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Watching City Hall

by h. brown

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. …
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

—T. S. Eliot

If the mermaids did sing to me, I think that they would say: “Your ballot … sleeps with the fishes.”

Dear God, another election tomorrow. Another opportunity for national shame. What does it take to curb these bastards? The Elections Department — fronted by City Administrator Bill (of the 2,000-strong Lee family club) Lee & Tammy (what did I get myself into) Haygood — went before the Board of Supes Finance Committee on December 5 and proposed a way out of the mess: Give us more money!!

Oh yeah, I’m not kidding. That was their answer. The same department accused of handing out an extra million or so to elections workers who never showed up to work (maybe they were crewing boats full of my ballot & yours somewhere off the Golden Gate … how far does a weather-proof ballot box cover float? … all the way to Stinson Beach so far) wants MORE Money!

Stealing elections

Someone told me that when Supervisor Tony Hall requested that a vote recount in his district be done “sequentially,” the Department of Elections refused.

Now, that’s interesting. Try and follow me on this one cause I’m not that quick and I’m only just putting together the pieces of what MAY have happened in the last controversial elections in San Francisco. Put on your hip boots and give me some leeway.

I’m betting my absentee vote for Props F & I is at the bottom of the ocean somewhere off the Golden Gate. I voted absentee at City Hall. They gave me a little tab with the number of my ballot on the upper left-hand side. I threw it away. I bet most of us do. The secrecy of the ballot works against us here. I really do wish I knew if my vote was recorded but to do that I’d have to: (1) have the number of the ballot which I marked & (2) have a listing in the newspaper of how that ballot was recorded as voting.

It wouldn’t be that big a deal. The Examiner used to print the names etc. of over 100,000 people who ran in the Bay-to-Breakers. It wouldn’t be any harder for a paper to list the absentee ballot numbers and how they voted.

I’m betting mine wouldn’t be there. At all. No trace.

I will also bet that there would be several thousand numbers listed that matched no names on the voter rolls that day.

You might ask how this could happen?

There was a big argument before last year’s Finance Committee as to whether the Department of Elections would get to hire hundreds of folks with effectively no screening to run the entire ballot entry level/transfer/& tabulation process in elections. Basically, Finance got tired of arguing & left the mayor’s bottom line troops in the field. There be the problem.

Now, I’m not saying for certain that there’s cheating going on. However, if someone wanted to cheat, it would be very easy. Like this:

Fill out thousands of ballots in favor of the candidates and propositions of your choice in advance. Hold these at some remote spot. … say, Pier 29! They’re pre-sorted & you hold em until you find out what your side needs to win.

Here’s the tricky part. You gotta get rid of the legitimate ballots. Soooo, you separate the absentee ballots for and against in each precinct, then move several thousand of those against your candidates and propositions away from the public eye under some pretext. Say, for instance, that you’re afraid the ballots you’re moving are contaminated with anthrax (which, ’cause they oppose your side, is pretty much true in your view). Then, in full public view, you move the ballots away from City Hall and to another location for the switch.

It is important when the switch takes place that there be no guards or oversight in place. No problem. I mean, how long does it take to switch 40 or so (that’s the number of “box lids” the Department of Elections admits not being able to account for) … 40 or so file crates of boxes? I’m lazy & I could do the job in an hour. There are hour gaps all over the place in the Elections Department’s handling of the last election, the one that produced a PG&E victory by 531 votes!


If every person who voted against PG&E in the last election took their ballot stub down and demanded to see the hard copy of their ballot, I bet the Department of Elections couldn’t come up with around 5,000 of the ballots. By now, those probably “sleep with the fishes.”

The real problem is cowardly politicians. Last year Aaron Peskin swore that he’d keep the counting of the ballots in the basement of City Hall. Peskin, Leno & Gonzalez refused to fund a Department of Elections request to do all the counting at a distant pier.

This year Peskin “understands” that it is necessary for thousands of ballots to go to Pier 29 as a “transfer point” before they get to the relative security of City Hall. Gimme a break! They got their foggy pier & Peskin backed down.

On December 5 Leno fell just short of placing an olive wreath on Elections Director Tammy Haygood & moved along her request for more money for a job poorly (at best!) done.

Expect more of the same, San Francisco. Save your voting stubs. If for no other reason, in a pinch, if you can’t find a matchbook cover, they’re great for scraping leftover pot remains out of a kitchen drawer. On election mornings, with Willie in power, it may be the only relief you get.

You figure it out: sobone@juno.com

h. brown