3 questions for 3 candidates for county clerk-recorder: Danko, Gong and King

newsroom@thetribunenews.comMay 10, 2014 

San Luis Obispo County clerk-recorder

Salary: $135,637 • Term: 4 years

The Tribune asked the three candidates running for San Luis Obispo County clerk-recorder, Ann M. Danko, Tommy Gong and Amanda S. King, to answer three questions in 125 words or less.

Ann M. Danko

Ann Danko, 57, has worked for Caltrans since 1992, most recently as a business management chief and small business liaison. She also has worked as a recruiter, training officer and associate information systems analyst for the state agency. Danko has a bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly in political science/public administration and a master’s degree in education with special interest option. She and her husband, Ken, live in San Luis Obispo. They have two daughters, a son-in-law and granddaughter.

What new processes or technology will you use to handle elections more efficiently and what is your timeline?

I am not comfortable with electronic elections at this time. There are too many ways the systems can be hacked, and paper ballots are still the best. I have conducted county elections since 2002 at the precinct level, and we have gone from counting machines that were old and cumbersome and often did not communicate well, back to paper ballots in ballot boxes where then the Clerk-Recorder staff use high speed counters to read the ballots. This process has proven to be fast and accurate. We still have the paper ballot as a record if there is ever a dispute. If elected, I will monitor new developments in technology for future upgrades to elections, but feel there is no need at this time.

Providing access to public information is an integral part of the County-Clerk job. What improvements will you make to increase access to public records?

The integrity of all the records archived at the Clerk-Recorder’s office is very important; they need to be secure yet accessible. For those coming to the Clerk-Recorder’s office in person, the most important thing is to have well trained customer service staff to assist those who may not have the computer skills to access the information with the computers that are available, and secondly to have high quality IT staff to make sure that all these public record databases are accessible at all times. It is important that these systems are not “down” for any length of time so that those who need access to the records can get them. I would hire well-trained competent staff in the areas needed.

The California Secretary of State is working on a statewide voter registration database. What steps will you take locally to ensure a smooth transition before the 2016 election?

The San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder already has a voter registration database, and the key will be to make sure that it is compatible with the Secretary of State’s database in Sacramento. With 58 counties in California, we should not have 58 ways of doing the same job. It is important that the county works in concert with the Secretary of State’s office to make sure all of the databases will “talk” to each other and they integrate correctly. It will take communication and someone who has had Information Technology experience to handle this task. I was an Associate Information System’s Analyst at Caltrans and worked on many projects such as this and feel I’m up to for task.

Tommy Gong

Tommy Gong, 48, has been assistant county clerk-recorder for San Luis Obispo County for nine years, and elections manager for Stanislaus County for two years before that. He also helped run his family’s grocery business. He has a bachelor’s degree in social science from UC Berkeley, an MBA from San Francisco State University and a California Professional Election Administration credential. Gong and his wife, Sherry, live in Atascadero and have two sons.

What new processes or technology will you use to handle elections more efficiently and what is your timeline?

Our voting system is accurate and reliable, but I want to utilize technology to count the vote more quickly without sacrificing accuracy or election integrity. I have been working with vendors to develop next generation systems that would use high-speed counters scanning the full ballot and alert staff of potential over-votes and write-ins. Technology would enable us to electronically view all ballots in a precinct, saving from physically sorting ballots. I will also look into ballot-on-demand printing to avoid the cost and waste of unused ballots. It would be ideal to implement such systems in 2016, but only if it is ready, secure and thoroughly tested. I will also look into legislation reflecting the increasing number of vote-by-mail in being cost effective when conducting elections.

Providing access to public information is an integral part of the County-Clerk job. What improvements will you make to increase access to public records?

We have made strides providing public access to records on our website, including the minutes and video recordings of the Board of Supervisors and Assessment Appeals meetings we clerk, the index of Official Records, and candidates' Campaign Finance Disclosure Statements. I will look into also posting Form 700 Conflict of Interest statements on the web to increase transparency. However, we must also protect the public from abuse and fraud. It was some years ago that counties removed the ability to search birth certificates on the web to avoid identity theft, and social security numbers are not to appear on official documents. So I will maintain a balanced approach that will provide increased transparency but provide the maximum security with the records entrusted to the office.

The California Secretary of State is working on a statewide voter registration database. What steps will you take locally to ensure a smooth transition before the 2016 election?

I have been involved with the state's transition to a statewide voter registration database since I was with Stanislaus County in 2004. As the Assistant County Clerk-Recorder (number two person in the office), I am the primary person in the office involved with our voter registration system in SLO County. I have already been involved with the transition to the statewide voter registration database (called VoteCal) with data standardization, gap/fit analysis, and creating solutions to meet federal requirements. I am encouraged with the cooperation between the Secretary of State's office, the system vendors, and counties working together in building this very complex system. I will continue to be involved in its development and facilitating the training, testing, and implementation for a smooth transition in 2016.

Amanda S. King

Amanda King, 31, has been a deputy clerk-recorder for San Luis Obispo County since 2006. A graduate of San Luis Obispo High School, King has a bachelor’s degree in recording arts from Loyola Marymount University and a master’s degree in negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding from California State University Dominguez Hills. King lives in San Luis Obispo.

What new processes or technology will you use to handle elections more efficiently and what is your timeline?

For six years, I’ve run precinct worker training that evolves each election. I’ve added elements such as PowerPoint and videos. This year, we added Election Jeopardy and hands-on accessibility training including a threshold demonstration using a wheelchair and visual impairment simulation. The poll staffing is the best starting place to increase efficiency. I advised a shorter web address, www.slovote.com, so voters could easily remember where to search their polling place and view a photo progression from outside to inside, which I conceived. In the future I will add video. I believe paper ballots and machine ballot counters, which we currently use, are most effective for counting and tracking votes. I do not plan to change that system until something markedly better is introduced.

Providing access to public information is an integral part of the County-Clerk job. What improvements will you make to increase access to public records?

Having completed my own family history, mostly online, I know how important it is to have these records available. However, in today’s world, it is increasingly important to protect some of this information from the wrong hands. I am interested in increasing online access to search and view the older vital records. I pushed for the availability of commonly recorded documents online, which has greatly increased the recordability of documents. I would also like to implement an official records search-by-keyword. Campaign finance reports just became available online and I would add their archives and the conflict of interest filings (Form 700). I’ve helped increase public awareness of polling places and I will improve access for all voters with a text reader and video progression.

The California Secretary of State is working on a statewide voter registration database. What steps will you take locally to ensure a smooth transition before the 2016 election?

VoteCal has big aspirations to improve the voter registration process by linking state agencies and all county election offices to create a unified statewide voter registration database. The biggest thing when implementing a new system like this is to test, test, test. When online voter registration was implemented our county was the first to detect issues; I discovered one such problem and it was fixed. Because we are a smaller office these little errors are more apparent. Ideally, the VoteCal system would be implemented with enough time for us to test. I plan to publicize VoteCal so voters are aware of and confident in the new system. Other than working out any programming bugs, I do not foresee any issues in the transition.

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