2022 Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Elections

 

September 16 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, September 16, 2022, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

Attendees:

Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Sean Peisert

Elections Department:
Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Megan Stone, Elections Technician, Danny Straub, Elections Technician

Visitors:
Becky Bingea, League of Women Voters of Marin County

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

Community Virtual Workshop

The November 8 General Election Community Workshop is scheduled for September 29 at 6 p.m. and is open to the public to learn about how voting works in Marin County and to get important information about the upcoming election. The workshop will be virtual via Zoom and will be captioned. Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish, Vietnamese, ASL and CDI interpreters will also be available.

Guest Speaker – Jenny Sowry

Lynda Roberts introduced Ms. Sowry.

Jenny has been working in the election space since 1996-1997 when she worked in post-war Bosnia with OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) as an election officer. When she returned, she soon after signed up to be a poll worker with Marin County and has been working with elections ever since—in the office and at the polling centers. When elections were less frequent, Jenny worked as a nonprofit Executive Director in Uganda with women’s capacity-building programs. Currently, she is on contract with IFES—International Foundation for Electoral Systems, a Washington D.C. based 501( c )( 3 ) organization. She is the Election Program Coordinator managing the gender equity and disability Inclusion program, media and civic awareness. Jenny is a graduate of NYU and University of Pacific where she received her Master’s in Intercultural Communication.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) was established in 1987, is based in Washington, D.C., and has been operating in Papua New Guinea (PNG) since 2012. The international team acts in an advisory role. The organization is funded through grants, mostly by the Australian Government—PNG’s closest neighbor.

Presentation
  • PNG consists of islands with diverse geography and population and operates as a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Elections are held every five years.
  • Election challenges include geography due to the number of islands; no separation of church and state; election disputes; loopholes in election law; gender equity issues; inadequate funding for women candidates; violence due to miscommunication and disinformation; corruption; strong police presence and over-reach; limited time for voter registration; and the understaffing and underfunding of the PNG Election Commission.
  • The system of voting is Limited Preferential Voting (LPV), which means people have the option to choose three candidates. There are many instances where community elders seize the ballots and fill in choice one and allow people to make their second and third choices. Counting is a manual process, which takes a long time, and often there is violence during the process. Observers are allowed but they don’t have clearly defined roles.
  • The church has a big influence. During an incidence of violence in the last election, church leaders produced a video with a message about unity, rule of law, and letting democracy move forward. Media was also engaged to mitigate the violence—violence that included burning ballots in some of the remote areas.
  • Change will have to come from within; outsiders can only help with awareness.

Comparing her experience in PNG with her election experience in Marin County, Ms. Sowry pointed out differences that aren’t present in PNG, including systems of quality control, continuous voter registration, transparency, accessibility for people with disabilities, access to election staff, and governance.

Questions/Discussion

How do people feel about the system of voting?

  • Corruption is rampant; people turn out to vote for many different reasons and can be bribed while waiting in line to vote. The voting experience varies depending on the region in the country—some areas are more peaceful. People are seeing that change needs to happen; youth are becoming more interested so this may help—there was an increase of youth voters in the past election.

How long is the voting period?

  • The voting period is two and a half weeks. It is lengthy due to security issues and transportation between islands—logistics between islands hasn’t been established.

Are systems being set-up for female candidates?

  • The UN is active in supporting the women in parliament and there is a movement to have a quota system for women candidates. Two women were recently elected.

Does the power structure in the country tolerate elections or embrace them?

  • The process is fragile with different approaches and understanding of democracy in the various regions, hence support from Australia. The power structure didn’t speak out against the violence in the recent election. The matriarchal areas are pushing for stronger systems and media is strong and supposedly not controlled by government. However, there are encroaching influences from China.

Do the two women parliamentarians receive support?

  • At the time of the election, people didn’t necessarily understand that having two women would be effective—there is a need for understanding and information exchange. There is also low morale when women lose their seats after being told by the community that they will get support. Ms. Sowry plans to organize a support system for the two women parliamentarians and wants to share information with the candidates that weren’t successful.

Is there any interest in introducing legislation to tighten election law?

  • Yes, there is an interest and those in parliament see a need for reform. It will take time.

What can we learn about our elections from Ms. Sowry’s experience?

  • We take things for granted, such as transparency and the importance of encouraging observers. We can be a role model for democracy—there is interest abroad in traveling to America to witness elections. Exchange programs could be worthwhile. Outreach and inclusion are important. The PNG matriarchal communities had more engagement and established election outreach networks.

How does the experience in PNG compare with U.S. history and the violence associated with women’s suffrage?

  • Resistance to change, but violence against women is normalized in PNG.

Are there any plans for a standardized education around civic engagement?

  • A team of university students working with an IFES team led to the development of a university curriculum. There is some interest in extending a curriculum to high schools.

What is the make-up of the IFES team?

  • It is an international group with people from the Balkans, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Canada, United States, Philippines, Bangladesh, and Myanmar that have experience in many elections. There are many legal and technical advisors and local staff are university educated.

