election, Ms. Roberts provided information about Proposition 218, which was the procedure used in this election.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, August 14, 2015.

April 17, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, April 17, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, April 17, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Veda Florez, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Morgan Kelley, Mark Kyle, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Maddy Ruvolo, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, and Colleen Ksanda


Lynda Roberts opened the meeting.

Report about Voces de Marin

Veda Florez gave a brief overview about her presentation at the March 20th meeting of the Voces de Marin. Ms. Florez works with the Elections Department as the Community Outreach Coordinator. She attends meetings and events to talk about voter registration and work with the Latino community. Marin Kids First sponsors the Voces de Marin monthly meetings, and this is a good way to reach the Latino community.

Ms. Florez distributed a copy of her presentation, which focused on ways to get involved. She wanted people to leave with some tools so they could better understand civic engagement and the variety of ways in which they can get involved. For example, the League of Women Voters pays $35 for a person to attend and observe a public meeting, and write a follow-up report. People, including non-voters, can also be influencers by joining a group, communicating with others, and organizing their neighborhoods. Ms. Florez also talked about vote-by-mail, and how it gives people about 30 days to review the issues before voting.

She received good feedback from meeting participants, and several people took voter registration cards or used her iPad to register online. She has been invited to make another presentation at the September meeting, and plans to talk about National Voter Registration Day.

Mr. Kyle suggested that permanent vote-by-mail forms could be available at these types of meetings. There is a vote-by-mail application posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Ms. Hatheway suggested that the information in Ms. Florez’s handout be posted on the Elections Department website.

June Meeting Date

Ms. Roberts canceled the June 19th meeting in order to attend a professional education program addressing voter participation. She suggested scheduling a meeting for August 14th instead, and the Committee agreed that this date will work.

May 5th Special Election Update

Ballots were mailed on April 6th; so far 56 ballots have been returned. The logic and accuracy test of the equipment is scheduled for April 23rd, 3:00 p.m. in the Elections Office. The Elections Code specifies that qualified political parties may have two representatives attend, and any bona fide association of citizens may have two representatives attend. Since the Elections Advisory Committee meets these criteria, Ms. Roberts invited Members to attend, but clarified that if anyone from the public wanted to watch, they would be welcomed.

A question was asked about return postage on the ballots for this election. Ms. Roberts explained that since it is only vote-by-mail, the County would pay the return postage since there is no polling place in the precinct.

Open Source Initiative

The Committee reviewed information about California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO) joining Open Source Initiative. [CAVO secretary, Brent Turner, gave a presentation at the Committee’s September 2014 meeting.] A question was asked about security of open source code based on the definition given by Open Source Initiative. Mr. Richard explained that open source means people with the technical skill can access the code and test its accuracy by running independent tests. Dr. Peisert concurred and added that people can look at the code and offer suggestions to make it more secure. A smaller code base is easier to review than code for a big system. Software bugs can also be points of vulnerability, in which case the vendor designs a “patch” to fix the problem. There are a number of people working on the issue of open source software, and when a credible solution becomes available, it will be widely known.

Ms. Woods expressed her concern with proprietary software since it is only available to a small group of people. In this case, regular top-to-bottom reviews could detect issues that need to be addressed. In addition to the technical and academic communities working on this issue, citizen groups could provide valuable feedback.

Revise Draft of 2014 Annual Report

The Committee reviewed the report and Members suggested including a summary of the goals that were accomplished, those in progress, and those still needing to be addressed. Also, more details are needed about National Voter Registration Day outreach.

The digital divide is a problem for voter education, but Smart Voter is a good tool because it doesn’t require high-speed internet access. We should promote Smart Voter.

Libraries have internet access, and many people have smart phones.

The Committee should stay focused on local objectives and work on goals we have control over.

Voting System

The Committee reviewed the survey of counties, which shows the timing of when counties intend to purchase new equipment and how central count impacts their election night process.

Central counting of ballots will require a strict chain of custody for ballot transfer from polling places to the Elections Department.

Having statewide standards would be beneficial. Information should flow from the county level to the state.

There are systems that serve all voters with one piece of equipment since the ADA component is included as part of the regular machine. All ballots can be counted on the same machine.

