Goals and Accomplishments

When Registrar of Voters Michael J. Scarpello arrived in San Bernardino County in April 2011, the Elections Office was tasked with three major objectives:

1) Continue the tradition of conducting successful elections in San Bernardino County.

2) Streamline the office’s operations and conduct elections in a much more efficient manner.

3) Speed up the counting of votes on Election Day.

After an extensive strategic planning effort, the Elections Office formulated both short- and long-term goals, along with corresponding objectives and operational plans.  Below are a few examples:

Provide Information on Changes About the Top Two Open Primary

The Top Two Candidate Open Primary Act was created and implemented by Proposition 14 (June 2010 Ballot), Senate Bill 6, and AB 1413. Many people have focused on the “Top Two,” but the new laws only change some aspects of the primary elections.

To inform San Bernardino County Voters on these changes the Elections Office created and implemented the following:

  • Created a Top Two Candidate Open Primary Act Handout [pdf] from information provided by the Secretary of State, which was also included in the Voter Information Guide for the Presidential Primary Election.
  • Held informational briefings for the media, community leaders, candidates for elected office, and the Spanish-language community.
  • Designed Sample Ballots which contain detailed examples of the changes voters could expect to see on the ballot.
  • Conducted specialized poll worker supervisor training to educate supervisors on the Top Two Primary Act, so they have the knowledge to answer all questions at the polling place.

Reassign Polling Places

When precinct lines change, voters may be reassigned to new polling places. The Elections Office completed a major project searching for and securing many new polling places that are well maintained, in safe locations, and that have large ADA compliant voting areas and parking lots.

After securing as many existing and new locations as were available for use, the Elections Office assigned voters to their new polling place. When making these assignments, many factors were considered, including voter proximity to the polling place, physical land barriers that might impede voter transportation, availability of public transportation, and capacity of the location and the parking lot.

The end result is that San Bernardino County had 550 polling places for the 2008 Presidential General Election and has 445 for the 2012 Presidential General Election. Voters can learn about their new polling place assignments by looking on the back page of their Voter Information Guide and Sample Ballot, by calling the Elections Office, or by using the Find my Polling Place and Sample Ballot Tool.

New Online Polling Place Look-Up Tool

The Elections Office created a new Polling Place Look-Up Tool on our website, allowing voters to find their polling place and their Voter Information Guide and Sample Ballot with ease. We created the application with the help of Esri, a Redlands-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) company and the company’s mapping software.

Military and Overseas Voters

In May 2012, the Elections Office was awarded a $134,000 Federal Voting Assistance Program Grant to provide online ballot delivery to the County’s military and overseas voters. The grant will help military and overseas voters receive their ballots quickly and securely while cutting the cost of mailing them. By early October, more than 250 overseas voters had cast their ballots for the November 6, 2012 Presidential General Election.

Redistrict and Redraw Precinct Lines

Redistricting occurs every 10 years. It is the process of redrawing political boundaries after the U.S. Census has occurred. The redistricting of California’s Congressional, State Senate, State Assembly and Board of Equalization districts was completed by the voter-approved California Citizens Redistricting Commission. In 2011, the County Board of Supervisors, as well as some cities and other local jurisdictions, also re-drew their districts.

When political boundaries change, precinct lines must also be changed. In 2012 the Elections Office created new precinct lines for San Bernardino County. The process of redistricting and re-drawing precincts is an extensive one that takes hundreds of hours to create new lines, reprogram databases, and to proof the results.

Modifications in the Mail Ballot Program

In 2012, mail ballots are being sent by bulk mail rate rather than the first class mail rate. This change in policy saved the county approximately $80,000 in 2011 and is producing more savings in 2012. In our meetings with the U.S. Post Office, we’ve been told that sending the ballots by bulk mail will have no impact on the delivery of our ballots.

We've also significantly increased the number of mail ballot drop off locations in 2012. Voters can now drop off their mail ballots at any San Bernardino County Library or any City Clerk's Office. There are a total of 55 drop-off locations.

Approximately 42% of all San Bernardino voters are on our permanent mail ballot list. We anticipate that the number of mail ballot voters will continue to increase significantly this year and are planning accordingly.

The use of mail ballots provides advantages, which include:

  • With a larger percentage of mail ballots returned and counted before Election Day, faster election results will be available on election night.
  • If more people vote by mail, fewer people vote at polling places on Election Day. With fewer expected voters we are able to assign more precincts to a single polling place and subsequently reduce our total number of polling places and their associated costs.

New Elections Office Infrastructure

The infrastructure of the Elections Office was rebuilt in order for the office to be effective and efficient. Many projects will continue throughout 2012 and beyond. Some of the projects include:

  • Development of software tools for project management as well as tools to help us share information internally and externally more efficiently.
  • The review and revision of all internal processes to ensure their effectiveness.
  • Documentation of all office processes and procedures to ensure compliance with laws, to manage risks, to document organizational knowledge, and as a tool for continuous improvement.
  • Revision of record retention procedures and the building of a physical and electronic office reference library.
  • Rebuilding the office computer network.

Communication Efforts

It is critical that the Elections Office improve its external communications efforts so that the public is informed of these changes. A new communications department is focusing on community, campaign, media, and government relations.