How does Ms. Sowry’s experience with election observation in other countries compare to her experience in PNG?

  • Corruption in PNG is overt—she saw ballot box stuffing in other countries, but this corruption is open. It’s acceptable that voting isn’t secret, and it is difficult for women family members to vote their own choices.

What’s next?

  • The IFES team is still in the post-election, lessons-learned phase. Advice includes having a joint security task force to discuss central security and logistics and discuss gender-based violence. Data need to be collected to help develop policy, and there needs to be discussions about gender equity pay and male support/champion programs.

Updates

November election factoids: There are 87 ballot types and staff are working hard on all aspects of ballot preparation. The outreach unit started a partnership with Hearst Corp. for targeted digital ads, which will reach people on mobile devices in targeted languages.

National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 20 and the League of Women Voters of Marin County will hold a tabling event at the Civic Center south entrance.

Other outreach efforts include participating at community organizations’ planned events. Staff will be at a Vivalon event on September 23 during café hours and at the Canal Alliance on September 27 during food pantry hours (staff arranged for Spanish and Vietnamese interpreters to be on site). Staff, along with League of Women Voters of Marin County, will attend Constitution Day at the College of Marin on September 19.

The first training of student ambassadors (Student Election Ambassador Program) was successful; students were very engaged.

The Secretary of State’s office has created a new Voter’s Choice Act ambassador program. Ms. Stone sent an email to committee members.

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, December 16, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

Meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

August 19, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, August 19, 2022, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

Attendees:

  • Nancy Bell
  • Greg Brockbank
  • Robin Diederich
  • Cathleen Dorinson
  • Veda Florez
  • Tom Montgomery
  • Sean Peisert
  • Bob Richard
  • Steve Silberstein

Elections Department:

  • Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters
  • Megan Stone, Elections Technician
  • Danny Straub, Elections Technician

Visitors:

  • Becky Bingea, League of Women Voters of Marin County

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

Outreach Development Programs

Megan Stone outlined plans for the November election outreach.

  • Toolkit: The kit for November will include revisions based on feedback and updates. 
    • Translated and reviewed by VEOAC (Voting Education and Outreach Advisory Committee) members.
    • Being reviewed by the County Digital Access Team.
    • Digital toolkit will be printed and available for physical distribution.
  • Workshops: There will be one virtual workshop with all required languages and ASL and CDI interpreters.
    • The workshop will be scheduled for an evening in September and will be recorded.
  • The outreach team is working with the County Public Information Office to create short, informative videos.
  • The department will notify committees when it is time to share social media content.

Comments:

  • June was a low turnout election so workshops should continue to review the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA).
  • The workshop will use plain terms instead of election jargon, such as VCA, since this confuses people. The focus will be on changes to voting in Marin County.

Danny Straub reviewed his outreach projects.

  • Researching the possibility of creating a Twitter account for the Elections Department, which will help the department build its own brand and will strengthen the community partnerships.
  • Recent speaking engagements:
    • Guest speaker at the Probation Department Career Explorers Program to talk about registering and voting. He also talked about how participants can consider running for office in the future as a way to get involved.
    • He and Ms. Roberts will be speaking at the Novato City Council meeting in October; they will review the new voting model.
  • Working with the League of Women Voters on National Voter Registration Day; they will coordinate with Veda Florez’s efforts.
  • Feedback from the June election indicated that West Marin still needs attention. His goal is to spend a half day in Tomales at the food bank to make a presence in the community due to its geographic isolation.
  • The outreach team is happy with the results of the first mailer. The department did not receive calls from confused voters; callers were engaged. The second mailer will include more information, including vote center and drop box locations.
  • Working on outreach opportunities at the Farmer’s Market and with the Probation Department’s 9/25 that is expanding services to youth. He attended a couple of meetings to observe and better understand outreach opportunities to address voter registration.

Comments:

  • Roberts will be speaking at Wednesday Morning Dialogue in September.
  • Members acknowledged their satisfaction with the first mailer. One suggestion: Instead of telling voters there are fewer locations, which sounds negative, let voters know they can go to any one of 20 locations.
  • Members suggested putting up signs at old polling place locations to assist voters in finding a vote center or drop box.

Ms. Roberts thanked Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub — they are an excellent outreach team.

National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVR) and National Voter Registration Day (NVRD)

Veda Florez outlined her work associated with these upcoming events.

  • National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) is on Tuesday, September 20.
  • National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVR) is the week prior and ends on September 20.
  • Contacting half-way houses and assisted living centers throughout the County and she plans to partner with the library association for NVRD. Libraries are excited to participate. She is also working with community colleges.
  • Continuing with the food bag program by providing flyers to advertise NVRD and NDVR.
  • Plans to focus on second-language speakers in the Canal to help them learn about the importance of registering and voting.

