SAN FRANCISCO — Seven candidates for San Francisco mayor have requested federal observers and election monitors for the Nov. 8 election in response to allegations of electioneering by supporters of the incumbent, Ed Lee.
An Oct. 24 letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez and California Secretary of State Debra Bowen was signed by Public Defender Jeff Adachi; small businesswoman Michela Alioto-Pier, a former San Francisco supervisor; Supervisor John Avalos; Board of Supervisors President David Chiu; City Attorney Dennis Herrera; entrepreneur/educator Joanna Rees; and State Sen. Leland Yee. It reads as follows:
“We write to bring to your attention news reports and accompanying videos that may indicate violations of federal and state laws intended to protect voting rights and to assure the integrity of our electoral process.
“In light of published accounts in the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Citizen about electioneering activities by the SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011, we request that your respective offices immediately detail federal observers and state election monitors for San Francisco’s mayoral election, which is currently under way.
“According to these published accounts, these electioneering activities target Cantonese-speaking voters in San Francisco, and may potentially impinge on their federally protected voting rights, and also violate provisions of the California Elections Code and other laws. These suspect activities include the following:
“Testimony by independent witnesses that SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 staff were completing ballots for voters.
“Testimony and video evidence that SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 staff employed plastic stencils and handled absentee ballots in such a manner as to prevent voters from marking their ballots for other mayoral candidates.
“Testimony that SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 staff, as apparently ineligible third parties, received and collected into plastic bags voted ballots from voters, taking ballots into their possession.
“Testimony and video evidence that SF Neighbor Alliance for Ed Lee for Mayor 2011 staff interfered with the secrecy of voting.
“If true, these allegations and other conduct may violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965, and California Election Code provisions pertaining to electioneering, corruption of voting, the Voter Bill of Rights, and other laws.
“Given their gravity, the importance of protecting voting rights, and assuring voter confidence in our electoral processes, we believe federal observers and election monitors are immediately warranted, and that further investigation by your respective offices would be well advised.”
Lee has stated that his campaign had nothing to do with the actions of the independent expenditure committee and that he is furious about the alleged violations.
Formerly the city administrator, Lee was appointed to serve the final year of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s term when Newsom was elected lieutenant governor. At the time, Lee said he had no interest in running for the job, but his supporters persuaded him to change his mind. Newsom recently endorsed Lee.
The San Francisco Chronicle has endorsed Chiu and gave honorable mention to Adachi, Herrera and Lee. For the first time, the mayoral election will use the ranked-choice system, in which voters can pick up to three candidates in order of preference.
The 16 candidates also include San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting and former Supervisors Bevan Dufty and Tony Hall.