March 30, 2010

Summit Notes, March 20, 2010.

PARTICIPANTS: Jenny Davis, scribe and resident W4; Jean O'Sullivan W7; Linda Chagnon W7; Jake Perkinson, Chittenden Cty Chair, Dems; Melani Barch, W4 Inspector; Cliff Cooper, Community News, W4; Ellen Cooper, W4; Angela Chagnon, W7; Lea Terhune, facilitator, W4; Vince Dober, City Councilor, W7; David Cain, Burlington Chair Dems; Art Hogan, Dem W4 Caucus Chair; Dick Kelley, W4 Inspector; Jim Couture, W4 Clerk; Greg Jenkins, W7; Chuck Seleen, W4. Unable to attend, but asked to be included in future meeting: Nancy Kaplan, W4 City Council; Paul Decelles, W7 City Council.


Location of polling places: 
Ward 7, Miller Ctr - parking problems, not enough space, not safe for people walking to/from center, traffic congestion, fender-bender, people not happy. Vince Dober did a survey, 85% of respondents want to move polling place back to Hunt School.
Ward 4, St. Marks - suggestions are Leddy Arena, Flynn School, High School.

Signage at polling places:
Sign problems at both polling places -- signs misplaced, signs not visible from Avenue, Ward 7 moved signs near St. Marks, Ward 7 moved sign in front of Miller, ward 4 sign small and faded, ward 4 sign down on the ground weekend preceding election day, small  W4sign obscured by bushes, residents don't always know if they live in ward 4 or 7 so a sign that says W7 moved to Miller that was placed near W4 St. Marks was confusing. Signs that are bold and attractive add to excitement and anticipation of election day, inspire people to vote. Flags would be good, too, and could be handmade and reused, appeal to all ages.

Schools as polling places: 
Some people are uncomfortable voting in a church.
If schools are polling places, would that impact the school budget vote?
Schools have opportunity for civics education
Everybody knows where the schools are
Schools are public spaces.
Flynn doesn't have adequate parking.
Miller doesn't have adequate parking.
Hunt has good circulation and adequate parking.
BHS has lots of parking, everybody knows where it is.
If schools require teachers to be in school that day, parking is taken.

Lack of privacy -- people can see marks on ballot at booth and when putting in machine
Ballots aren't numbered any more, potential for fraud
When you vote at the city clerk's office, they put your ballot in a drawer.
What happened to the locked ballot box? Voters feel insecure.
More training, supervision, direction needed from "the top," better process across the city
Control needed on ballots.
Absentee ballots need to go into a locked box, not a drawer in clerk's office.
Privacy instills voter confidence. Voter privacy lacking.
With numbered ballots you can cross-check against voter check;list.
If #'d ballots checked hourly, can trace numbers, and can also account for all spoiled or "lost" ballots.
Absentee ballots -- need to know who is handling them, and what happens to those ballots.
ABs shouldn't be touched until election day -- what IS the process?
Trust in city hall and clerk's office is lacking these days. Ward 7 sealed ballots box opened 3 times.
No privacy when ABs are used, so people are more and more reluctant to vote absentee.
Handling of ABs, ritual must be consistent.
Handling must protect voter privacy.
Ballots should be "sacred," all rules followed scrupulously, no sloppiness tolerated.
Reps from all parties/candidates present when ABs opened/counted.
Ballot questions confusing, language confusing, like vote NO if you are in favor of an issue.
Ballots need simple, clear language.
Location of ballot questions -- on the recent ballot the school budget question was under the instructions and looked like an example. [Look at how many people didn't vote on this.] Issues located over candidates?
W7 polling place moved to Miller Ctr? Who made this decision?
W4 polling place kept at St. Mark's. Why not moved to Flynn?
Resolution for change of polling place goes through City Council -- but it needs to come from residents.
Privacy in voting booth and at machine needed.
Campaign literature littered the polling place, came in from outside with voters who left it in booths, ask for NO literature/leaflets handed out at the polls or brought into the polling place.
Greeters could advise voters as they enter polling place to avoid wearing buttons, or bringing literature into the polling place.
Need greeters at entrance to polling place as well as inside.

How to increase voter turnout:
Involve students in mock elections and give out "I voted" stickers to remind/motivate parents.
Competition among schools/wards to increase voter turnout.
Free bus passes (published in the Community News).
Track and report attendance at each poll throughout the day.
Have a rides shuttle service, especially for seniors.
Call-in transportation services on election day.
Non-partisan community volunteers provide transportation.
SSTA for eligible riders
Election Day a day of community celebration. Parades!
Sales in stores on election day. Specials in restaurants. Discounts at the dry cleaner!
VOTE signs and banners.
NPAs provide historical data and encourage ward to encourage best voter turnout.
Larger signs in front of polling places.
Make polling places more attractive, festive.
Welcome new voters, with "vote" in different languages.
Emphasis on "voter friendly," with helpers easily identified so a first-time voter  is not intimidated or frustrated.
Big "INFO HERE" signs, and people to help.
Translators to help ESL understand the ballot questions.
Often older ESL voters bring children to assist, but what if there is no one to translate?
Polling places easy for people to get to, bus stop nearby.
Move election Day to a Saturday in May.

Suggested theme -- VAINE: Voter Apathy is No Excuse!
VT Sec. of State theme -- Your Vote is Your Voice.
Looking for something upbeat, and InSpiring!
Where are the Ward 7 election officials? Why aren't they here?
Ward 7 election official perceived as having conflict of interest, i.e. manager of a campaign for a ballot item. Apparently it's legal, but several people thought it contributed to the climate of distrust.

March 29, 2010

Duplicates, or Registered in another town?