Ms. Ksanda talked about the ADA equipment currently used by the Elections Department. Before the department purchased the Automark system, voters with disabilities were invited to test the equipment. The difficulty of having a combined machine is that it is not available to accept ballots while being used in ADA mode. The machine may not be available for up to 45 minutes depending on the length of the ballot. Also, a combined machine would require different logistics at the polling place since ADA machines must allow for privacy.

Ms. Roberts distributed a copy of the proposed subcommittee membership list, including its purpose and goal. Members suggested that the subcommittee meet just prior to regular Election Advisory Committee meetings so they can give a report.

Motor Voter Update

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of a press release from the Secretary of State’s Office announcing Secretary Padilla’s intent to sponsor a bill modeled after Oregon’s new Motor Voter law. The California New Motor Voter Act would register every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles to get a license, or renew one, and would protect the public’s right to privacy and provide the option to opt out of registration.

The Committee talked about potential implementation issues, such as: DMV’s interest in doing the job and whether or not they have budget capacity; re-registering people when they move; how to verify citizenship; and impacts to party registration since decline to state will be the default. This is a concrete step to increasing voter registration, and will potentially increase the workload for the Elections Department.

In addition to this proposed legislation, Ms. Roberts let the Members know that legislation pertaining to sending all voters a live ballot with their voter information booklet is gaining traction. One concern expressed by elections officials is that this will make every registered voter a provisional voter if they don’t bring their ballot and envelope to the polling places.

Other business

There was no other business.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, May 15, 2015.

March 20, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, March 20, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, March 20, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Ora Hatheway, Morgan Kelley, Jeanne Leoncini, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Maddy Ruvolo, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, Colleen Ksanda, and Caroline Foster


Lynda Roberts opened the meeting.

Change meeting dates

The Committee considered whether or not to hold meetings this year in May and June rather than July and August since many people are out of town during the summer months. The dates would be Friday, May 15 and Friday, June 19. The Committee decided to make this schedule change and cancel the July and August meetings. Ms. Roberts said this works well for her schedule, too, since the change will accommodate the work that starts in July and August for the November election.

Report on Future of California Elections (FOCE) Conference

Maddy Ruvolo gave a presentation about her impressions from the conference. She touched on three aspects that were discussed: youth, people with disabilities, and people of color.

Youth Vote. Issues surrounding the question of why young people don’t vote include a lack of connection with the candidates; feeling that issues are not pertinent to their lives; voting was not talked about while they were growing up; they move frequently; they don’t have all the information; and they are not familiar with the mechanics of voting, for example, where to vote and not understanding that they don’t have to vote for everything on the ballot. Solutions include improving civics education; offering voter registration when students register for college classes; and increasing student involvement in the process.

People of Color. Issues with this group include language barriers and a lack of trust that elected officials will change their lives. Possible solutions include automatic registration, education about how voting helps shape policies, and a more informed electorate.

People with Disabilities. Vote-by-mail does not work for everyone; other issues include inaccessible polling places and inaccessible voting information (these are general issues and not specific to Marin County). Solutions include using plain language and providing accessible technology, such as using MP3 files on websites.

Summary of Possible Solutions. Educate voters about why their vote counts; remove barriers; provide legitimate information about accessible polling places; allow more access on college campuses for voter registration, such as allowing students to go door-to-door in the dorms; and print the Voters Bill of Rights in the information guide. Even though there is a lot of exposure of candidates for president, the same is not true for candidates in local elections.

Ms. Roberts reviewed highlights of comments made by Secretary of State Padilla at the conference. He talked about flexibility being important to reducing obstacles, and outlined several things he is considering, such as including colleges as NVRA agencies (National Voter Registration Act) so they would be required to offer voter registration; working with CalTrans to promote election information on their electronic road signs; promoting participation by working with media on public service announcements; considering other types of voting, such as ranked choice; and considering weekend voting. Counties will be getting another HAVA grant (Help American Vote Act) to assist with accessibility, with focus specifically on making websites accessible.

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of a resource list that was published in the FOCE conference program.

