Ballot Simplification Committee process

Learn about how the Committee works and how to participate


The Ballot Simplification Committee (BSC) prepares a fair and impartial summary of each local ballot measure in simple language. Each summary, or “digest,” explains the main purposes and points of the measure, and includes four sections:

  1. The Way It Is Now
  2. The Proposal
  3. A “Yes” Vote Means
  4. A “No” Vote Means

In general, digests must be written as close as possible to an eighth-grade reading level and have 300 or fewer words. If the Committee determines that the complexity or scope of a measure requires a longer digest, the digest may exceed the 300-word limit.

The Committee also reviews or prepares other materials for the Voter Information Pamphlet, such as “Frequently Asked Questions” and “Words You Need to Know”, a glossary of terms used in the pamphlet.

Procedure for drafting digests

The City Attorney's Office prepares a preliminary draft digest for each measure. The Committee begins by discussing and editing that preliminary draft. 

After the Committee has agreed upon a draft digest, it opens the meeting to public comment, which is generally limited to three minutes per person. The Committee respectfully requests that speakers identify which specific portions of the draft digest they would like to change and the reasons for the proposed change.

After public comment, the Committee considers each of the proposed changes and decides whether to amend the draft digest. Each of the five voting members of the Committee then votes to adopt the digest. At least three votes are required to adopt the digest.

Requests for reconsideration

After the Committee adopts a digest, any person may request that the Committee reconsider the digest by submitting a written Request for Reconsideration to the Department of Elections within 24 hours of adoption of the digest. Each digest will be posted on this site as soon as possible after adoption with the deadline for Requests for Reconsideration.

The Committee considers each Request for Reconsideration at a public meeting, and, after public comment, decides whether to change the digest. At least three votes are required to change a digest. The Committee’s decisions concerning Requests for Reconsideration are final.

Requests for Reconsideration must indicate:

  1. The specific language in the digest that the requestor wants to change
  2. The alternate language the requestor recommends
  3. The reasons for the recommendation

Requests for reconsideration must be emailed to or submitted in person to the Department of Elections during business hours. 

Committee membership

The Ballot Simplification Committee consists of five voting members, each of whom must be a San Francisco resident and registered voter. Committee members have backgrounds in fields such as journalism, education, and written communication.

The Board of Supervisors appoints three members:

  • Two must be nominated by either the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences or the Northern California Broadcasters Association
  • One must be nominated by the League of Women Voters of San Francisco

The Mayor appoints two members:

  • One must be nominated by the Northern California Media Workers Guild (formerly Northern California Newspaper Guild)
  • One must be an educational reading specialist recommended by the Superintendent of Schools of the San Francisco Unified School District

A member of the City Attorney’s Office serves as a non-voting ex officio member.

Ballot Simplification Committee Archive

Get help

Department of Elections

1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
City Hall, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102


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Last updated December 11, 2023