Minutes - Summary of March 7 Meeting

Call to order

Co-Chairmen Hanley and Mendelsohn called the ninth 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, Bettie Baca, Alex Blakemore, Keith Damon, Cesar del Aguila, Jeremy Epstein, Olga Hernandez, Tania Hossain, Jay McConville, Jay Myerson, James Parmelee, Lee Ann Pender, Ginny Peters, Kelsey Phipps, Susan Platt, Brian Schoeneman, Marcus Simon, Marion Stillson, and Jeffrey Wisoff.  Members of the public were in attendance, including a number of Boy Scouts from Troop 1100 in Burke, who attended in order to earn their Citizenship in the Community Merit Badges, as well as County staff.

Chairman Hanley briefly introduced each handout provided to the members and public for the meeting.  She announced that the Commission would hold its final meeting on March 14 and then the Co-Chairs would present the Commission’s report to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on March 19.

Summary of February 28, 2013 meeting

A correction was made on page 2 of the summary minutes to change the word “offers” to “officers.”  Mr. Schoeneman noted that he had asked for a description of the costs of implementing the Commission’s recommendations.  Chairman Hanley responded that a fiscal impact is being prepared and will be available for the next meeting.  The fiscal impact will show just the costs of implementing what the Commission recommends.  Mr. Brostrom stated that a point he had made at the February 28 meeting about curbside voting was not reflected in the draft report.  Chairman Hanley asked him to make sure to raise the point when the Committee reached that portion of the report.

Review/discussion of draft report

After the members took time to read the draft report, they went through it page by page and requested and generally agreed to changes.  The changes are shown in the blackline version to be provided to members for the final meeting on March 14.

During the course of the review, Mr. Schoeneman stated that the Electoral Board had decided at its meeting earlier in the day to reserve satellite voting sites for extra Saturdays prior to the next November election and do a cost-benefit analysis thereafter.

After a long discussion about the possible use of open source software, Mr. Schoeneman also stated that the Electoral Board will be testing a new tablet device with open source software at the Vienna town elections, so there was no need for the Commission to get into the weeds about open source software.

There was a long discussion about the last paragraph of the draft report, recognizing the hard work of elections staff and volunteers, particularly about whether the report should address staffing levels in any way.  The final consensus of the members was that the report should not address staffing levels.

Chairman Hanley asked whether the Commission wanted to make recommendations to any agencies outside the County besides the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is addressed in the draft report.  Examples given were the possibility or recommending that the restrictions on absentee voting or requirements for voter identification be loosened.  As an alternative, she asked whether the Commission needed to say in its report that it addressed only those things about elections that are within the control of the Board of Supervisors.  Mr. Schoeneman said that if the Commission strayed into making recommendations to the General Assembly the Commission might lose the “bi” in “bi-partisan.”

Chairman Hanley handed out a draft paragraph which said that “The Commission’s recommendations address only those improvements that are within the purview of the County to implement.”  It went on to list other election-related requirements that are established by the Commonwealth.  The members engaged in lengthy discussion about the list of other requirements.  Some members advocated including all of it, others advocated deleting all of it, and some members proposed to compromise on a shorter list.  The Commission eventually reached a consensus to delete all of the examples, make another small edit, and include the shorter version in the draft report.

The members next discussed one email that had been received in the email box established for the Commission.

Chairman Hanley said that at next week’s meeting the review of the draft report should be short, but that the Commission would have a budget document to review that would show the fiscal impact of the changes the Commission was recommending.  She said that it needs to be clear that the impact statement shows the impact over many years and that the members needed to think about how to show the costs.  Ms. Hernandez suggested interleaving the costs into the report rather than putting them all together, to prevent the press from looking only at the costs without the full context and explanation.

Chairman Hanley said that the Co-Chairs would try to send out the fiscal impact information separately from other materials for the March 14 meeting.  She reminded the members that the report cannot go to the public before it goes to the Board of Supervisors.

Discussion ensued about whether the report should address fiscal impact or not and whether fiscal impact was beyond the Commission’s charge.  It was stated that the Board of Supervisors will refer the report to the Office of Elections for a determination of the cost of implementing the proposed changes.  Mr. Myerson said that he would be reluctant to go to the Board of Supervisors with recommendations if the Commission had never looked at how much it would cost to implement them.

Thereafter, the meeting adjourned.


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