Report on March 3rd Special Election (Stinson Beach)

Colleen Ksanda worked at the polling place in Stinson Beach and talked about her experience. Since she is responsible for recruiting polling places and poll workers, this was a good opportunity to refresh her knowledge of poll work. Ms. Ksanda’s election assistant, Norleen Kocen, also worked at the polling place, as did Ms. Kocen’s husband. Ms. Ksanda held poll worker training that the Kocen’s attended, which was beneficial for Ms. Kocen since she helps recruit poll workers for big elections.

Ms. Ksanda used the Election Day opportunity to recruit potential poll workers for West Marin, which is the most difficult area to find poll workers. She tries to get local people involved first rather than hiring people outside the community, which presents problems due to the long hours and the drive to Stinson Beach that is somewhat dangerous. High school students are also good recruits, but they generally serve for only one election because they graduate and move on. Her strategy for recruiting poll workers during the March 3rd election was to have treats and recruitment forms on the same table; five voters expressed interest and took a form. Ms. Ksanda learned that Tuesday is hard for people to work at the polls because it is a community hiking day. She let them know they can work half the day. At the end of election night (in a big election), a Sheriff’s Deputy picks up the Accuvote machine and ballots so the poll workers don’t have to drive to San Rafael.

Committee Members suggested more consolidation of precincts, if possible, and contacting local elected boards for recruitment help, such as the Stinson Beach Water Board. Ms. Ksanda pointed out that every attempt must be made to hire a precinct board, consisting of 3-4 poll workers, before closing the polling place due to lack of interest.

Ms. Roberts distributed a copy of the Vote by Mail and Provisional Ballot Report. She pointed out that ten ballots were returned timely under the new law (postmarked on or before Election Day and received within three days after the election), and zero ballots were received too late. She referred to the November 2014 election that had 561 ballots returned too late for processing. Had the new law been in effect for the November election, potentially 507 ballots would have been processed (assuming they had a timely postmark), and only 54 would have been received too late.

May 5th Special Election Key Dates

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the Election Facts and Key Dates, and said this will be an all vote-by-mail election. The sample ballot booklet has notices throughout that there is no polling place for this election.

Review draft of 2014 Annual Report

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the Draft Annual Report for 2014. Since she did not start until July of 2014, she used the 2013 report as a guide and gleaned information from the list of proposed goals for 2014 and the 2014 meeting minutes in order to create the draft report. She referred to one objective on page 2 (of 5) in the Goals and Objectives detail report. While researching accomplishments, she could not find any actions specifically directed at public housing, and asked for feedback. Ora Hatheway said she could provide information about this objective.

Ms. Roberts’ intent for this meeting was to provide a copy of the draft report and get Committee feedback at the next meeting.

Review Goals and Objectives for 2015

Ms. Roberts distributed a copy of the proposed goals and objectives for 2015. As suggested at a prior EAC meeting, Ms. Roberts listed the two goals identified by staff for which they would like help from the Election Advisory Committee. Referring to Goal 1, forming a subcommittee to assist with creating a request for proposals for a new voting system, Ms. Roberts outlined her ideas about what the subcommittee would accomplish, and asked for input. Members suggested that the subcommittee could interview vendors when the time comes.

Regarding outreach efforts, Committee Members suggested inviting groups to attend meetings and provide feedback that will assist with creating meaningful outreach efforts. Committee Members talked about adding more goals, similar to those in past years. Specifically, they would like a goal to address voter education.

Ms. Roberts will revise the proposed list of goals, and agendize a discussion for the next meeting.

Follow-up from meeting of February 20, 2015

  • Broaden scope of committee membership. Ms. Hatheway talked about two new members she is recommending, Kim Ngo and Martha Vega, and distributed information describing their backgrounds with civic engagement. Ms. Ngo works with the Marin Asian Advocacy Project and Ms. Vega works with the ELAC/Tenants’ Voice Council. Ms. Roberts will follow-up with Ms. Ngo and Ms. Vega by inviting them to participate on the committee.
  • Voting system update. Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the updated features list that combines feedback from the Elections Office Team, the Election Advisory Committee, and the Town/City Clerks. She also contacted other counties about this issue, and will compile a list of responses.