Comments:

  • More information about National Voter Registration Day is available at NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org. It is a nonprofit organization that promotes voter registration around the country. They have been in place for 10 years.
  • org is another resource.
  • Members suggested conducting special outreach to precincts with low turnout.
  • Using social media to promote online voter registration seems to be effective.
  • Registering people can be an opportunity to remind them that voting is an important part of citizenship. It’s also a good time to remind people to sign up for the free ballot-tracking service.

June Election Statistics

Ms. Roberts reviewed June election statistics including Ballottrax (Where’s My Ballot?), voter registration and voter turnout.

Comments:

  • Early turnout at vote centers was low. This could be due to voters’ continued interest in voting on Election Day.

Closing Remarks/Next Meeting

Recruitment has started for the Student Elections Ambassador Program.  Statistics show that

pre-registering students creates life-long voters. Training sessions will be held throughout September and into October.  Ms. Stone asked committee members to pass along this information.

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 16, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

The meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m. 

July 15, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, July 15, 2022, 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

Attendees:

  • Nancy Bell
  • Greg Brockbank
  • Robin Diederich
  • Cathleen Dorinson
  • Bonnie Glaser
  • Sean Peisert
  • Steve Silberstein

Elections Department:

  • Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters
  • Megan Stone, Elections Technician
  • Danny Straub, Elections Technician

Visitors:

  • Becky Bingea, League of Women Voters of Marin County
  • Jessica Martinez, San Joaquin County Elections Department

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

June 2022 Statewide Direct Primary Election

Ms. Roberts reviewed highlights:

  • Turnout statistics: Marin County was tied for 8th highest turnout in the state; counties with the highest turnout were smaller counties located in the eastern part of the state;  the statewide turnout was 33%
  • Implementation of the Voter’s Choice Act was successful
  • The election ran smoothly and there were no major issues; any issues that arose were similar to polling place issues (i.e., workers needing assistance with equipment)
  • A benefit of the vote center model is the near elimination of provisional ballots due to live access of voter records by election workers
  • The Department received positive feedback about the new model from vote center workers and voters; vote center workers also received positive feedback from voters
  • Recruiting for vote center workers is more of an effort through the HR process; it is also a challenge to find workers with the required language skills—especially Chinese and Vietnamese
  • The equipment used at vote centers (laptop computers and ballot printers) presented some training issues due to the extensive amount of time needed to present the information
  • We learned that we need to approach outreach differently

There were no questions so Ms. Roberts turned the meeting over to Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub.

Outreach

Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub reviewed public outreach efforts for the June election and the planned changes for November.

Mr. Straub summarized the June outreach.

  • March kick-off was a virtual meeting with the Secretary of State’s office; over 50 people attended
  • Two direct mailers sent to each registered voter
  • Created an outreach toolkit; outreach partners were important in helping disseminate information; all materials were translated into the required languages—Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese; we will make some revisions to the toolkit and use it again
  • Used public service announcements, radio ads, and paid advertising, including the largest daily newspaper, free weekly newspapers, regional ads, digital ads, e-blasts, and the County’s social media
  • Used an FAQ list to provide consistent information
  • Held in-person and virtual workshops with interpreters provided (language translators and American Sign Language and Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI)
  • Distributed physical materials throughout the County (banners, posters, fact sheets, newsletters, door hangers); focused on hard-to-count census tracts
  • Performing Stars in Marin City took 1,000 door hangers and distributed them door-to-door
  • Focused outreach in West Marin at places where people go

Mr. Straub presented a map showing where outreach materials were distributed throughout the County, including banners, posters, fact sheets, and door hangers.  His efforts focused on underserved areas and hard-to-count census tracts, including camps of unhoused people. County departments located in the Civic Center took outreach materials for their offices as did 9 libraries.

Ms. Stone added that we plan to cover the same areas for November.

Committee Member Cathleen Dorinson distributed outreach materials to popular locations in West Marin from Stinson Beach to Tomales, including grocery stores, delis, well-known telephone poles, and bulletin boards.  She also provided materials to West Marin food banks, wrote several letters to the editor of the Point Reyes Light, and spoke on the local radio station.

Ms. Stone reviewed planned changes for the November campaign. 

  • We are considering lessons learned from June to improve outreach for November; some things will remain the same due to the short timeframe between the June and November elections
  • We will review outreach in more depth after the November election
  • We plan to keep the toolkit the same, revising dates as needed, but there will be no major revisions at this time due to the short timeframe to prepare for November
  • We want to create better attention-getting information for the two direct mailers and we are asking: What gets attention?  What do voters want to know?
  • We plan to simplify the messaging and eliminate election jargon, which will also help make translations easier to understand
  • In addition to mailers, we are required to host workshops with translators
  • Summary of June workshops: We followed models used by other counties; we held one virtual workshop with translators for the three required language communities and the disability community; we held four in-person workshop with translators, one for each community; the workshops were expensive to plan and host and had very low turnout even though community partners helped advertise them; going forward we are considering holding one virtual workshop as we did for June, and then attending events hosted by other organizations
  • We received good feedback from the department’s other advisory committees about being in the community to provide information and “piggy-backing” on community events

Ms. Stone said she appreciates committee members helping spread the message by talking with friends, family and on social media.

