After complaints that some voter information pamphlets arrived in mailboxes too late to be useful last month, a city supervisor proposed a law that would require the Department of Elections to mail voter guides 29 days before an election.
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he hopes the measure, which he plans to introduce at the Board of Supervisors today, will increase voter turnout and the number of absentee ballots returned. If approved, the ordinance would require that every registered voter receive a pamphlet — which includes a sample ballot, a list of candidates, a list of measures and basic information on the elections — eight days earlier than is currently required.
“Such a requirement will assist those who wish to take advantage of early voting procedures at City Hall … thereby increasing voter participation and turnout,” Elsbernd said in a statement. “Such a requirement will also provide sufficient time for those voting on Election Day to review the [pamphlet].”
The Department of Elections is required to mail the information pamphlets 21 days before an election to the 450,000 registered voters in The City and absentee ballots 29 days before an election to the 120,000 permanent absentee ballot voters. The June 6 primary election had an additional 10,000 absentee ballots in The City, according to Linda Tulett, deputy director of the San Francisco Elections Department.
In last month’s election, some residents complained their voter pamphlets arrived too close to the election. Tullet said that while some of the guideswere delayed, they all arrived by the legally required time. She said a last-minute switch with the vendor, who produced the 158 different types of ballots used in the primary, caused the problem.
Tullet said delays are also sometimes caused by making sure all the items required to be in the guides, like sample ballots, are in place. The vendor switch was made to comply with new laws, Tullet said, adding that this year’s delay was not typical of the department’s history.
While the Elsbernd proposal could help voter turnout, Tullet said, it could cause an extra strain on the Elections Department by requiring it to employ a larger staff to meet the early deadline.