Discussion: Draft Plan to conduct GPCA County Council elections

Discussion:  Review of Draft Plan to conduct GPCA County Council elections 
Sponsor: Coordinating Committee

Background: In September 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB1272, a bill which changed state law so that county registrars only conduct County Council elections every four years - during presidential preference primary elections - rather than every two years during the primary elections, as has been the practice since the GPCA first qualified for the ballot .
At the GPCA's Napa General Assembly in June 2013, the General Assembly approved $3,000 for the GPCA to conduct its own County Council elections.  This agenda item is to review and solicit input from party members on the draft plan the Coordinating Committee has prepared. 
Timeline and Process:
Friday, December 27, 2013 (E-158) to Friday, March 7, 2014 (E-88):  Declaration of candidacy/Gathering of nomination signatures
This timing will correspond to the opening and closing of the signature gathering period for state and federal office, so that signature can be gathered for those offices and for county council at the same time.  
To minimize confusion, nomination petitions shall be either (a) scanned and emailed, or (b) postal mailed to a central location.  If scanned, the email must be received by 11:59pm, Friday, March 7.  If sent by postal mail, it must be post-marked on by March 7 (http://about.usps.com/handbooks/po408/ch1_003.htm).  An Elections Coordinator will be paid out of the GPCA's budget line for County Council elections to receive these petitions and handle them as explained in the March 8th-30th section below.
The GPCA will design a petition that will include a space for signers to indicate their name, address, signature, email (optional) and date of signing, as well as a place for the circulator to sign. That petition will be available on-line at http://www.cagreens.org/county-councils/2014. 
The same threshold for signatures shall apply as specified in GPCA bylaws 6-2.5 (http://www.cagreens.org/bylaws/2013-06-23#Section_6-2_Elections): "The number of sponsors which shall be required of a person to be a candidate for member of a County Council shall be either: (a) Not less than 20; or (b) Not less than 2 percent of the number of voters registered as affiliated with the Green Party in the County Council election district -- whichever is less." 
However in the rest of 6-2.5, a bylaws interpretation will be made (explained in the appendix below) that the following sentence be changed for the purposes of elections conducted by the GPCA, from
"Each sponsor is entitled to sponsor as many candidates as there are seats in the district"  to  "Each sponsor is entitled to sponsor as many as one more candidate as there are seats in the district, but if a sponsor signs the nomination petition of more candidates than that, all of his/her nomination signatures shall be deemed invalid."
To ensure their accuracy, candidates are encouraged to go on their own to their own county registrar to check the signatures and party registration of the signers.  With the extended time period to gather signatures, there should be opportunity enough to do this.
Saturday, March 8, 2014 to Sunday, March 30, 2014: Certification of ballot-qualified candidates
All nominations received by the Elections Coordinator will be collated by county, and within county by district as applicable, and scanned and saved for reference.
The GPCA will then pay a number of individuals who will travel in-person to county registrars offices to validate the signatures.  The extended period is meant to allow a small number of validators travel to multiple counties. Having the scans in a central place will allow the central coordinator to send the scans via email to each of the validators.
The validation team will report their results to the Coordinating Committee and the Elections Coordinator, and Coordinating Committee will announce via email, the results to all candidates who submitted nomination petitions.  Candidates who did not qualify for the ballot may appeal to the Coordinating Committee, which shall review the documentation and make a ruling.
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 to Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014: Voting period 
A profile for each ballot-qualified candidate will be posted on cagreens.org, so any Green voting could review information about the candidates. Candidates may include links to videos, media, etc in their profile.
Voting will be by ranked-choice voting via a web-based voting page. The manner in which voting page will be established and the security codes/passwords etc. has not yet been worked out and is the primary outstanding task. Papers ballots will be added manually to the voting page.
Where races are not contested, the race will still be on the ballot for party members to express their preferences, and voters can also vote NOTA (none-of-the-above), meaning not everyone will be automatically elected, even in an otherwise uncontested race.
County parties will be encouraged to provide an in-person option to vote at face-to-face, 'meet the candidate' meetings and events timed to coincide with regular county meetings and/or special meetings to hear the candidates.  It is preferred that county parties provide access to vote on-line on the state party voting page at these meetings and events, but a paper ballot option will be developed. However paper ballots will require on-site validation of the signatures at the county registrar post-election, and thus require more work and cost more to process.  They then will have to be hand-entered into the on-line voting page.
Outreach: We are going to have to accept that we are not going to be able to reach every Green voter in 2014. We are not going to be sending snail mail to every party member.  We are going to have to make a good faith effort to reach as many of our members as we can, utilizing resources already at our disposal, and that we can afford. The process should include
- Periodic emails to the over 10,000 members for whom we have email, and a concerted effort to identify the emails of more party members
- Include the voting page in all of our fundraising mailers to our members, that we will already be sending out
- Publicize the voting page through our social media on FB and Twitter, including on a county-by-county basis on Facebook
- Publicize the voting page on our state and county web pages
- Where a County Party puts out a voter guide, it can include the voting page
- County parties holding 'meet the candidate' and 'vote for county council' events open to party members
- Phone bank party members (and get their email addresses at the same time)
- Develop a press strategy that we are the first political party to conduct an on-line election in California, so that we get publicity in the press that will reach our members.  Seek local as well as statewide press, to reach local Greens.
- Discussion with the Secretary of State's office that we may be able to have a listing in the Voter Guide stating that "the Green Party is going to conduct its own election and here is the web page to go for more info".
- Explore whether we can add the voting page as an attachment to our 200 word statement that gets included in the voter Guide and on the SoS's web page, rather than having it count as part of it.

Appendix:  Amending the number of nomination petitions a party member can sign
The question I have relates to how we are going to handle nomination signatures. Specifically GPCA bylaws 6-2.5 state that
"Each sponsor is entitled to sponsor as many candidates as there are seats in the district. Notwithstanding any provision of the Elections Code, as many candidates as there are seats in the district may have their names listed on a single sponsor's certificate, and the signatures thereon shall be counted toward the sponsor requirement of each and every candidate whose name is listed on the certificate."
The issue here is that with the county registrars, they have paid staff on hand every day to validate signatures as they come in. Therefore if a person signs eight nomination petitions, but there are only seven seats to be elected, only the first seven signatures turned in are valid towards a candidate reaching the signature threshold.
However with the GPCA doing the signature validation, the current plan is to only do a single validation after the close of the signature gathering period, where there would be people paid to literally go into the county registrar's office in every county in the state in which there is a county council candidate.  There are simply not the resources nor the infrastructure to do ongoing signature validation.
Therefore, even if there is a space on the nomination petition to say when that person signed, that can't be trusted if it means invalidating the signatures of others, so the result is that either
(a) a person can only sign as many petitions as there are seats to be elected and if they sign more, all of their signatures would be invalidated
(b) a person can sign as many petitions as they want.
The problem with (b) is that especially combined with the ease of being able to list as many candidates as there are seats on a single petition, a person could sign multiple such petitions and a scenario in which there are dozens and dozens of people running for the same seats, few of which would be know to Green voters.  This could be confusing at a minimum, could lead to many key party leaders being lost in the morass of dozens of candidates and/or make the party susceptible to infiltration - or some combination of all three.
Alternatively if we wanted to promote competitive County Council elections in counties where they traditionally do not exists, we could amend (a) to read as
(c) a person can sign up to one more petition than there are seats to be elected and if they sign more, all of their signatures would be invalidated
This is what is amended in this draft.