SF pro-development activist arrested on suspicion of voter fraud

A pro-development activist who took part in a failed attempt last year to stack the local chapter of the Sierra Club with similarly minded people has been charged for allegedly falsifying his voter registration.

Donald Dewsnup, a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF), was booked into County Jail Tuesday on two felony counts of attempting to file a false or forged instrument and perjury by declaration.

The charges stem from Dewsnup allegedly putting a false address on his voter registration, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

“San Francisco’s supervisorial races can be decided by a small number of voters,” said District Attorney George Gascon. “A healthy democracy benefits from zealous debate, but can be undermined by fraud and deceit.”

According to the District Attorney’s Office, Dewsnup is a licensed realtor who also allegedly gave a false address to the California Bureau of Real Estate.

A statement by the District Attorney’s Office noted that Dewsnup used “false addresses in order to infiltrate a neighborhood association on Telegraph Hill, where he did not reside, with the purpose of advancing his personal political agenda.”

In all he was charged with seven felony counts: three counts of filing a false document with a government agency, two counts of perjury, and two counts of false voter registration.

But SFBARF founder Sonja Trauss said Dewsnup’s arrest smells like a witch hunt, since as far as she knows Dewsnup is homeless.

“He registered to vote at an address that didn’t exist and when people asked him about it, he was cagey,” she said. “This will have been a politically-motivated way of harassing him,” she said. “A homeless housing activist got arrested for trying to vote.”

Local environmental attorney Jon Golinger helped fight off Dewsnup’s efforts to take over the Sierra Club.

“I am saddened to see, if these allegations are true, that this person resorted to undercutting the integrity of the electoral process,” Golinger said.

Golinger says he’s been aware for some time that there were allegations that Dewsnup falsely claimed he lives in District 3.

“I gather that may be the basis of what they arrested him on,” Golinger said. “Sometime people do play games with ballots and voter registration and it should be taken seriously.”

Dewsnup, who was arrested Tuesday by District Attorney investigators and arraigned Wednesday, was released without bail and is set to return to court April 19.

Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink

Jonah Owen Lamb
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Jonah Owen Lamb

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