In response to allegations of electioneering impropriety, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen will send observers to monitor San Francisco’s municipal election today.
“Concerns have been raised by a variety of San Franciscans,” said Bowen’s spokeswoman Nicole Winger, who added that San Francisco will be the only California jurisdiction to host observers this year.
The observers will work with local authorities, Winger said.
“They serve as extra eyes and ears,” she explained. “It’s typically roving observers, visiting randomly-selected polling places.”
Winger declined to say whether the decision to send observers was influenced by an Oct. 23 letter from seven mayoral candidates that alleged voter manipulation by supporters of interim Mayor Ed Lee and requested outside monitors.
That letter was also sent to the U.S. Department of Justice, but on Monday the department did not include San Francisco on a list of jurisdictions federal monitors would visit.
San Francisco mayoral candidates said they welcomed the state observers.
“That’s the first bit of good news as far as election integrity that we’ve had so far,” said Sterling Clifford, spokesman for the mayoral campaign of former Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.
Lee spokesman Tony Winnicker said the mayor’s campaign also welcomed the monitors.
“We always said we supported that,” Winnicker said. “We have concerns that there have been efforts to suppress the vote, particularly in the Chinese community.”
John Arntz, The City’s Elections Commission director, said it was not unusual for observers to come to San Francisco. He said their presence would be helpful.
“If there’s something we can improve next year, they can let us know,” he said.