Committee members raised some questions for consideration: Will the new software need to be integrated with other systems that are part of the counting process? Are there features of the current system the Team wants to change? Can the Team streamline the process with a new voting system? Different kinds of elections present different levels of work.

Ms. Roberts plans to agendize this topic for discussion at the next meeting. Sean Peisert will have some information available by the June meeting for a discussion about central counting of ballots vs. ballot counting at polling places.

Discussion items brought by Committee Members

Committee Members suggested discussing several election-related articles. Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the articles.

Article #1: LA’s low voter numbers push state officials toward easing process.
This article refers to proposed legislation introduced by Senator Hertzberg, SB 163. This bill proposes requiring county elections officials to issue a vote-by-mail ballot to every registered voter in the county for statewide primary, special and general elections.

There could be advantages of having a live vote-by-mail ballot in the information booklet.
This change would require an enormous amount of voter education.
This would work well with vote centers.
Vote-by-mail does not guarantee a private, independent vote for all voters with disabilities.
Transportation to vote centers could become an issue for people with disabilities.
Elections staff in Santa Cruz travels to hospitals and living centers to assist people.
Perhaps the nonprofit community could be engaged to help provide voting assistance.
There is not a lot of data about people with disabilities because it is not on the registration form.
Perhaps a roving van could be used to take voting to people with disabilities.

Articles #2, 3, 4: Officials seek ways to boost L.A. County’s voter turnout; Oregon governor signs sweeping automatic voter registration into law; Under new Oregon law, all eligible voters are registered unless they opt out.

In Tacoma Park, Maryland, 16 year olds can vote in municipal elections.
Secretary of State Padilla is interested in looking at various solutions, and will be going to Denver in May to observe their election and see how vote centers work.

Other business

There was no other business.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, April 17, 2015.

February 20, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, February 20, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, February 20, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Barbara Gaman, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Morgan Kelley, Jeanne Leoncini, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Maddy Ruvolo, Steve Silberstein.

Representing the CAO’s Office: Dan Eilerman

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts, Colleen Ksanda, and Melvin Briones


Ms. Roberts opened the meeting.

Review of the communities and interests that Committee Members represent

In order to better understand the Committee’s diversity, Ms. Roberts asked each member how long they have served, what aspect of the community they represent, and/or what prompted their interest in serving on the committee.

Members have served anywhere between a few months and since the inception of the committee about eight years ago. Members represent a variety of viewpoints that include the disability community; central committees and political parties (specifically Peace and Freedom, Republican, Democratic); League of Women Voters; low income, public housing, elderly, and culturally diverse communities; and geographic areas within the county. Personal reasons for serving include interest in the following: Election process, political process and legislation; acting as a formal or informal conduit of information for their town or community; discussing particular issues such as vote by mail, enhancing the ease of voting, election reform, and voting equipment; and connecting research with election process in order to inform and facilitate problem solving.

From the perspective of the Elections Department, the committee is a beneficial way to engage with the community and discuss issues pertinent to voters.

Members suggested broadening representation by inviting participation from the Marin City/Sausalito area, the college/youth community, the Libertarian and Green parties, the Canal, and the West Marin farming community.

New Voting System

Ms. Roberts gave a brief overview of discussions to date about voting equipment.

  • One new system has been conditionally certified by the Secretary of State; the Department’s current vendor is working toward a June 2015 certification of new equipment.
  • The election staff created a list of required/desired features in a new system, and talked about the pros and cons of counting ballots at the polling places versus counting ballots at the elections office (central count). Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the draft list.
  • At the January meeting with the Registrar, City/Town Clerks provided the following feedback: Many people still prefer to vote at a polling place and have their ballot counted at that time; consider the public perception of changing to a central count process; some people would be concerned about what happens to their ballot if it is not put through a counting machine at their polling place.
  • Ms. Roberts distributed an outline summarizing discussions the Election Advisory Committee had at their January, February, April and July meetings in 2014.

