Minutes - Summary of Jan. 31 Meeting

Call to Order

Chairmen Hanley and Mendelsohn called the fourth 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, Chuck Caputo, Cesar del Aguila, Bettie Baca, Alex Blakemore, Keith Damon, Jeremy Epstein, Olga Hernandez, Tania Hossain-Almaraz, William Kreykenbohm, Michael Kwon, Jay McConville, Jay Myerson, James T. Parmelee, Lee Ann Pender, Ginny Peters, Susan Platt, Brian Schoeneman, Owen Shortt, Marcus Simon, Marion Stillson, and Jeffrey Wisoff. Members of the public were in attendance, as was County staff.

Summary of Jan. 24, 2013, Meeting

The summary minutes of the Jan. 24, 2013, had been provided to the members in advance of the meeting for their review. No changes were requested.

Reports from Members on Findings About Precinct Problems

Mr. del Aguila is working on obtaining information from the Virginia Democratic Party. Chairman Hanley urged members to collect information about problems in precincts and send it to Mr. Long for the Commission’s consideration. She also urged members appointed as representatives to Supervisor districts to contact their Supervisors to obtain whatever complaints and other information they may have. Mr. Kreykenbohm has already obtained the emails sent to Supervisor Gross.

Information Requested at the Last Meeting/Completion of Workplan Item I.D

The Commission then reviewed several of the handouts that provided information that members had requested at the last meeting.

Chairman Hanley observed that the chart entitled “Election Statistics 1992-2012” shows that more people voted absentee in 2008 than in 2012.

The Commission again discussed the documents previously distributed that show the allocations of various resources for the 2008 and 2012 November General Elections (“Equipment and Election Officer Projections” for the 2008 Presidential election; “Criteria for Allocation of 2012 Election Resources”; “Allocation of 2008 Elections Resources Compared to 2012.”)

The Commission had several additional questions about these documents:

  • Why was the resource allocation in 2012 based on 75% voter turnout instead of 100% like in 2008?
  • Given that the documents are labeled “projections,” the Commission would like clarification whether they were in fact projections or whether these documents show how the resources were actually allocated.
  • Almost all precincts had fewer Election Officers in 2012 than they had in 2008, except in Sully District, where precincts typically had more Election Officers. Why?

Regarding the document labeled “Number of Provisional Ballots Submitted by Precinct,” the members noted that the number of provisional ballots voted in precincts varied greatly and there is no apparent correlation between high numbers of provisional ballots and other factors such as demographics, numbers of curbside voters, or precinct size. The Commission asked staff for the following information about provisional ballots:

  • How many provisional ballots were counted and how many rejected?
  • How many provisional ballots were rejected due to voter ID problems?

The members reviewed the chart labeled “Approximate Poll Closing Times by Precinct.” The members acknowledged that the data is only a rough proxy for when the last vote was cast in a precinct, but the data show that no voter voted any later than the times shown.

The Commission discussed the best way for it to review and evaluate the Chief’s Notes, which are voluminous. Two options proposed were to ask if the Office of Elections could summarize them or to have the Commission prepare summaries.

The members reviewed the document labeled “Precinct Data from November 6, 2012 Election” and posed the following questions to staff:

  • What is the relationship between the number of voters and the number of machines?
  • What factors other than number of voters were used to allocate machines to precincts?
  • Why were there fewer Election Officers in 2012 than in 2008? Was this driven by a reduced budget?

Finally, the members reviewed the document labeled “Fairfax County Election Officer Information.” The members particularly noted the high number of cancellations on Election Day and the day before. The following questions were raised for staff about the information in this handout:

  • Is there a pool of Election Officers standing by to cover for no-show Election Officers?
  • The document says that 731 Election Officers were in the database but unavailable before assignments were made. What does “unavailable” mean?
  • What is the optimum number of Election Officers? How many Election Officers did the Office of Elections think they needed for the 2012 General Election? How did it arrive at that number?
  • How many Election Officers do you need for DREs and how many for OS voting machines?
  • Can staff add a column to the “Precinct Data from November 6, 2012 Election” document that to show the number of Election Officers in each precinct?
  • What was the budget for Election Officers for 2008 and 2012?

Mr. Epstein stated that the Commission was “getting into the tall weeds” and asked the purpose of the detailed inquiries.

There was a discussion of the role of the political parties in recruiting, vetting, and nominating Election Officers. Mr. McConville said that FCRC rejected a handful of volunteers who had offered to serve as R representatives. Mr. del Aguila said that FCDC rejected 50 volunteers out of 2,200 who had offered to serve as D representatives.

The Commission discussed the ADA requirements of voting machines. Ms. Stillson recommended that the County should use the expertise of the disabled when evaluating new voting machines. Organizations that serve the deaf and blind can provide valuable information about the needs of their population. Mr. Blakemore said that ballot marking devices are the only ADA-compliant voting machines that are now approved in Virginia.

The Commission generally agreed that the Board of Supervisors should be “ahead of the curve” in replacing the existing voting machines and that it should get Optical Scan voting machines. The DREs should continue to be used for disabled voters, but when the Board replaces the voting equipment they should standardize while they modernize and get one integrated voting system. There was disagreement about whether the County will need fewer Election Officers when the County operates on only one kind of voting system.