Ms. Roberts acknowledged and thanked Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub for their hard work. Committee members also acknowledged their hard work.

Discussion

Members talked about the following:

  • Positive benefits of ballot tracking through Where’s My Ballot
  • Positive observations at vote centers and workers’ enthusiasm
  • Early voting days were slow and Election Day was busy at vote centers (Ms. Stone commented that the Secretary of State’s office plans to work on messaging to encourage early voting)
  • Voter behavior could be related to indecision, confusion about the primary process, uncertainty about which candidates to choose, feeling overwhelmed by too much information
  • More local races will be included in the November general election
  • Outreach opportunities at local events, including the Mountain Play in the spring (possible for a June election); National Voter Registration Day (this year is the 10-year anniversary); working with several organizations to create an event; farmers’ markets; new citizen ceremony in Point Reyes Station (the LWV hopes to have a table at this event)

In response to a question, Ms. Stone provided the following statistics about methods of returning vote-by-mail ballots in the June election:  53,936 returned by mail; 17,926 returned in official drop boxes; 13,228 returned at vote centers.

Ms. Roberts said the department has scheduled a debriefing meeting with the vote center coordinators.

Suggestions
  • Seniors tend to vote in person so directing messaging to them will be helpful
  • Include more eye-catching signage at vote centers that is easy to understand
  • Perhaps vote center locations can help promote their location
  • Use more of the County’s social media platforms to disperse messaging, especially Twitter

Closing Remarks/Next Meeting

Ms. Stone talked briefly about the Student Elections Ambassador Program and asked members to help promote it when they can.  This year will include virtual and in-person training at the end of September.

The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, August 19, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

The meeting adjourned at 11 a.m. 

April 15, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, April 15, 2022, 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Bonnie Glaser, Anne Layzer, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein, Cat Woods.

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Megan Stone, Elections Technician, Danny Straub, Elections Technician, Greg Hayes, Elections Technician

Visitors: Becky Bingea, League of Women Voters of Marin County

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

Guest Speakers

Greg Hayes talked about Marin County official ballot drop boxes.
Mr. Hayes has been with the department for about five years. Prior to the position with Marin County, he worked with other counties in elections, mainly in logistics. Mr. Hayes reviewed the following:

  • The June election will have 12 drop boxes open 28 days before the election (May 10 through 8 p.m. June 7).
  • We will use many of the same locations used in November 2020; new locations include Sausalito City Hall and Mill Valley Rec Center.
  • We are hoping to establish a consistent process and long-term partners.
  • There is currently a legislative bill that may require drop boxes at community colleges. Mr. Hayes said in Marin County there are boxes located in these areas, but not on the campuses.
  • In addition to the 12 boxes open early, all vote centers will have a drop box. The early boxes will be open 24/7 with one box in the Civic Center middle archway lobby open during regular business hours. This new lobby box will be more convenient so voters don’t have to go up to the Elections Department.
  • The Civic Center north archway has a drive-thru box that is very convenient and we post signage around the Civic Center directing people to the drive-thru. The Department purchased a larger size drop box for the drive-thru since it gets 90% of the drop offs.
  • A third, walk-up box at the Civic Center is on Peter Behr Drive and is secured to the ornamental gate in the archway.
  • Mr. Hayes showed how the drive-thru box is secured into the concrete, demonstrated operation of the box and its secure design, which requires two keys to open, and showed the process of locking the box at 8 p.m. on election night. Ballot drop boxes are comparable to other mail collection boxes, such as US Post Office, FedEx, and UPS.
  • Mr. Hayes reviewed the ballot collection procedures, including the secure transport bag, security seals on locks, and collection logs. Transport bags are specific to each location and the pick-up team records collection information on a log. After retrieving the ballots, the pick-up team places tamper-evident seals over the locks and takes a photo of the seals.
  • A team at the Civic Centers counts ballots and records information on a log for each drop box.
  • Ballot pick-up and counting teams follow standard two person chain-of-custody procedures.
  • Drop boxes and collection procedures comply with Secretary of State regulations, which address box construction, ballot handling, chain of custody, and collection procedures. The department has implemented some procedures above and beyond the regulations, for example taking photos of the tamper-evident seals.
  • Boxes are waterproof and ADA compliant.
  • Mr. Hayes trains a small, select group of people on pick-up and logging procedures. All team members take an oath of office. When retrieving ballots, teams park close to the ballot box and put the secure bags in the car trunk. Pick-up teams wear a bright vest to identify their official status, and the Registrar of Voters provides a letter of authorization and contact number if members of the public have questions.
  • The pick-up teams have had positive public feedback about the drop boxes.

One committee member said propping the drop slot open with a door stop felt a little discomforting. Not all boxes are propped open, but Mr. Hayes said this helps at the drive-thru box.