The Committee discussed the issue:

  • Vote by mail is increasing so it appears that the public has more trust in the system; however, vote by mail does not guarantee a private and independent vote for people with disabilities. Vote by mail should be one choice, but there should also be an option to vote in person.
  • Regarding the timetable, how much longer will the current equipment function? Can the department revamp the old equipment? Mr. Briones said the memory cards used to store and tally the votes are no longer manufactured, and there will be more failure as time goes on. However, the department has a supply that should keep the equipment functional for the next two-three years.
  • Keep in touch with legislation regarding vote centers, equipment certifications, and precinct consolidation. Follow trends in vote by mail; at what percentage of turnout can polling places be phased out? How will vote by mail impact the purchase of new equipment?
  • Considerations regarding central count: Issues include slower results (how much later on election night?), more staff required at the central location, possible problems with jamming and adjudication, location of scanners. But the Department could use trained poll workers to assist, and possibly break up the workload so different people are doing different parts of the process. A central count system seems more economically feasible. Determine the cost/benefit ratio of having a central count location; weigh the options and consider the priorities.
  • In order to comply with federal requirements, an accessible voting machine is required at each polling place. Having an all-in-one machine could cause a problem for voters.
  • How easy will it be to integrate a new system with other systems, such as creation of ballots and rosters?
  • Polling places create a chain of custody for the ballots with the machine tape accounting for ballots cast. There is value in having a chain of custody. Without counting equipment at polling places, consider safeguards such as assigning poll workers randomly to polling places.
  • Can electronic rosters be purchased separately from equipment?
  • Maintain paper ballots.

Ms. Roberts reviewed her proposed action plan: Discuss the issue with elections department staff and the Election Advisory Committee to develop a list of required/desired features, and review the pros and cons of a central counting procedure. Form a subcommittee consisting of members from the Elections Department, Finance and Purchasing Departments, members of the Election Advisory Committee, and possibly a member of the CAO’s office and a County Supervisor. Using the initial discussions with staff and EAC as a starting point, the subcommittee would discuss procedural changes involving a central count option, develop a request for proposals, and schedule equipment demonstrations. The final phase would include reviewing the options with the Board of Supervisors for their direction prior to completing the RFP.

Committee members suggested that Ms. Roberts ask other counties how they plan to approach the purchase of a new voting system. Would it be possible to have a combined RFP to take advantage of economies of scale?

Mr. Piesart, Mr. Richard, and Ms. Layzer volunteered to be part of the subcommittee.

Goals for 2015

The Elections Department staff would like the Committee’s assistance with two goals:

  1. Developing an RFP for a new voting system.
  2. Discussing outreach efforts to eligible voters who are not registered. Elizabeth Bergman is in the process of reviewing data about people who are eligible to vote but are not registered. Her analysis should be completed by the end of June.

Ms. Roberts received a call from John Ortega about an ad hoc committee he wants to create; he wondered if anyone on the Election Advisory Committee would be interested in being a member. He wants to discuss innovative ideas to improve voter turnout.

Ms. Hatheway suggested adding a goal about moving to electronic rosters. She also suggested creating a subcommittee to discuss the youth vote.


  • Future of California Elections, conference February 18-19. Ms. Roberts said a diverse group of people attended the conference, including registrars as well as people representing a variety of interests such as accessibility and the youth vote. Participants expressed a lot of concern about the low turnout in November 2014. Ms. Roberts will compile her notes and present more information at the next meeting. Ms. Ruvolo also attended the conference. She said that social media can be used to involve youth, but it needs to be done well. Generally, the youth population thinks their votes don’t matter, and even if they vote, things will stay the same.
  • Vote by Mail Voters. Ms. Roberts distributed a chart showing changes over time in the number of vote-by-mail voters in Marin County.
  • Annual report for 2014. Ms. Roberts has started creating the draft report, and will bring it to the committee as soon as possible.

Other business

  • Ms. Roberts distributed copies of election facts and key dates for the Stinson Beach Flood Control District special election on March 3rd.
  • Nicasio School District is holding a special election on May 5th to consider a parcel tax. This will be mail only and there are approximately 400 voters.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, March 20, 2015.

