The County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor's Elections Division welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Grand Jury's Interim Final Report on Election Procedures. This report was approved by the Grand Jury on May 20, 1997.
Additionally, the department thanks the 1996-97 Grand Jury for its findings and recommendations. It is through the Grand Jury's role as government "watch dog" that public agencies may improve their internal processes as well as their external services to customers.
Finally, the 1996-97 Interim Final Report is viewed as a continuum of Grand Jury oversight of the county's election process. The department takes the position that democratic elections are the fabric which binds our society. Elections are too important to ignore. The process must be free of fraud and corruption in order to maintain public confidence. It must be understood in order to achieve public participation. Most importantly, it must be available to every citizen and registered voter in order for good government to be "of the people, by the people and for the people."
FINDING 1: Some members of the voting public neglect to re-register when they move.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO
FINDING 1: Elections personnel have an ongoing challenge to educate and inform the voting public of their responsibility to re-register when they move, change their name, or change political affiliation.
RECOMMENDATION 1a: The County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should negotiate with the United States Postmaster to include on the "Change of Address" mail notification a tear off postcard addressed to the Elections Division to update the voter record.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 1a:
The current "Change of Address" notification form that the Post Office uses has a section to indicate if the move pertains to "Family" or "Individual". We use this information when we conduct a National Change of Address Purge. Since the form is nationally produced and has uses that are not elections related, Postal Officials do not want to make it "Election Specific".
RECOMMENDATION 1b: The County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should use this information to remove the voter's name from the precinct roster in a timely manner.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 1b :
By law, the Registrar of Voters is allowed to use a number of purging techniques, including the Change of Address Notification, to remove voters from the Active Voter File (the Active Section of the Precinct Roster is a reflection of this file). Voters removed from this file as part of the purge process, are placed in the Inactive File ( the Inactive Section of the Precinct Roster is a reflection of this file) for two Federal General Elections. If they do not vote or re-register in that time, they may be canceled. This action is mandated by State and Federal Elections Law .
FINDING 2: When the location of a Polling Place is changed, no notice is posted alerting the public to the new location or to a telephone number where they can ascertain the new precinct.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 2:
When a Polling Place is changed, the voters are notified in the Sample Ballot. The Sample Ballot is sent to the voters approximately 30 days before an election. On the rare occasion that a Polling Place is changed after the Sample Ballots are mailed, a notice is distributed to all voters who are effected. Precinct Inspectors are briefed to identify a telephone that is close to their Polling Place, and be prepared to tell the voters its location, if requested. Also, if a voter needs to call the Elections Office to ascertain the whereabouts of his/her polling place, the Inspector is required to give them a "Telephone Card" that has the number of the Elections Office printed on it.
RECOMMENDATION 2a: The Elections Division should post signs on the entrances of closed or changed polling places alerting the public to the change.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 2a:
Although the situation described in Finding 2 rarely happens, this recommendation can and will be adopted, if the Polling Place is changed after the Sample Ballot is distributed.
RECOMMENDATION 2b: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should make changes to the Sample Ballot where the location of the polling place is printed to prominently display the words "New" or "Changed" when applicable.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 2b:
The Sample Ballot label has the name and address of the facility that will be used as a Polling Place by that voter. We believe this information is adequate to ensure that the voter goes to the proper facility to vote. To add the words "new or changed" to the label would involve a programming change to the Elections Information Management Software, and we are not convinced such an action would be of substantial benefit to the voter. The telephone number of the Elections Office is listed on the Sample Ballot, so the voter can call if he/she has any questions about the election.
FINDING 3: The following problems were found in at least two of the precincts visited by the Grand Jury:
· no functioning public telephone within one-half mile
· no sign directing voters to the nearest functioning public telephone
· no sign providing the telephone number of the Elections Division in case a voter requires assistance
· not all Precinct Inspectors had access to a telephone
· no printed instructions regarding problem solving were available to voters.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 3:
The great majority of Polling Places do not have the problems described in Finding 3. However, we will ensure that the criteria for selecting any Polling Place includes access to a telephone. We currently give the voters a Telephone Card and tell them where the nearest phone is located, whenever they express a desire to call the Elections Office.
RECOMMENDATION 3a: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should require a sign to be posted at each polling place. The sign should list the telephone number of the Elections Division Office as well as the location of the nearest functioning public telephone.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 3a :
We currently direct the precinct workers to give a Telephone Card with the number of the Elections Office to each voter who wishes to call about elections related matters. At that time, the voter will be directed to the nearest operating telephone.
RECOMMENDATION 3b: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should direct the Election Division Manager to provide printed instructions for voters who are uncertain about their correct polling place.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 3b :
The County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor has already directed that the name and address of the voter's Polling Place be printed on the label of the Sample Ballot that is mailed to them.
