By Luke Thomas
October 15, 2012
Following on the heels of a fruitless criminal investigation by the district attorney’s office into alleged vote fraud during last year’s race for mayor, District Attorney George Gascón and San Francisco Department of Elections Director John Arntz announced today the creation of an election fraud hotline.
“It is critically important to the Democratic process that our elections are free from fraud or even the appearance of fraud,” Gascón said in a press release. “Director Arntz and I are pleased to be working together on behalf of San Francisco voters to insure the integrity of the upcoming election.”
“I think these are great examples of the commitment that District Attorney Gascón and his office have to maintaining the public’s confidence in San Francisco’s elections,” Arntz added. “I commend his efforts and appreciate his dedication to safeguarding the election process.”
As part of the combined effort to root out election fraud and corruption, Gascón’s office has set up “a multi-lingual Election Fraud Hotline for members of the public to report possible incidences of election fraud from now until Election Day, and will make investigators available to quickly respond to complaints received by the District Attorney or the Department of Elections,” according to the press release. The Election Fraud Hotline number is (415) 551-9548. The hotline will be available in English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin.
The timely announcement may go some distance in assuring public confidence in San Francisco elections. In last year’s race for mayor, supporters of Mayor Ed Lee were alleged to have engaged in vote tampering and vote fraud. At a makeshift voting station in Chinatown, video showed station workers using stencils as ballot selection guides while voters marked absentee ballots. At least two witnesses observed station workers completing ballots on behalf of voters. A third witness observed the ballot facilitators stuffing the completed ballots into an orange bag.
It is against State law for anyone to submit a completed ballot on behalf of someone else. Exceptions to the law include family members or a designated member of the same household.
Gascón, who was appointed District Attorney by then Mayor Gavin Newsom and was running to be elected in his own right, was also on the same November 2011 ballot. Following an investigation into the alleged voter fraud in Chinatown, Gascón announced in September there is insufficient evidence to file criminal charges.
Jim Stearns, a consultant who worked on the campaign to elect Senator Leeland Yee to the mayor’s office, said, with a hint of sarcasm, he is “excited” by today’s announcement.
“I’m very excited, and hope to be one of the first callers to report the video-taped absentee ballot fraud that took place in the Mayoral election in 2011 that the DA has failed to take action on,” Stearns said via email.