Work Plan Item II.C: Election officials/pollworkers

A. Positions and duties of workers. The members discussed recruitment and the fact that Election Officers work very long days. The “fatigue factor” was discussed as possibly contributing to problems at the polls, given the 15-16 hour day, especially considering the number of 80+-year old Chiefs. A question was raised about allowing more Election Officers to split shifts, but Mr. Schoeneman pointed out that Virginia state law requires the Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs to be present the full day. Ms. Hernandez related a successful recruiting effort that persuaded private companies to pay their employees so that they didn’t have to use leave.

Questions were raised about looking to other Virginia localities or other states to learn better practices and processes. Ms. Hernandez agreed to obtain “best practices” information from national organizations; one such organization was identified as the National Association of State Election Directors. 4

The members discussed whether pay is a factor in recruiting, whether Election Officers should be paid for the training they attend, and whether most of them are motivated to serve by a sense of civic duty or for the compensation.

The Commission asked staff to provide the following information:

  • How does the County recruit Election Officers? Do most of them come through the political parties?
  • Is there an effort to reach out to younger people to serve as Election Officers? If yes, how?
  • What is the timeline for recruitment?
  • How many first-time Election Officers served in 2012?
  • Has the Office of Elections done any surveys of Election Officers to get feedback after elections? If not, can it do so?
  • Can the County do a survey of the persons who signed up to be Election Officers and then didn’t serve, to find out why they didn’t serve?
  • How does the Office of Elections plan and allocate resources for the various kinds of election years (for example, years when the ballot is long due to local elections but turnout is low; years when the ballot is short but turnout is relatively high; presidential years).
  • For the meeting when the Commission discusses budget issues, can staff provide budget information for election day expenses for 2007-2012 to capture the full variety of elections.

B. Training. The members discussed recruitment and the fact that Election Officers work very long days.

Chairman Hanley called the members’ attention to the Chief’s Notebook. She urged the members to watch the training videos for Election Officers that are linked on the Commission’s webpage. Discussion ensued about the possibility of testing Chiefs to ensure they learned the great volume of complicated information needed to run the polls. The members also discussed the feasibility of more hands-on training and the ability for groups to get together to coordinate before Election Day. Ms. Stillson stated that she devised her own hands-on training after she signed up to serve as an Election Officer by working at a primary.

Mr. Schoeneman stated that the training provided to Election Officers on the vast majority of issues is fine and the Commission should not look to reinvent the wheel.

Chairman Hanley framed one issue as: Is there a correlation between new Chiefs and long lines in the polling place or other problems?

It was suggested that Election Officers be given networking opportunities – such as a listserv – to feed them information throughout the year about changes in laws as well as personal information they may want to share?

The members also discussed different ways of training other than in large training sessions. It was suggested that Chiefs be trained to be trainers so they could train small groups.

Mr. Schoeneman and Mr. McConville stated that the Commission needs to focus on the problems and whether inadequate training contributed to them rather than delve deeply into every detail. Chairman Mendelsohn asked whether the Electoral Board has opinions about whether there is a correlation between the training the Election Officers got and the problems that occurred in the November 2012 General Election.

The Commission discussed the need to have the political parties provide feedback to the Electoral Board.

Chairman Mendelsohn encouraged the members of the Commission to go through the Chief’s Notebook in preparation for the next meeting.

The members discussed whether the Chief’s Notebook could be provided to the Chiefs in electronic form so they could search it more easily on the job. It was suggested that having electronic devices might help the Election Officers with the completion of the SORs, which were uniformly acknowledged as being extremely complicated.

Mr. Schoeneman identified himself as a capitalist [included in the minutes upon request] and asked that the Commission return to the discussion of Election Officer stipends at a future meeting; the stipends do not even equate to minimum wage. Mr. Parmalee responded that the Election Officers should be surveyed first because it’s not clear that paying more would increase participation.

Regarding training, the Commission asked staff to provide the following information:

  • What precincts had new Chiefs in 2012? This would allow the Commission to look for a correlation between new Chiefs and problems in the polling place.
  • Is there an organized method of evaluating the performance of Election Officers?
  • Is there an effort to match experienced Chiefs with new Election Officers?
  • A timeline for training and assignments.
  • Can Election Officers bring their own electronic devices, such as iPads or laptops, into the polling place with them?
  • What is the pay for jury duty?
  • How many Election Officers refused compensation?

 Chairman Hanley summarized the discussion of this portion of the agenda as follows:

  • The Commission asked staff for a great deal of information that will allow the Commission to build a precinct profile so it can look for correlations with problems.
  • The Commission discussed the voting machines in the same way – whether there was any correlation between voting machines and problems.
  • Likewise, the Commission is looking at Election Officer issues so that it can evaluate whether there is a correlation between the people who work there and problems in precincts.
  • The Commission talked about using disabled voters and advocacy organizations to evaluate voting machines.
  • The Committee members agree that the County should move to one type of voting system, but that it needs to be ADA compliant.
  • The Commission has asked: If the County had an unlimited budget, how many Election Officers would the County need for elections?
  • The Commission discussed how much of the success of an election depends upon the Chiefs and Assistant Chief.
  • The Commission has asked: Could the County use technology to make things work better.

She stated that the Commission would revisit a number of these issues when they have received the data and information from staff.

Items from Commission Members


Thereafter, the meeting adjourned.

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