The Elections Commission decided last night not to do anything about the Redistricting Task Force except to praise the hard work the members have been doing.
The commission, which oversees three members of the task force, essentially rejected the concerns of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian Law Caucus.
The members of the commission said they wanted to protect the independence of the task force, and said that the issues with the new district lines were just matters of opinion.
They missed the entire point:
For the first time since the city used district elections of supervisors in 1978, an active group of real estate and tech folks has organized to push gerrymandered lines with the aim of changing the political makeup of the Board of Supervisors.
They have an organization dedicated to “flip [ing] three seats” from progressives to so-called moderates, and making several other districts more competitive for pro-developer and pro-big-business candidates.
That’s not a matter of opinion; that’s very real, and communications from the group make that clear.
Meanwhile, there is some indication that this plan has been in the works for a while—and that one of the task force members who represents the Elections Commission may have been involved.
In a letter to the commission, Scott Feeney, who used to be part of the SF Yimby movement, noted:
I was at a party in 2018 where the prospect of using the redistricting process to remove progressives from power in SF was openly discussed with the word “gerrymandering” being used. One of your appointees, Chasel Lee, may have been part of the conversation.
It was the November 6, 2018 election night party for Sonja Trauss’s D6 supervisor campaign, which I supported. The mood was grim because both Trauss and the other 3 supervisor candidates endorsed by SF YIMBY, of which I and most people in attendance were members, had lost. Late into the night, in the back of the bar, I remember someone discussing a project they were hatching to make sure that the map would not be favorable to progressives, and in particular mentioning removing the Tenderloin from D6 so that then newly-elected Matt Haney would be unable to be re-elected in D6.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear memory of who was speaking, but it might have been Chasel Lee, who I often saw at SF YIMBY events and Trauss for Supervisor events around this time, and who often discussed electoral strategy. Based on his regular presence at such events and the types of things I discussed with him, I believe it is very likely he was either a part of the conversation I remember or of similar conversations around that time.
I dismissed this notion of gerrymandering as idle talk at the time and did not think they would actually get away with such a thing in San Francisco or seriously attempt it. I didn’t really think about it again until I saw recent eleventh-hour drastic changes to the district map (choice of “4B” over “4D”, etc), looked at who was on the task force, and saw Chasel Lee’s name. At which point, I began to wonder if I was indeed seeing the fulfillment of a years-long plan to abuse the redistricting process for factional gain for a set of candidates/interests.
He urged the commissioners to
ask your appointees if they have ever been a part of a discussion to use the redistricting process deliberately to achieve gains for a set of candidates/interests, and if any have, I think those task force members should resign or be removed to restore faith in the democratic process.
None of the commissioners mentioned the letter or asked Lee or anyone else about it.
This is, of course, much bigger than Chasel Lee, or an Election-Night discussion in a bar, or any individual task force member. The entirely concept of nonpartisan lines is under attack here And if the Elections Commission ever knew or cared, they showed no sign of it.
The task force is continuing to meet Saturday and is scheduled to approve a final map Monday.