Mr. Straub collected ballots during November 2020 and 95% of public feedback was positive; the public appreciated having the drop boxes. Ms. Stone said her experience picking-up ballots was also positive and the public expressed their appreciation. Mr. Hayes said some people had negative comments occasionally because some boxes were not bolted into the ground. Some locations require securing a box to an immovable object, such as a solid column or metal hand railing, but this complies with SOS guidelines. The chains used are from a logging outfitter and are the heaviest-duty hardware available.

In response to a question, Mr. Hayes reviewed statistics about number of ballots returned at drop boxes. The drive-thru box was the most heavily used location in 2020. Other heavily used sites included Novato Library and Corte Madera Rec Center. The day before Election Day and Election Day were the heaviest drop-off days.

One member mentioned concern about the resistance of public agencies to having a drop box and hoped to see more participation on their part. Perhaps the League of Women Voters could help support this effort. Mr. Hayes said those who participate have a positive response and participation is starting to grow.

Ms. Roberts acknowledged Mr. Hayes for his work managing the drop box program—there are a lot of moving parts.

Danny Straub talked about a new interdepartmental initiative.
Mr. Straub has started creating a relationship between the Elections Department and Probation Department in an effort to reach the youth community through their intern program and summer career explorers program. Mr. Straub is working with the director to get an intern and would like to work with the Probation Department’s 9-25 Program to reach youth and young adults.

He would also like to work with the Youth for Justice Program that focuses on Latinx youth. Mr. Straub is currently building a base of internal connections and contacts. He is working to find physical locations for outreach materials with the intent of increasing voter registration among the constituencies. Mr. Straub’s contacts will also be able to help with reaching the community of eligible voters on parole.

Updates and Open Discussion

Ms. Stone gave an update about VCA outreach. The first workshop was a virtual event held on April 14 and the recording will be on the department’s website soon. This workshop included interpreters for all required languages (Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese) plus an ASL interpreter for participants with hearing disabilities. In-person workshops will be held the week of April 18 and will include a workshop for each required language community and the disability community; the schedule is posted online. The second direct mailer is scheduled to be sent the week of April 18.

In response to a question about vote center staffing, Ms. Roberts explained the overall process that included an HR recruitment for vote center coordinators (VCCs) and hiring stipend workers to support the VCCs starting three days before the election and on Election Day. Mr. Straub said three-quarters of the people who applied for the VCC position had previous election experience. The department needs a minimum of 20 VCC workers and plans to hire 40 or more, if possible, to cover drop-outs.

Members mentioned the two-card ballot for June (a first in Marin County) and said they had made community members aware of the change. They had also reviewed the instructions on the ballot, including those pertaining to the two senate races—full term and partial term. Ms. Roberts said if voters don’t return both cards, the department will count whichever card they return, but a voter won’t be able to return the second card later.

One committee member thanked staff members Dan Miller and Tony Aquilino for the work they do to provide information about candidates.

Some members suggested future meeting topics: maintenance of voter registration files, including DMV and post office changes; discussion about WheresMyBallot tracking and statistics; and membership on the Election Advisory Committee.

The meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 15, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

March 18, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, March 18, 2022, 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Bonnie Glaser, Steve Silberstein.

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Megan Stone, Elections Technician, Danny Straub, Elections Technician, Tony Aquilino, Technology Systems Specialist II, Michael Tellechea, Technology Systems Specialist I

Visitors: Becky Bingea, League of Women Voters of Marin County

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending. She thanked the elections team for joining the meeting and introduced new staff member, Michael Tellechea, who was hired to assist Mr. Aquilino with technology and oversee the new vote center technology. Mr. Tellechea gave a brief overview of his background and previous work with the Elections Department.

Marin County Voting System

Overview:

  • The department went through the Request for Proposals process in 2019.
  • The 14-member bid review panel included four members of the Election Advisory Committee.
  • Dominion Voting System was ranked number one after the independent reviews were tabulated.
  • Currently 40 counties in California have the Dominion Voting System.

Mr. Aquilino talked about the voting system.

  • The department has conducted several major elections with the new system since 2019 and implementation was very smooth since ballot creation is similar to the old system. The voting system uses off-the-shelf technology, such as tablets and scanners.
  • Dominion Voting Systems provides excellent support.
  • The department purchased eight ballot tabulating stations. Two to three stations are used to count the vote-by-mail ballots; the remaining tabulators are used on election night to count ballots from polling places.
  • The initial purchase included two mobile ballot production units (MBP) to be used in the office for back-up ballot printing; additional MBP units have been purchased as required by the vote center model.
  • The Secretary of State certifies voting systems and also certifies updates. Dominion regularly updates software to improve the system and include county-requested changes.
  • The tabulators make a digital image of each voted ballot and flags ballots that need to be reviewed and adjudicated to ensure voter intent. The system creates an audit log to track adjudication actions.
  • The voting system is a closed network with no external connections to the internet or Wi Fi. Between each statewide election, the system is rebuilt using the trusted build provided by the state. Although the system is purchased from the vendor, the software is stored and provided by the state.
  • Data, such as voting results, are transferred via external drive using an “air gap” laptop that checks the drive for viruses before the external drive is connected to the system.

