Minutes - Summary of Feb. 7 Meeting

Call to Order

Chairmen Hanley and Mendelsohn called the fifth  meeting of the Bipartisan Election Process Improvement Commission (“Commission”) to order in Room 232 of the County Government Center at 7:15 p.m. Members in attendance included: Bob Brostrom, Cesar del Aguila, Bettie Baca, Alex Blakemore, Keith Damon, Jeremy Epstein, Olga Hernandez, Tania Hossain-Almaraz, William Kreykenbohm, Jay McConville, Jay Myerson, James Parmelee, Lee Ann Pender, Ginny Peters, Kelsey Phipps, Brian Schoeneman, Marcus Simon, Marion Stillson and Jeffrey Wisoff. Members of the public were in attendance, as was County staff.

Summary of Jan. 31, 2013, Meeting

The summary minutes of the Jan. 31, 2013, had been provided to the members in advance of the meeting for their review. No changes were requested.

Next Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013

The chairmen reminded the commission that the next meeting is on Wednesday, Feb. 13 ­­and not on a Thursday as other meetings have been scheduled.

Report from Members of Findings About Precinct Problems

Chairman Hanley reminded members to turn in information and emails detailing problems at the precincts to Mr. Long.  She noted that Chairman (Board of Supervisors) Bulova’s office has submitted information that the office received.  She suggested that members summarize the emails for the commission’s use; alternatively members should redact names and other personal information included in the emails and include precinct before forwarding to Mr. Long.  It was noted that emails forwarded to County staff for consideration by the commission become public documents, but the original sender may not have realized or intended that his or her name and other personal information included in the email would be publicly shared.

Review of Chief Election Officers and Rovers Notes

On Feb. 1 Mr. Long informed the commission that a full set of the chief’s notes from all polling places from the November 2012 General Election is available in the County Attorney’s Office.  The notes are organized into notebooks by supervisor election district with minor redactions to protect certain privacy and personnel issues.  Chairman Hanley reported these observations after reviewing the notes:

  • People are resistant to voting on a paper ballot and think that their paper ballot won’t be counted.
  • Help from the volunteer high school pages was appreciated.
  • Many chiefs held team meetings prior to Election Day.
  • There were many reports of absentee ballots being brought to precincts on Election Day, which was time consuming.
  • Reports of a lot of curbside voting, which took a lot of time.
  • Reports of voters who registered through the DMV, but did not show as registered on the pollbooks, even if they had a registration card or other proof.
  • Chiefs asked for more language assistance at the polls, many had language issues particularly at the pollbook.

The commission requested that staff research and report on how DMV processes voter registration applications.

The members discussed what the problems may be with the DMV registrations, including registering close to the deadline, applications with incomplete information and people moving and getting new voter ID cards.

Previous Information Requests

Chairman Hanley then pointed to the handouts that provided information that members had requested at the last meeting.

Chairman Mendelsohn inquired that if there was a major push for more diversity of election officers, would the two parties still need to vet these officers. Mr. Schoeneman explained that people who are interested in becoming election officers are not turned away if not approved by either party, but rather they are labeled as independent.

There was a discussion of how many of the election chiefs in November were new election chiefs and if there was a correlation of problems at polls being related to new chiefs. Staff was directed to provide information on first-time election chiefs and where they were located. Mr. Schoeneman also requested information on how election chiefs and assistant chiefs were chosen.

Chairman Hanley noted that information that was requested on election officer assignment to precincts and a timeline of election officer placement and assignment is unavailable as a result of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee litigation.

Report of Information Requested from Fairfax County Public Schools “FCPS”

Lee Ann Pender, FCPS commission representative, reported to the commission on information that it had requested at a previous meeting. 

Space/Room Issues in Schools to Provide Time for Set Up the Night Before Election Day:

  • FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services to cancel their activities the night before an election in the areas where polls are located.
  • Poll areas/rooms will be off limits to non-election activities beginning at 5 or 5:30 the night before an election.
  • FCPS will work with the Fairfax County School Age Child Care “SACC”  program to request that the program not use the school gyms the night before an election, if that is where the poll will be located.

The Commission discussed the importance of election officers having time the night before Election Day to set up the poll.  It was clarified that the set up was for things like tables and chairs and not for the machines, which are kept in a secure area.

Parking Issues and Teacher Work Days/Parent-Teacher Conferences on Election Day:

Ms. Pender met with FCPS Human Resources staff and FCPS will move forward to do outreach to see if possible to not have teacher work days and parent-teacher conferences on Election Day as this will ease parking problems, particularly at the elementary schools.