RECOMMENDATION 3c: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should negotiate with a local supplier of cellular telephones to loan a number of instruments for the exclusive use of Precinct Inspectors on election day. These would not be available for public use.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 3c:
We have 310 Non-Mail Ballot Precincts in the County. It is unnecessary to equip each of these facilities with a cellular telephone, since many have easy access to regular telephones. We will, however, survey all potential polling locations, and when telephones are not readily accessible, arrange for a cellular phone to be available.
FINDING 4: The $70 per diem paid to Precinct Inspectors and $50 per diem paid to other precinct workers is less than the current minimum wage when calculated against 14 hours worked on election day.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 4:
The current per diem paid to precinct workers is less than minimum wage. We believe the effort they expend and the service they provide are worth more than the stipend they currently receive for working election day.
RECOMMENDATION 4: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should consider paying precinct workers a per diem comparable to minimum wage.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 4 :
We agree that the per diem should be increased for both Inspectors and Clerks, and have budgeted accordingly. The FY 97-98 budget allows each Inspector to receive $85 and each Clerk $60.
FINDING 5: Precinct workers reported great satisfaction in terms of community involvement by participating in the election process. The Grand Jury believes this would be a valuable experience for high school and undergraduate students.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 5: We appreciate the expression of satisfaction Precinct Workers have conveyed to the Grand Jury Members. We believe all precinct workers play a prominent role in making our system of Democracy work. We, also, agree that working at the polls would be a valuable experience for high school and college students, and have programs in place to recruit them.
RECOMMENDATION 5: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should work with high schools, community colleges and other higher education institutions in Santa Barbara County to encourage recruitment of interested people. Election participation could be considered community service or an independent study project.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 5 :
We currently are working with the high schools in the County to encourage their students to participate as poll workers. The programs we have established will offer the student the choice of gaining classroom credit or community service credit for their efforts towards their High School Diploma. We have, also, approached a number of community service groups to explore the possibility of having their members serve as poll workers as an alternative service project.
FINDING 6: Precinct workers are not supplied with reference materials at the conclusion of their training session.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 6:
The precinct workers do receive printed material that describes each phase of precinct operations. This material includes an Election Officers Digest, An Election Officer Handbook, and checklists for each Clerk Position.
RECOMMENDATION 6: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should direct the Elections Division Manager to publish a summary of pertinent facts from the Election Officer Handbook for workers' reference at polling precincts.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 6:
Election Division personnel currently take the pertinent information from the election Officer Handbook that pertains to each work station on the Precinct Board (Indexes, Rosters, Ballot Issue), and produce checklists that can be used on Election Day.
FINDING 7: Some experienced Precinct Inspectors and Precinct Workers are not up-to-date on changes in the election code.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 7: Inspectors are required to attend and Clerks are encouraged to attend a training class before each election. These classes cover every aspect of Polling Place operations, and emphasize procedural changes that have occurred since the last election.
RECOMMENDATION 7: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should provide experienced Precinct Inspectors and Precinct Workers with training which is specifically geared to changes in the code and changes in Elections Division procedures.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 7:
Instructors for each training class highlight the changes to the Elections Code and Elections Division Procedures as they review each facet of Polling Place operations. The updates include a description of the change, the genesis of the change, and the impact the change will have on Polling Place operations. The instructors, also, emphasize that, if there are questions about elections related subjects, they are available to discuss them at anytime.
FINDING 8: The Citizens' Committee on Elections has not yet been convened.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO FINDING 8 --
The department concurs.
RECOMMENDATION 8: The Santa Barbara County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor should establish the proposed Citizens' Committee on Elections immediately.
DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION 8 --
The department asserts that there is no legal mandate
or precedence for the establishment of such a committee. Furthermore, the
department is of the opinion that the title and purpose of the proposed
committee is vague and non-defined.
The notion for the proposed committee was the reaction of a County Supervisor to criticisms of the March 1996 Presidential Primary Election. No charter, mission statement, goals, scope of objectives or processes were identified to give substance or purpose to such a committee. If a committee is permitted to exist in this environment the resultant expectations will be turmoil, petty squabbling and the inevitable desire of members to create a political playpen.
While the proposal is vague and accompanied with risk, it should not be viewed as inane. A citizens' committee, with balanced and representative membership, together with a well defined scope of objectives, can be of value. Such a committee has the potential of providing critical information from the community directly to its government.
Critical issues for the committee to review and report would include voter turnout, candidate access to the ballot, elections' costs to jurisdictions, ballot argument simplification and other important issues that would encourage citizen awareness and participation in the elections process.
Accordingly, the County Clerk-Recorder-Assessor will take steps to form a citizens' committee on elections. The committee will be in place in order to be effective for the June 1998 Gubernatorial Primary Election.