January 16, 2015

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, January 16, 2015, 9:30 AM
Room 324A, Marin Civic Center


A meeting of the Election Advisory Committee was held on Friday, January 16, 2015, in Room 324A of the Marin Civic Center. The following members were present: Greg Brockbank, Veda Florez, Barbara Gaman, Bonnie Glaser, Marcia Hagen, Ora Hatheway, Morgan Kelley, Mark Kyle, Bob Richard, Maddy Ruvolo, Steve Silberstein.

Representing the Elections Office: Lynda Roberts and Colleen Ksanda


Ms. Roberts welcomed the committee members and thanked everyone for attending. She acknowledged Elaine Ginnold, retired Registrar of Voters, who was present to talk about her recent experience in Ukraine observing their election.


Sample Ballot Booklet revised pages. Based on committee members’ suggestions from a prior meeting, Ms. Roberts revised informational pages used in the sample ballot booklet. She distributed copies of the pages and reviewed the changes. The Registrar will review additional suggestions about adding dates and revising language on the Voting by Mail page.

At the meeting of December 19, 2014, members asked three questions:

How many vote-by-mail ballots were received each day for the November election? Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the report Ballots Received by Date. She pointed out that prior to October 6th, the ballots received were from overseas and military voters, and ballots “received” from November 5-13 were provisional ballots and vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling places on election night and processed after the election. The ballots listed as received on November 24, were those received too late to be counted.

Do campaigns have to complete a separate request form each time they request updated information about who has already voted? For an initial request, a person must file the appropriate form(s) and pay the fee; thereafter, updates are provided for $15.00.

When ballots are mailed in Marin County, are they processed in Oakland or San Francisco? Vote-by-mail ballots mailed in Marin County by voters are processed through San Francisco.


Elaine Ginnold, invited guest speaker, talked about her experience observing a recent election in Ukraine. She applied with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to participate as an observer. The OSCE is comprised of all the countries in West and Central Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, Canada, and the United States. One of the jobs of the OSCE is to observe elections in emerging democracies. When an election is held by modern standards and runs smoothly, the populace has more confidence in the mandate that results from the election. The recent election in Ukraine was very important because of the unrest that has occurred in the country.

Ms. Ginnold gave an overview of the history of Ukraine. The western part of the country has typically identified with Europe, whereas the east has identified with Russia. This split continues into the present day. The struggles over the Crimean Peninsula and Russia’s claim to this area date back to Katherine the Great. Russia does not want to give up Crimea since it is a seaport.

The October 26, 2014, election that she observed was to elect members to parliament. Half of the 450 members are elected nationwide by party, with the number of party seats assigned proportional to the votes for that party. The other half are elected in single constituencies. Certain areas in the east did not participate in the election, including Crimea.

The OSCE had 600 observers present; the number of total observers from inside and outside the country equaled 1,500. The OSCE observers spent two days in Kiev attending briefing sessions that included a review of the political situation and security. Teams of 25 were then deployed to various areas, and from there, teams of two were sent to observe in specific towns. The teams consisted of a male and female observer from different countries, along with an interpreter and a driver. All proceedings were conducted in English.

The election system is conducted similarly to the United States but is overseen by a countrywide election commission, district and precinct commissions. Ms. Ginnold showed a series of slides and videos from a polling place. All campaigning stops 48 hours prior to the election. There is no voting by mail, but they have mobile voting using small ballot boxes for people who can’t leave their homes. There are only candidates on the ballot; no initiatives. Poll workers are selected by party members using a lottery system; all parties need the opportunity to be represented. Poll workers, mostly women, are paid a decent wage and they have a professional level of conduct. People are allowed time off from their jobs to work at the polls and each polling place has at least 12 poll workers. Polls are open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Ukraine has a passive registration system, meaning people are automatically registered when they turn 18; the central government keeps the list. The turnout for the October election was 52%.

At the October election, OSCE observers watched the preparations the day before, and observed the opening and closing of polls. The process was very orderly, there was an atmosphere of participation, and people were happy to see the observers since their presence helps prevent problems. The ballots were counted manually, which took about six hours. Ms. Ginnold showed a video of the ballots being dumped onto a table for tallying, and showed a video of the receiving center. People at the receiving center checked to make sure ballots and tally sheets balanced, and then entered the results into a computer. Most tally sheets did not balance due to innocent discrepancies such as transposed numbers. It took three days to process the ballots, and two weeks to determine the results.