Mr. Epstein brought up that cancelling the parent-teacher conferences on Election Day may be inconvenient to parents who schedule to have the conference that day so that they can also vote and don’t have to take additional time off from work, etc.  Mr. McConville recommended that the commission look at the parking issues separately and see if it can be addressed before asking for the change in teacher work days/parent-teacher conferences.

It was noted that only 20 spaces are allotted for Election Day parking – for voters and election officials – and this is a problem at the elementary schools.  And there was a discussion that school buses parked at the schools take up additional parking and that there is often not parking available on the streets around the school.

There was a discussion that many school gyms did not have enough electrical outlets and that some machines went down on Election Day because voters tripped over electrical cords.

Workplan Item III Registrar’s Office Procedures and Training

A.  Ballot/ machine preparation

Ms. Stillson noted that she was told that a blind woman who was voting at the Monument precinct requested earphones for the voting machine, but that they didn’t work because the machine had not been set up correctly.

A discussion ensued about how the voting machines are set up and tested. Mr. Damon noted that there is a significant amount of testing and that it is done by rovers – the most experienced election officers.

Chairman Hanley noted that in her review of the chiefs notes there were several mentions of incorrect paper ballot amounts. It was noted that the blank ballots are counted and packaged at the printer.

Mr. Blakemore noted that the testing of the DRE machines was much more labor intensive than the testing for optical scan machines.

A discussion ensued that for in-person absentee voting, esp. in years when there are many candidates on the ballot, the DRE machines must be programmed for the many ballot variations. It was agreed that many of these problems should go away as the DREs are phased out.  It was also noted that in the years when there are many ballot variations that it is a challenge since each location must have all paper ballot variations.

Mr. Simon asked why the county has ballots delivered from a printer, instead of using a ballot-on-demand so a voter could have their ballot printed on site at the in-person absentee voting location. It was noted that ballot-on-demand technology was used in other parts of the country, but was not approved by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

B.  Development of election timeline – not available due to pending litigation as noted above.

C.  Procedures to address language barriers

Chairman Hanley reiterated that in their notes, the election chiefs and rovers wrote that it would be very useful to have more language diversity among election officers and she noted that this should be emphasized for election officer recruitment.

Chairmen Hanley and Mendelsohn asked if the media outreach for election officer recruitment was going to the foreign language media. There was a discussion that the Office of Public Affairs was sending the information to the foreign language media, but did not have the language resources available to monitor that segment of the media to see if the election officer recruitment messages were being placed. Chairman Hanley noted that the Board of Supervisors offices had lists of diverse community organizations and those contacts should be used to recruit a diversity of election officers.

It was noted that the Department of Justice requires Fairfax County to have voting information, including signage, available in English and Spanish.

Mr. McConville reiterated the challenge with the electronic pollbooks not being searchable and this was a problem for voters with many diverse hyphenated names.

D.  Workforce:  permanent, part-time, volunteers

Chairman Hanley requested information from staff on what point in election cycle are seasonal election staff hired and trained. The same information was requested for election office volunteers (not including election officers).

The commission also requested that the hourly rate for the seasonal employees be available for the budget discussion scheduled for the Feb. 21 meeting.

Mr. Epstein noted that the Office of Elections did an amazing job, given their resources.

Additional Discussion – Voter Registration Activity 2007-2012 General Elections

Ms. Hernandez referred to the voter registration activity report and noted that the number of voter registration transactions was 154,113 and much higher in 2012 than in 2008 during the previous presidential election. There was a discussion that these transactions are labor intensive and took a lot of time to input into the computer.  It was noted that technology exists to use a bar code to scan in the information instead of it being manually inputted. A request was made to staff to see if this technology could be used by the county.

Items From Commission Members

The following information was requested by the commission for the Feb. 13 meeting discussion on absentee voting:

  • Can the legality of using ballot-on-demand be explored?
  • The number of people who:
    • Applied for a mailed-in absentee ballot.
    • The number of applications that were sent.
    • The number of applications that were rejected.
    • The number of ballots that were voted.
    • And of the number of ballots that were voted, how many were counted?
  • A subset of the same information was requested for military personnel who voted by mailed-in absentee ballot.
  • If information available, where are absentee ballots being mailed outside of Fairfax County.
  • Information requested on voter registration at the DMV:
    • The number of county voter registrations done at the DM.
    • How many registrations done at the DMV are rejected as incomplete?
    • Who decides that a registration done at the DMV is incomplete?
  • Information on ADA complaint machines other than DREs
    • What is the cost of the two ADA compliant voting machines systems that are approved for use by the State Board of Elections?
  • Information on Election Chief’s Notebook:
    • Can the Chief’s Notebook be loaded on a computer tablet that is searchable for use by the election chiefs at the poll?

Thereafter, the meeting adjourned.

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