San Francisco acts to rebuild elections

SAN FRANCISCO: Election Day on March 5 will test the mettle of San Francisco's election system as much as the politicians and propositions being polled.

SAN FRANCISCO: Election Day on March 5 will test the mettle of San Francisco's election system as much as the politicians and propositions being polled.

The Department of Elections has been under intense scrutiny since last November, when questions arose about the counting of absentee ballots.

The San Francisco Chronicle's investigation of the elections system resulted in an article last month, "SF voting system in shambles, mistrusted.

The piece described ballot-box lids found floating in the bay, and ballots recovered in trash cans.

Secretary of state Bill Jones has called for a reform plan by May 1.

But the elections department has already mounted a new PR campaign to restore confidence, led by Tammy Haygood, the elections chief who was appointed last summer.

The department retains McKenzie Communications, as it has no internal PR staff. "I don't believe the coverage has been fair,

Haygood said.

"It's tremendously troubling, as voter confidence is influenced by a lot of things,

including "headlines (written) for people who only read headlines."

Haygood and William Strawn, EVP of McKenzie, have focused on a voter-education campaign, utilizing the media in new ways for the department.

Past efforts focused on targeting small, local organizations.

The team has written op-eds for ethnic newspapers, participated in forums through KQED public broadcasting, and established a dedicated column with The San Francisco Sentinel, a political publication.

Using the media more effectively is a priority, claims Haygood: "It's like the department was trying to get the word out just yelling with their own lungs, and not using anything to amplify it."

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