Mr. Tellechea talked about vote center equipment.

  • Technology used at vote centers (VCs) will give voters more flexibility and options. Equipment at the vote centers includes check-in laptops, mobile ballot production units (MBPs), and accessible ballot marking devices.
  • VC workers will be able to issue a “live” ballot to be voted on-site or a replacement vote-by-mail ballot. Any voter can use the accessible ballot marking device (BMD). VCs will be open more days and voters can go to any location.
  • Each vote center will have three check-in laptops—two for use and one for back-up. These computers allow voters to visit any location since workers can access voters’ information and issue the correct ballot type. Workers can also see if a voter already returned a ballot. Check-in computers use a secure virtual network to access the registration database. The secure connection transmits encrypted data through CradlePoint routers. The department works with the County IST department to ensure laptops meet security standards.
  • The first stop at a vote center will be the check-in station where workers will confirm the voter’s registration and voting status and confirm the ballot they need. The voter will get a label and proceed to either the MBP station to get a live or replacement ballot, or they will proceed to the ballot marking device if they want to use that unit.
  • Each vote center will have two MBPs and three BMDs, which consist of a monitor and printer. The BMDs are activated with the key card used by the vote center coordinator.
  • Each piece of equipment at a vote center is a closed system.

Discussion/Questions

  • What happens to ballots after they are printed from the ballot marking device or other equipment? BMD, provisional and CVR (conditional voter registration) ballots go into an envelope; ballots voted on site go into a ballot box. All ballots are returned to the Elections Department every day after vote centers close. The live ballots are counted the next day. A voter requesting a vote-by-mail ballot can take the ballot and envelope with them.
  • Why is a ballot referred to as “live”? Can that term be changed to something else? “Live” refers to in-person voting versus vote by mail. When the ballot is issued, the voter’s record is updated immediately. The elections team will consider a different word to replace “live”. It’s too late for the June outreach materials, but Ms. Stone can describe this term in the FAQ document.
  • Were the check-in computers used in the November 2020 election? Yes, this technology gives voters more options at the check-in station. For example, the workers will be able to activate an inactive voter and update a voter’s address.
  • The printers attached to the check-in computers in November 2020 had some issues. Have these problems been resolved? Are there back-up methods if printers don’t function properly? Adjustments have been made that should fix the problem. If necessary, workers can hand-write a label.
  • Regarding staffing at vote centers, Vote Center Coordinators (VCCs) will manage the sites and learn how to use all the equipment. This position replaces the role of chief that was used at polling places. VCCs are recruited through the HR process and start on-the-job training in the Elections Department 29 days before the election. When the 11-day vote centers open, they will staff those locations until all sites open 4 days before the election at which time the support workers (previously polling place clerks) will start.
  • How many VCC applicants are there? We reviewed 56 applications for minimum qualifications and the interview process will start in about a week.
  • What is the plan to address potential power outages? The department has back-up batteries that will provide power for a short period of time and the department plans to purchase generators. PG&E also provides information about potential areas that may lose power; it doesn’t appear that power loss would be countywide as it was a few years ago. One benefit with vote centers is that voters can go to any location. As back-up methods of voting, a voter may use the sample ballot in their voter information guide or write their choices on a piece of paper. The department can process the ballot as long as the voter returns it in a signed envelope.
  • Members spoke about their experiences as poll workers and the number of voters that may show up in person—whether to vote or drop off their voted ballot. Some polling places were busier than others.
  • What are outreach efforts in West Marin to reach the Spanish-speaking population? The department has partners in West Marin and they will get the translated outreach toolkit. Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub work continuously to add more partners from West Marin to the VEOAC (Voter Education and Outreach Advisory Committee).
  • Can West Marin get support if they put together a workshop? The department plans to hold four workshops for the June election—one for each required language (Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese) and one for the disability community. Ms. Stone will need to follow-up about additional workshops in West Marin.
  • Internet access is an issue for underserved communities and a recorded workshop could be useful.
  • Does the department have enough web support? The County IST Department provides help when needed.

Ms. Roberts gave a quick update about the Voter’s Choice Act.

  • The Secretary of State and Elections Department held a kick-off event on March 10.
  • The first direct mailer was sent to active registered voters over a week ago.
  • Ms. Stone and Mr. Straub are finalizing the outreach toolkit. The toolkit will be released after the digital access team finishes reviewing it and the translations are completed. Mr. Straub will contact the outreach partners about printed materials.

The meeting adjourned at 11:15 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, April 15, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

February 18, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, February 18, 2022, 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Bonnie Glaser, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Steve Silberstein.

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, Megan Stone, Elections Technician, Danny Straub, Elections Technician.

Visitors: Becky Bingea and Jan King, League of Women Voters of Marin County.

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending. She introduced Danny Straub, who recently joined the Elections Department Team and is currently assisting with outreach for Voter’s Choice Act implementation.

Meeting Summary

Ms. Roberts outlined the plan for the meeting:

  • Redefine the purpose and expectations of the committee.
  • Review the membership process and frequency of meetings.

