San Francisco seeks voter confidence with ‘fraud hotline’

Those who would like to report voter fraud in San Francisco may do so by calling (415) 551-9548. U.S. Attorney Melina Haag's office will also monitor elections in Northern California and can be reached at (510) 637-3680.

Like 911 for emergencies and 311 for potholes, San Francisco now has a dedicated phone line for campaign corruption — just in time for election season.

On Monday, District Attorney George Gascón and Department of Elections Director John Arntz called the hotline necessary to “maintaining the public’s confidence.”

Gascón said the line is a partial response to reported political shenanigans last year, including two incidents of alleged money laundering in Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign plus a phony voting booth set up by an independent expenditure committee stumping for Lee in Chinatown. Senior citizens were reportedly helped to fill out mail-in ballots in which the names of certain candidates and issues were obstructed by plastic stencils. Lee’s campaign promptly called for a stop to such activities, with the mayor himself calling the stunt “moronic.”

In the alleged money laundering — separate accusations brought against former CitiApartments employee Andrew Hawkins and managers for the Go Lorries airport shuttle — Lee’s campaign returned about $15,000 due to the appearance that donors had bundled together multiple donations of the $500 maximum to skirt contribution limits.

In February, Gascón’s office filed charges against Go Lorries managers, which are still pending in court. But in September, the District Attorney’s Office said there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Hawkins. Gascón’s office also decided not to file charges in the voting booth matter — citing insufficient evidence despite cellphone video of the booth.

This year, Gascón said, his office has received one complaint in a Board of Supervisors race. He declined to discuss the matter since it is under investigation. The election fraud hotline is (415) 551-9548.

Also on Monday, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said her office will monitor elections across Northern California and that a district election officer will be on duty while polls are open. The officer can be reached at (510) 637-3680.

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com
Bay City News contributed to this report

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