Ukraine is a poor country that has not recovered from prior wars so there is a lot of anxiety and tension. The two winners in the election were western oriented. The current president wants to join the European Union, and has started that process. Ukraine needs aid and trade from the EU.

The election was transparent. Poll workers were meticulous and they were determined to have a legitimate election. As a whole, the observers reported that the process was very positive.

Follow-up (continued)

At the December 19th meeting, members asked about payment of postage for all return vote-by-mail ballots. Since the last meeting, Ms. Roberts conducted a survey of other counties and distributed a copy of the results. Of the 37 counties for which information was provided, only 2 pay return postage—Alpine County, which is only vote-by-mail, and San Francisco. San Francisco’s decision was based on a change in voting systems in the year 2000 that resulted in multi-card ballots. Ms. Roberts pointed out that in this past November election, the vote-by-mail turnout in San Francisco County was 58.91% and the vote-by-mail turnout in Marin County was 71.01%. She also mentioned that the Marin County elections department mails an Application for Permanent Vote by Mail Status card to newly registered voters who don’t select the VBM option. The department is preparing to mail cards to 845 voters.

Review of the communities that Committee Members represent

This topic was deferred due to time constraints, but will be the first agenda item for the February meeting.

Highlight of new election laws for 2015

In addition to the laws listed below, Ms. Roberts distributed a page from the Fall 2014 issue of Common Cause (provided by Mr. Brockbank) listing Common Cause bills signed into law, which include SB 1253 (Ballot Initiative Transparency Act); SB 29 (Postmark on Vote by Mail Ballots); SB 113 (Voter Pre-Registration); and SB 844 (Campaign Finance Disclosure).

  • AB 1440. District Boundaries: Public Hearing. Requires a political subdivision that changes from an at-large method of election to a district-based election to hold at least 2 public hearings.
  • AB 1446. Voter Registration. Requires people or organizations distributing voter registration cards to obtain the cards from the county elections official or Secretary of State. Requires information on the card to be kept confidential.
  • AB 2551. Local Ballot Measures: Bond Issues. Requires the statement to include the best estimate from official sources of the total debt service (including principal and interest) that would be required to be repaid if all the bonds are issued and sold.
  • SB 29. Vote-by-Mail Ballots/Election Results Statements. Postmark +3
    VBM ballot is timely cast if postmarked on or before Election Day and delivered by USPS or bona fide private mail delivery no later than 3 days after the election. VBM processing can begin 10 business days prior to the election. Certified statement of the results is due within 30 days of the election.
  • SB 113. Voter Registration. Lowers the minimum age for purposes of submitting an affidavit of registration to 16 years of age.

Members asked how AB 1446 might impact organizations that pay people for registering voters. Ms. Roberts said she would email the committee members a copy of the complete bill for their review.

Goals for 2015

At next month’s meeting, Ms. Roberts said she would like to talk about goals for the upcoming year. Mr. Brockbank suggested the committee could assist the elections department staff with goals they identify as being important, or goals the election association may have. Ms. Roberts will discuss this at the next staff meeting and will provide information next month.

Discussing the purchase of a new voting system will definitely be a goal for the year, and this will include a discussion about counting ballots at polling places versus counting them at a central count location. Ms. Roberts also mentioned that voter outreach is an important goal and Elizabeth Bergman is working on a report about eligible voters who are not registered.

Ms. Roberts distributed copies of the goals from 2014, and said she will work on the annual report. Since she came in mid-year, it will take time to research the work that has been done in achieving or making progress on these goals.

Other business

Ms. Roberts said Brent Turner of CAVO called to enquire about the committee’s follow-up discussion. She let him know that at this point they are taking a wait-and-see approach. Mr. Brockbank had a copy of the resolution adopted by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. It addresses collaboration and open-source voting systems, but does not mention CAVO.

Ms. Florez requested a chart showing the change over time in VBM turnout.

The meeting adjourned at 11:25 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, February 20, 2015.