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San Francisco Mayor Appoints Usability Professional to City Ballot Simplification Committee

August 5, 2005

Affirmed as the fourth person on a committee that bridges the connection between government and voters, Mayor Gavin Newsom's appointment of long-time Usability Professionals' Association member Dana Chisnell to the San Francisco Ballot Simplification Committee rounds out a group of communication professionals who work as volunteers to provide unbiased, objective descriptions of each proposition on the San Francisco ballot.

Chisnell, nominated to the Committee by the Northern California Media Workers Guild, was affirmed in the Rotunda at City Hall on July 27, 2005 by Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy County Clerk. Surrounded by family and friends, Chisnell took an oath to do her duty on the Committee well. Her work with the Committee started on August 1.


Photo of swearing in ceremony
Dana Chisnell, left, being sworn in by San Francisco Deputy County Clerk Shirley Rodrigues.
Photo (c) Stewart Bloom

The Ballot Simplification Committee was formed in the 1970s and is the only committee of its type in the United States. The Committee works with the City Attorney to prepare 300- to 400-word digests of each proposition that will be included in the Voter Information Pamphlet mailed out to each registered voter before each election.

The Committee prepares the digests in public meetings. The members collaborate on changes, consult the City Attorney on legal questions and the Controller’s office on questions of costs. 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 and one ex-officio, non-voting member. Of the five voting members, the Board of Supervisors appoints three and the Mayor appoints two. 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 appointive 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.

Each Ballot Simplification Committee digest includes four subsections: (1) The Way It Is Now; (2) The Proposal; (3) A "Yes" Vote Means; and (4) A "No" Vote Means. In general, digests may not exceed 300 words in length, and must use language as close as possible to the eighth-grade reading level. The Committee also reviews other materials and information that are published in the Voter Information Pamphlet, such as definitions of the terms that appear in the pamphlet.

The Usability Professionals' Association is an international, non-profit, professional association with 2500 members in the US and 35 other countries. Members are specialists in evaluating and designing products that are easy to learn and use. The organization provides its members with a wide variety of professional services. Through outreach the UPA:

  • Shares information about the skills and approach of usability professionals in meeting needs for usable products.
  • Acts as an advocate for usability in consumer, corporate and governmental software, products and web sites.
  • Educates the general public about the usability.

For more information, contact:

The Usability Professionals' Association
140 N. Bloomingdale Rd.
Bloomingdale, IL 60108-1017
email: office@upassoc.org
web: http://www.usabilityprofessionals.org

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