Not affiliated: Mayor Ed Lee says he isn’t connected to his supporters’ independent expenditure groups. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)Not affiliated: Mayor Ed Lee says he isn’t connected to his supporters’ independent expenditure groups. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

Not affiliated: Mayor Ed Lee says he isn’t connected to his supporters’ independent expenditure groups. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)Not affiliated: Mayor Ed Lee says he isn’t connected to his supporters’ independent expenditure groups. (Mike Koozmin/The Examiner)

Ballot claim in San Francisco spurs call for probe of Ed Lee backers

Allegations of voter manipulation by an independent expenditure group supporting Ed Lee prompted seven mayoral candidates to seek federal election monitors Sunday.

Lee’s challengers wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice and the California secretary of state, suggesting that the SF Neighbor Alliance targets Cantonese-speaking voters and “may potentially impinge on” their voting rights.

“It’s disgusting if that’s what happened,” said candidate John Avalos, who signed the letter with Jeff Adachi, Michela Alioto-Pier, David Chiu, Dennis Herrera, Joanna Rees and Leland Yee.

Voter Roland Salvato was on a bus in Chinatown Friday when he noticed a tent staffed by people wearing Ed Lee T-shirts.

“I thought they were passing out campaign literature, and then I saw, no, it was ballots,” Salvato said. He and his girlfriend, Malana Moberg, stopped to investigate.

“It got even weirder when I saw that someone was filling out a ballot,” Moberg added.

“Everything about it was wrong.”

The couple called 311 to report something fishy to The City’s Elections Department. Then they called Chiu’s office, because the tent was in the district he represents as supervisor.

“I found it very disturbing,” Chiu said.

Lee, appearing on KCBS, condemned the alleged fraud.

“These are groups that have formed allegedly to help my campaign,” Lee said. “They’re not helping me at all. … I have nothing to do with them. I don’t want them to do this. I’ve told them to stop through our campaign, and if they’re not going to stop, they have to be compliant with the law and they should be held accountable.”

SF Neighbor Alliance spokesman Enrique Pearce didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Pearce also served as the political consultant to the ethically scrutinized Run, Ed, Run committee and was the author of a 132-page campaign book about the mayor.

Adam Keigwin, chief of staff for Yee, called the alleged fraud “just the tip of the iceberg.” Keigwin said he was in Chinatown on Friday and recorded video of volunteers apparently helping elderly Chinese voters mark ballots and then collecting the ballots in sacks.

Scroll down to see three videos taken by Keigwin.

“I noticed they also had a stencil that they were using,” Keigwin said. “They would hold the stencil over Ed Lee’s name. They couldn’t mark anything else.”

Keigwin said Yee volunteers reported other instances of Lee supporters helping voters mark ballots. Some public housing residents said they turned their ballots over to their building manager, the volunteers alleged.

Salvato said he asked the FBI to investigate, noting his bad feeling about the election.

“I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for, but when I see something like that …” he said, his voice trailing off. “The more this happens, the more you alienate everyone.”

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsDennis HerreraGovernment & PoliticsLocalMichela Alioto-PierPolitics

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