Another San Francisco First

When you open your San Francisco Voter Information Pamphlet for the November 2nd election, you’ll be part of a process that exists only in San Francisco. No other city in America has a special volunteer committee dedicated to preparing clear, simple and complete texts of the all the ballot measures its citizens vote on. And the League of Women Voters of San Francisco is an important part of this committee.

The Department of Elections publishes the Voter Information Pamphlet and provides information about candidates, polling places, and the like, but the Ballot Simplification Committee, formed in the 1970s, works with the City Attorney to prepare digests of each proposition that will be included. The Committee prepares the digests in public meetings where they collaborate on changes and consult the City Attorney on legal questions and the Controller’s office on questions of costs. Any member of the public can attend the meetings. Once the Committee reaches consensus on a draft digest, the meeting is opened to public comment. The Committee considers each suggestion put forward by the public and finalizes the draft.
The Committee has five voting members; three are appointed by the Board of Supervisors and two by the Mayor. Two of the three members appointed by the Board of Supervisors must be nominated by either the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences or the Northern California Broadcasters Association. The League of Women Voters of San Francisco must nominate the third member. Of the two members appointed by the Mayor, the Northern California Media Workers Guild must nominate one member, and the other member must be an educational reading specialist recommended by the Superintendent of Schools of the San Francisco Unified School District. Each of the members must be a resident and registered voter of the City and County. The City Attorney or his or her representative serves as a non-voting ex officio member.
The work of the committee must be completed 100 days before Election Day, so the work is done in mid-summer for the November election. This year the committee will begin its sessions on Monday, July 26th and must have all of the digests completed by Monday, August 9th. For agendas and more information about the ballot measures being reviewed, take a look at the Department of Elections website
For informal information about the discussions and presentations being given at the Ballot Simplification Committee meetings, follow this blog. We’ll be reporting to you every day about what happened at the meeting. (Sorry we won’t be able to send tweets—it interferes with the taping). If you have free time during the day, come over to City Hall and watch us work. The room number of each meeting is listed on the posted agenda and the meetings run from 9:30 in the morning until mid-afternoon (or later if necessary), with a brief lunch break. You’ll see a fascinating glimpse of how our city operates, and come November you’ll be the best-informed voter on your block.

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