Ms. Roberts has been the Marin County Registrar of Voters for almost 8 years and acknowledged her appreciation for the committee. Going forward, one main thing about this committee is important to her: The committee continues to act as a link between the voting public and the Elections Department. This supports three key points in the Department’s Mission Statement--transparency, trust, confidence, and helps spread the idea that the Elections Department is the trusted source of election information.

Ms. Roberts asked members for their points of view about the committee’s purpose and the role of an advisory committee.

Discussion

  • Interest in robust and secure election systems and accessibility.
  • Members can augment skills for the department and provide a connection to underrepresented communities, such as filling communication gaps.
  • Representation from specific groups is not necessarily key; the committee could include at-large members.
  • Wordsmithing is an important job, and the committee can provide an outside point of view about outreach materials.
  • The committee can represent important segments of the population (i.e., disability, language, geographic locations).
  • “Insiders” have a level of knowledge that seems to be “common knowledge”; the EAC brings an “outsider” point of view about how things work, providing a conduit of information that can be more easily understood by the public.
  • The EAC can bring answers to the community and can help the public understand the process.
  • There are micro-cultures throughout Marin County, and the EAC can represent various geographical cultures.
  • The EAC can provide a trusted source of information; for example, when committee members helped review bids for the new voting system.
  • The EAC may have a role in addressing mis-information, perhaps by submitting an op ed to the IJ.
  • The EAC can help review details of the process.
  • Members can help direct people to trusted sources of information.
  • Promoting BallotTrax will help give people confidence in the vote-by-mail process.

In her role as outreach coordinator, Ms. Stone acknowledged the importance of the EAC’s role engaging with the public. The new Voter Education and Outreach Advisory Committee, that includes the EAC, LAAC, VAAC, and 40+ organizations, will be a great way to distribute messaging to the public since the organizations are trusted sources of information in their communities. Part of the June messaging will include BallotTrax.

Membership and Meeting Frequency

Discussion

  • When a current member leaves, perhaps they could suggest a new member.
  • Would like to see geographical representation to address the micro-cultures (i.e., under-represented communities, languages/cultures, new citizens).
  • Potential resources for membership: The Youth Commission, the library, community college, Marin ACLU.
  • Supports an open process and including subject matter experts, such as technology.
  • The annual report was a good tool for promoting the committee; a 1-2 page list of highlights could be beneficial in lieu of a lengthy report.

Some members of the committee haven’t attended a meeting in over two years. Ms. Roberts asked for feedback about meeting attendance and contacting these members.

  • Members should attend a majority of meetings (i.e., 3/4 or 5/8).
  • Ask those who are not attending if there is a reason. For example, Are they interested? Is the virtual format an issue? If they can’t participate, can they recommend a replacement?
  • Perhaps there could be exceptions if a member needs to take a leave of absence.

After discussing options about the meeting schedule, members confirmed that for now they want to continue with the current schedule, which is eight times a year, third Friday of the month from 9:30-11:30 (excluding May/June and October/November). For topics, members suggested inviting guest speakers, including Elections Department staff; discussing particular issues that are of public concern, including what may be happening at a national level; having EAC members present topics; educating EAC about the basics of elections; reviewing election procedures; having other departments speak about how their offices intersect with elections, i.e., Probation.

Should the meetings continue virtually? Go back to in-person? Members suggested a hybrid model, if possible; Zoom has advantages for guest speakers and for those who can’t attend in person; having an agenda in advance helps stay on topic. Ms. Roberts suggested Zoom meetings for March and April and in-person for July and August. The group can reassess after that.

Bob Richard acknowledged that the Election Advisory Committee is a very valuable experience and expressed gratitude to the pervious Registrar for starting the committee and the current Registrar for continuing it.

Open Time Q&A

  • Ms. Stone will send an email about the VCA kick-off event on March 10 with the Secretary of State. The event is targeted specifically to advisory groups since they will help with outreach efforts, but anyone may attend by registering. The link will be posted on the department’s website.

The meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 18, 2022, 9:30-11:30 a.m. via Zoom.

January 21, 2022

Registrar of Voters
Election Advisory Committee Meeting
Friday, January 21, 2022, 9:30 AM
Zoom Meeting

Minutes

The Election Advisory Committee met on Friday, January 21, 2022, via Zoom due to COVID-19. The following members were present: Nancy Bell, Greg Brockbank, Robin Diederich, Cathleen Dorinson, Anne Layzer, Sean Peisert, Bob Richard, Cat Woods.

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

Representing the Elections Department: Lynda Roberts, Registrar of Voters, and Megan Stone, Elections Technician.

Visitors: Becky Bingea, Marin County League of Women Voters

Welcome

Lynda Roberts opened the meeting and thanked everyone for attending.

Voters’ Choice Act Update (VCA)

Ms. Stone reviewed outreach activities. She thanked committee members for their support and introduced Danny Straub, a new hire in the Elections Department who will be helping with outreach. Mr. Straub was not able to be present at this meeting but will attend in the future.