Objectives of this group include:

  • Re-branding the Registrar of Voters’ Office with a new logo, letterhead, and other related marketing materials. In addition, the office is starting to be referred to as the “Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters.” This term is more accurate and it makes our office more searchable on the internet for citizens trying to find the county’s election administrator.
  • Educating and encouraging the media to assist in spreading the word about critical election information.
  • Redesigning the website.
  • Implementation of a campaign to get voters to receive their sample ballots electronically rather than on paper in order to save printing costs.
  • Use of Twitter @SBC_Elections to spread the office’s message.

New Ballot Processing Procedures

In order to speed up the processing of ballots and to increase our efficiency, we’ve developed new plans for processing and counting ballots at the Elections Office. Some of the plans were implemented during 2011 and others will continue to be implemented in 2012.

The plan includes:

  • Doubling the office space used to count ballots and increasing the number of ballot counting operators.
  • Counting mail ballots received on Election Day during the day rather than waiting until the next day. This will help us to complete the final count faster and it will enable us to update our election totals more consistently throughout the night.
  • Changing our ballot programming so that we can count ballots in “mixed mode” rather than counting them one precinct at a time. The computers will now sort the results into precinct categories as required by law. This change will allow us to count boxes of ballots without the added step of sorting them into individual precincts prior to counting.
  • The use of a signature verification machine that captures the signatures on mail ballot envelopes and allows us to more rapidly verify those signatures with less physical handling of the envelopes.

New Poll Worker Training Program

With new polling place procedures and an increased number of voters at polling places on Election Day, we have recognized the need to develop a new poll worker training program.

The elements of the training program include:

  • A new (2) two-hour basic training class that includes a narrated PowerPoint presentation with videos and a hands-on simulation where a mock polling place is set up and voters are processed.
  • Evaluations of trainees to identify workers who meet the minimum requirements for working. Worker strengths are also identified in order to place them in the proper role on Election Day, or give them the opportunity to advance to Supervisor training.
  • A newly-added (4) four-hour class for supervisors and field representatives that includes training on advanced polling place procedures, management and problem solving skills, and the setup and use of touch screen voting equipment.
  • Performance evaluations of all Election Day poll workers and field personnel.

New Polling Place Procedures

We know that we have to process voters quickly while ensuring accuracy. Consequently, we have put new polling place procedures into effect that will streamline the process.

Some of these changes include:

  • A new ballot packaging and delivery process that simplifies the procedures for poll workers and speeds up the opening of polls on Election Day.
  • The use of new street maps at the polling place, which is intended to assist in directing voters to their correct polling place thereby reducing the number of provisional ballots.
  • A new roster design that simplifies and speeds up the voter check-in process.
  • Use of specially trained poll workers to assist voters with voting issues away from the roster table so that other voters can be processed in a timely manner.
  • The use of newly designed voter index procedures that will speed up the processing of voters, as well as assist candidates and campaigns with their get-out-the-vote efforts.
  • The use of a new ballot box design that helps segment ballot types in order to increase the speed of processing after the close of the polls.
  • A new field support plan that better assists poll workers when they need help from the Elections Office.
  • New poll closing and ballot delivery procedures to speed up the delivery of ballots to the Elections Office.

Polling Place Consolidation

With lower numbers of voters at the polls because of the increased use of mail ballots, we are reducing the number of polling places. With fewer polling places, we have lower rental payments, lower delivery costs, and significant savings in poll worker salaries.

In consolidating polling places for this year’s election we followed the rules below in order to protect the convenience of voters:

  • Voters will not have to cross physical land barriers that impede voter transportation (i.e. freeways, train tracks, etc.).
  • Polling places are in easy to locate, well known, and well maintained facilities that have adequate and ADA accessible parking and are located on main thoroughfares.
  • The number of poll workers at any polling place is directly tied to the expected turnout.
  • The number of parking spaces and the square footage of the facility must be adequate to handle the expected number of voters at any given polling place.

After following these rules, we found that we could reduce the number of polling places used in the General Election from 550 in 2008 to 445 this year. This reduction is not expected to inconvenience voters and will save thousands of dollars.

New Ballot Design

A new ballot design was introduced in the 2011 Consolidated Election. The new design was developed using nationally-recognized best practices for ballot readability. This design provides better ballot instructions as well as a cleaner and more user-friendly design. This design is expected to lower the voter error rate, which means more voters’ ballots will be counted and will reduce administrative costs.

Elections Office Re-Structure of Organization

The organizational structure of the Elections Office has been reorganized into three divisions: Operations, Technology, and Administration. Each of the three divisions is logically designed to foster teamwork and efficiency. This reorganization, along with changes in several management philosophies, has already helped us to succeed with a staff of only 24 employees. This is a reduction of about 50 percent of our staff that was working four years ago.

New and Existing Technology Hardware

Much of the Elections Office’s election and office hardware was obsolete, out of warranty, and in desperate need of replacement. New computers and servers were purchased for the office network as well as new servers for the vote counting network.

A new ballot-on-demand printer was tested in the 2011 Consolidated Election. This technology will be used in 2012 and could save as much as $50,000 in ballot costs in the 2012 elections alone.

A new ballot sorting and signature verification machine was purchased in 2011 with federal HAVA funds. This technology is processing ballots in a timelier manner and is providing some savings in labor costs.

The county originally owned 4,000 Edge II DRE voting machines. These machines have been decertified by the Secretary of State. In our current election model, we will only need 1,200 machines in the 2012 elections that will be used in polling places by disabled voters. To date, we have sold 1800 of the unneeded units. This year, we’ll continue to search for interested buyers of our remaining unneeded machines.