San Francisco finds 240 ballots; city supervisors demand answers
By Karen Gaudette
Published November 29, 2001 in the Sacramento Bee. Copyright, Associated Press.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Days after the lids of eight ballot boxes were found floating in San Francisco Bay, the city Department of Elections has found an additional 240 ballots that were not counted in the election earlier this month.
The ballots -- which officials found at various times stuck in polling machines -- were expected to be counted Thursday, more than two weeks after the results of the Nov. 6 election were announced.
"This is infuriating. The buck has to stop somewhere -- we need to have a recanvassing and a recount, but we also need to be informed,'' Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano said Wednesday night after learning about the uncounted ballots from reporters. "I'm getting angrier and angrier.''
The election, which included races for city attorney, treasurer and several ballot measures, has not been certified by the Board of Supervisors. Proponents of at least one ballot measure, which lost by a small margin, are questioning the results.
Proposition F was declared a loser by 533 votes on Nov. 11. It would have expanded the city's public utilities commission into a department of water and power, allowing an elected board to buy the infrastructure of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to serve the city.
The parent company of bankrupt PG&E spent more than $1 million trying to defeat Proposition F.
While the 240 ballots would not affect the outcome of that race, Ross Mirkarimi, campaign manager for the public power measure, said he's frustrated with a number of ongoing questions being asked about the election.
"This goes to the X-files of irregularities for our election process,'' Mirkarimi said. "I have a feeling (the ballots) were pulled out of the water.''
The U.S. Coast Guard discovered the lids of eight ballot boxes floating in the bay Sunday. Department of Elections Director Tammy Haygood said a storm Saturday blew the lids off empty boxes stored at the department's Pier 29 warehouse.
But some city officials remained skeptical, saying they can't help but question the oddities involved in this month's election. Voters also voiced their lack of confidence in the elections department by passing Proposition E with 63 percent of the vote. It creates a commission to oversee the city's elections process and hire a director.
"This election department and the people in charge of it are making San Francisco the biggest laughing stock this side of Florida,'' said Supervisor Aaron Peskin. "In my year as an elected official, I have never said the words that 'heads should roll,' but heads should roll!''
Haygood was criticized for moving about 5,500 absentee ballots mailed on Election Day to an alternative site. The measure was taken to eliminate concerns of anthrax contamination.
Following an investigation, Secretary of State Bill Jones praised Haygood last week for the way she handled the election, saying she acted within the law. During the same speech, Jones revealed the results of a six-month probe into the November 2000 election.
Jones' review of 21 randomly selected precincts found an average 8.8 percent difference between the number of ballots the city reported and the number found during the state's probe, a difference Jones called "very unusual.''
In response, Haygood has called for a recanvass of all ballots from that election.
Copyright © Associated Press