The voter registration database is set up so that each clerk can search for duplicates by name and date of birth.  The clerk may use the last 4 digits of the SSN if this data has been entered for the voter when the clerk checks the full voter record to determine if the voter is the same person.  If the clerk is in doubt, the clerk can call the other Vermont clerk to discuss.

Our office will conduct a number of training sessions in late spring and summer  Any person can attend.  The sessions will be announced in the May monthly opinions newsletter.

Best Regards, Kathy

Kathleen Scheele DeWolfe
Director of Elections & Campaign Finance
VT Office of the Secretary of State
26 Terrace Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-1101
(802) 828-2304

March 25, 2010

Merging City and State database

We started using the State’s version of the voter checklist data about three years ago. Prior to using the state’s data, the city had it’s own checklist data. When we converted to using the state’s data, we decided to merge the data from the state into our own data tables, since most of the fields were the same. This saved us the trouble of having to make large-scale changes to the systems we use to access and report on this data. There are some fields that we used to use that the state does not use, such as phone number, notes, delete reason etc. We have a process that runs once every hour that downloads all the current data from the state and inserts it into our data tables. Where the state’s data does not have a column that matches, no data fills in, so the result is an empty column. [Dana Baron, City of Burlington.]

Voter Status -- depending on when the person voted last

From the city Voter Registration Office:  A voter’s status can be “Active”, “Inactive/Challenged”, or “Purged/Archived”. There are a couple of other status codes that indicate cases where we do not have complete registration information: “SSN Not Verified” and “No Oath”. (If someone in one of these statuses shows up to vote, there are provisions to allow them to do so). The law states that if someone has not voted in a certain number of elections (I’m not sure what the number is), then we must send them a “Challenge” notice telling them we will be purging them from the checklist. Those people are then placed in “Inactive/Challenged” status. If we don’t hear from the voter after a period of time (again, I don’t know what the time period is), then they are placed in “Purged/Archived” status.

March 24, 2010

How is checklist updated? How is this related to low voter turnout?

We heard reports on election day of "voters" who had died but were still on the checklist. Checklist has three categories: current/active, inactive, deleted. Here's how the checklist is updated:

Margaret Poirier, for the Board of Registration of Voters, checks Free Press death notices and Board of Health records routinely and updates the checklist, moving people who have died to the deleted category. In addition, every 2 years she mails out postcards to people who have not voted in 4 consecutive general elections to ask if they want to remain current on the checklist. If they reply yes, they remain current. If they do not reply, they are moved to the inactive category.  *[Needs to be confirmed -- conflicting information. There's a "challenge letter" that is sent out by the state. Don't know who sends the postcard.]

If people register in another town/state, the voter registration office there sends notice to our Clerk and Margaret moves the name to deleted category. If a person fails to inform the new registration town office that they are previously registered elsewhere, they would remain on our active list until the postcard is unanswered (moved to inactive category) or they notify our Clerk (moved to deleted category).

It is logical to conclude that the Burlington checklist is inflated, and at least 10 years outdated at any given time. For example, people who were in town during the last presidential election may have registered here to vote, and are either here no longer, or have no interest in Town Meeting or statewide elections. So we must not feel guilty about our low voter turnout, especially in wards where there is a high transient population. People are to be praised for registering, even if only to vote in a presidential election in Burlington one time!

March 22, 2010

NEVIS NOTES: March 20, 2010

Participation: Linda Chagnon, Jean O'Sullivan, Jake Perkinson, Melanie Brach, Ellen Cooper, Cliff Cooper, Angela Chagnon, Lea Terhune, Vince Dober, Art Hogan, David Cain, Dick Kelly, Jim Couture, Greg Jenkins, Chuck Seleen, Jenny Davis. Nancy Kaplan, Paul Decelles, Loyal Ploof, and Larry Solt were not able to attend but want to stay involved.

Highlights:  ~Regarding polling places: Vince did a survey in Ward 7 about site preference and 85% want to return to Hunt School. He and Paul will be taking this up with the full Board of Civil Authority. We learned that the Ward 4 polling place stayed at St. Mark's because ward 4 clerk and inspectors didn't think there was time before Town Meeting to make the move. Discussion is ongoing. ~Regarding the Board of Civil Authority (aka City Council), the City Clerk's office (Ben Pacy, Lori Olberg), and Ward Clerks (Couture 4, Noyes 7) and Inspectors (Gilbert 4 , Kelley 4, Barch 4; Deliduka 7, Hossley 7, Riley 7): there could be a presentation at an upcoming NPA by the City Clerk's office about what clerks and inspectors do. ~Regarding increasing voter turnout: ideas flowed freely -- many that have worked well in Burlington in the past, and some things yet to try. Getting our stats together so we know our history and our personal best will help us set goals that are both realistic and challenging.

Feedback about Election Day:
We value all ideas, and we noted every idea expressed by every person who participated. At the next work session, we'll literally cut up the list, put like issues/ideas together in a pile, and see who can tackle each set of issues.

What next:
Most of the people present expressed interest in continuing to work on improvements, reviewing what worked in the past and in other places to find ways to inspire an enthusiastic voter turnout. The North End NPA will make this a priority in the coming year, starting with NEVIS' evaluation of election day (convenience of polling places, signage, voter information, and training of people working at the polls). Packets of information are being collected from the City Clerk and Secretary of State's Office, and an internet search for great ideas is ongoing. We'll have monthly updates from NEVIS at the NPA, and track progress. Hopefully, polling sites will be confirmed soon so chosen venues can create optimal situation (parking, traffic flow) and  there can be widespread publicity to create awareness in the community.

Next work session: 
Saturday, Apr. 17, 10-11AM, Miller Center. Contact Lea Terhune (658-1908) and Greg Jenkins (865-0249)