Procedures for the Election of June 7, 1995

INTRODUCTION

The 1994-95 Grand Jury issued a report on May 10, 1995, which found significant problems in the course of a follow-up investigation of the 1992-93 Grand Jury Report on "Election Procedures." One of the recommendations of the May report was that the Grand Jury continue to monitor the election process throughout this frustrating transitional period of changing Federal and State voting regulations. Another Special Election took place during the current Grand Jury term, and a second investigation took place.

OBJECTIVE

This investigation again looked for significant problems, noted changes since the March 7, 1995 Special Election, and proposes reasonable solutions for problems observed.

PROCEDURE

The Grand Jury examined various election materials, including the 1995 California Elections Code and interviewed the Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor, Elections Division officials and staff, precinct workers, and security officers from the Sheriff's Department.

On May 31, 1995, the Grand Jury observed one of two training sessions scheduled for experienced precinct inspectors. On June 6, 1995, the Grand Jury observed the Special Election, noting polling place practices and procedures at the Elections Division in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse.

OBSERVATIONS

This section will be organized in the manner of the Grand Jury Report released May 10, 1995.

Creating and Maintaining Voter Rolls

The voter registration form may be filled in legally by someone other than the voter. This encourages the practice of "bounty hunting," where a person is paid by some organization for registrations collected. This increases the possibility of fraud and makes detection particularly difficult when a compound surname is involved.

Deceased and ineligible voters' names continue to remain on the rolls by default. Precinct workers may note information supplied by voters on a "snag sheet," but have not been instructed to provide the informants with adequate information to effectively result in a name being removed from future rolls.

Polling Places

Simple requirements specified by the California Elections Code are still not consistently observed, such as (1) requiring the voter to state his/her name and residence address and (2) ability to provide directions to the nearest available telephone. Workers did not know that voters should be directed to drop absentee or mail ballots brought to the polling place directly into the ballot boxes. Nor did they know that anyone who could not remember what happened to their absentee ballot may vote a provisional ballot.

The supplies provided to the workers were not completely described in the Precinct Supply Check-off List. For example, no mention is made of pencils (plain or colored) or the straight edge used for drawing a line through the name of a voter on the Index. (The straight edge provided was not long enough to extend across the full entry.) Badges for workers were not listed or provided to identify polling place workers.

Workers were provided with different colored instruction cards for three work stations, but in this election only three polling place workers were assigned to each precinct, so that generally two people were covering three sets of functions variously at any given time. The third person could realistically never take a significant break from the day's duties.

Absentees, Mail, and Provisional Ballots

The issue of how the voter's signature must be written if the ballot is to be counted seems to have been addressed only on the Application For Absentee Voter's Ballot. The multiple uses for absentee ballots were not covered in the training session, for example for handicapped persons in vehicles on election day. Not all inspectors attended one of the current training sessions.

Elections Division

Clearly accessible public entrances were not consistently available at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse on the night of the election. The front door was locked early in the evening.

Commendation

The Grand Jury commends the County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor and the Elections Division for improving security on election night while maintaining appropriate accommodation and service for the public during the canvass of the vote. The Grand Jury notes with appreciation the positive response to individual members of the Grand Jury by the County-Clerk-Recorder-Assessor and all other personnel involved.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

FINDING #1: The information voters at the precincts need to provide to the Elections Division in order to remove the names of deceased or ineligible voters from the rolls is not being communicated effectively.

RECOMMENDATION #1: Forms explaining necessary documentation should be created by the Elections Division and mailed to anyone who did not otherwise provide adequate information to remove a name from the rolls and thus benefit the County.

FINDING #2: Procedures vary unacceptably at the polling places.

RECOMMENDATION #2a: Training for all workers should be mandatory. Substitutes should be provided for inspectors who have not attended a current training session.

RECOMMENDATION #2b: The Elections Division should train all Inspectors to display the American flag appropriately and make certain that polling places display the flag so as to be visible from the street. This duty should be specified in the Handbook.

RECOMMENDATION #2c: Polling place workers must have each voter state his/her name and residence address and resist the temptation to be overly helpful.

RECOMMENDATION #2d: Inspectors should prepare and provide written instruction to the nearest available telephone. This duty should be specified in the Handbook.

RECOMMENDATION #2e: A list of supplies and how they are to be used should be included in the Handbook.

RECOMMENDATION #2f: Copies of the Handbook should be available to workers well ahead of the election.

RECOMMENDATION #2g: Inspectors should instruct workers that if they damage a ballot card when they tear off the stub, they should drop the ballot into the box and not tamper with the ballot. This information should be added to the Handbook.

FINDING #3: Absentee, mail, and provisional ballots are held to a higher level of scrutiny and voters casting ballots in these ways may be penalized without their knowledge if they use a variant signature or fail to sign the envelope. If they cast a provisional ballot in the wrong polling place, or fail to get their ballot in before the polls close, they will similarly be omitted WITHOUT THEIR KNOWLEDGE. The following recommendations are addressed to the Elections Division:

RECOMMENDATION #3a: A distinctive warning should be printed on envelopes about the consequences of variant signatures or unsigned envelopes.

RECOMMENDATION #3b: A distinctive warning should be printed on envelopes that ballots received after the close of the polls will not be counted.

RECOMMENDATION #3c: A distinctive warning should be printed on provisional envelopes that ballots cast in the wrong precinct will not be counted.

RECOMMENDATION #3d: The final count released after the full canvass should include the number of uncounted ballots.

FINDING #4: Adequate arrangements were not made for public observers of the election count at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse by the Elections Division.

RECOMMENDATION #4: Public entrances should be clearly marked and kept open.

FINDING #5: The California elections system is in a state of transition that threatens reasonable accountability.

RECOMMENDATION #5: The Grand Jury should continue to monitor County elections procedures.

AFFECTED AGENCIES: (California Penal Code Section 933(c) requires that comments to Findings and Recommendation be made in writing with 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days.)

l. Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor (Findings and Recommendation 1-4) - response

2. Santa Barbara County Grand Jury (Finding and Recommendation 5)