Outreach activities

The Department will undertake a robust outreach campaign required by the VCA ahead of the June 7, 2022, election—similar to the November 2020 Election that utilized the partner network to provide feedback and distribute outreach materials to their own networks.

What we’ve been working on:

  • Reviewing outreach partner list – we have about 40 organizations.
  • Started to share VCA related content in the office (i.e., the flyer that Liz developed and shared with the committee); a poster is displayed in our office.
  • Working on one of the two direct mailers; plan to send at the end of February.
  • Will seek feedback from the committee on upcoming outreach materials.
  • Materials will be translated into Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese.
  • VCA kick-off meeting in mid-March with the Secretary of State’s office; good place for partners to attend. The Secretary of State’s Office has been supportive and they initiated the conversation about a kick-off event.
  • Once content is created and translated will ask for members to share.
  • Late March/early April will send a 2nd mailer.
  • Will host workshops for the language and disability communities.
  • Would be helpful to get information about organizations that may host or co-host a workshop; don’t know if workshops will be virtual or in-person; planning for workshops in mid-March/April. Members may email Ms. Stone with suggestions.
  • Will solicit feedback from the committee.
General updates

Ms. Roberts reviewed the following:

  • Working on confirming vote center and drop box locations. Would be most efficient to have drop boxes at locations that will also be vote centers.
  • Confirmed plans with the Human Resources Department to recruit for vote center workers. There will be two types of vote center workers: 1) Vote Center Coordinators that will be trained on the equipment and will manage the vote center; 2) vote center workers that will be stipend workers who will staff during days all the vote centers are open and will be recruited from the pool of existing poll workers.
  • Working on re-writing training materials and procedure manuals, building off November 2020 Election materials.
  • Testing the new ballot printers next week.
  • Ms. Roberts plans to write a piece for the Marin Voice and will ask the committee to review and provide feedback.
  • There will be a small April Election for the Paradise Ranch Estates Permanent Road Division.
Discussion
  • It would be beneficial for the public to observe changes through videos, social media, and in-person opportunities before the June election to help dispel concerns.
  • Direct mail with simple messages is a good way to notify people.
  • Keep mailers simple; for example, one page that people don’t have to open.
  • Use the official election mail logo to get attention.
  • Talk about the positive aspects of the changes, such as more options and early voting.
  • Keep messaging clear and consistent.
  • The issue of complexity of election administration is concerning. What can be done?
  • Members mentioned that organizations such as the League of Women Voters work to keep voting simple and understandable through the use of plain language. Other advocacy groups work to keep citizens engaged.
  • The League of Women Voters may be able to provide funding for outreach efforts.

New Laws

Ms. Roberts reviewed highlights of legislation passed in 2021 that impacts election administration.

AB 37: Changes to Vote by Mail
  • All active voters will get a ballot sent to them.
  • Ballot tracking is required.
  • RAVBM is available to any voter.
  • Ballot timely cast if postmarked by Election Day and received in mail by E+7.
  • Drop box requirements (non VCA elections).
  • May start processing ballots at E-29.
SB 35: Expands prohibitions on electioneering; imposes a penalty for unofficial ballot boxes
  • New prohibitions include obstructing ingress, egress, and parking; obstructing access to, loitering near, or electioneering at drop boxes; electioneering not allowed within 100 feet of entrance to building – including Elections Office and voting locations; electioneering not allowed within 100 feet of outdoor site – voting or dropping off ballot; electioneering not allowed in the immediate vicinity of a voter in line to vote or drop off ballot.
  • Requires public notice about prohibitions – SOS to specify the notice requirement.
  • Penalty for unofficial ballot box with intent to deceive voters.
  • Penalty for directing a voter to put their ballot in unofficial ballot box.
SB 503: VBM signature verification
  • Presumes the envelope or verification letter was signed by the voter.
  • Specifies exact match is not required (uses the word “compares”).
  • Consider explanations for discrepancies or signature characteristics as specified in SOS regulations.
  • Reject only if two officials determine signature does not match because it possesses multiple, significant, and obvious differences.
  • Not consider party, race or ethnicity when reviewing signatures.
  • No longer required to verify address on VBM envelope.
  • Send signature mismatch/missing letter by next business day unless it is impractical. May send additional written notices or contact voter in other ways unless this becomes a requirement by SOS regulations.
  • Added new language to the signature mismatch/missing letter.
  • SOS will require a report with the number of ballots rejected by category (reason codes to be provided by SOS).
  • Signature by “X” or stamp is valid if it meets requirements of Section 354.5: “X” – voter’s name must be written by the mark by voter’s designee over age 18 and designee subscribes their own name; stamp – must be used on a voter registration form.
  • Specifies that certification of election means when the elections official submits the certified results even if it is before the deadline.

Open Time Q&A

The committee talked about future agenda items. One item of interest is a review of the structure of the committee and its goals.

Meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m. The next meeting will be held on Friday, February 18, 2022.