SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today criticized a federal lawsuit by plaintiffs who include supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid, saying that the civil complaint filed on Friday is rife with factual inaccuracies, and is making improper use of the judiciary for a “political stunt” in advance of California’s June 7 Presidential Primary.
Plaintiffs behind the action—an unincorporated association called the Voting Rights Defense Project, the American Independence Party, and two San Francisco voters—are asking that a federal judge order all California elections officials to extend the state’s voter registration cutoff past yesterday’s deadline, until election day itself. They also want a court order forcing counties to segregate ballots already cast by unaffiliated voters, and then to allow “re-votes” by those voters for presidential primary candidates. Voting in the nation’s most populous state has been underway for more than two weeks.
The political activists’ causes of action against San Francisco,Alameda County, and California Secretary of State Alex Padillaare based on uniformly bogus allegations, Herrera said, which his office rebutted in extensive detail to plaintiffs’ lawyer last week.
“Every violation alleged in this federal lawsuit—literally every single one of them—is factually inaccurate,” Herrera said. “What’s more, my office spent considerable time and effort explaining that to plaintiffs’ counsel, point-by-point, over the phone and in writing. We provided full documentation proving that all of their alleged violations were wrong, and yet they sued anyway. So, it seems clear to me that this lawsuit has nothing to do with the facts—and everything to do with grabbing headlines. Plaintiffs are seeking relief that is not only impossible, but would wreak havoc on an election that’s already underway. This is a political stunt. It cynically aims to undermine the legitimacy of our election, and to further a political narrative that has zero basis in reality. I don’t think a federal court is going to look favorably on it.”
Plaintiffs’ behind the federal suit contend that election officials in San Francisco and Alameda Counties violated state and federal law by failing to inform “no party preference” voters of their right to vote in certain presidential primary elections. California’s Democratic, American Independent, and Libertarian parties all opened their primaries in 2016 to unaffiliated voters.
Starkly contradicting plaintiffs allegations, however, are mailers and online content from the San Francisco Department of Elections, which clearly informed unaffiliated voters of their right to cast ballots for their presidential primary preference in the Democratic, American Independent, and Libertarian parties. The information was also conveyed to voters in the Voter Information Pamphlet, which is sent to all registered voters and available online, and elsewhere on the San Francisco Department of Elections’ website, according to Herrera. The City Attorney added that San Francisco’s voter information efforts fully comply with applicable provisions of the California and Municipal Elections Codes as well as federal law.
In a May 23 report in the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley—who is president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials—said that outreach efforts for the primary election have been carefully planned, and that California’s 58 counties “have been gearing up for this for well over a year.” Kelley added that it would be logistically impossible for California elections officials to register voters on election day—a key aspect of the relief plaintiffs are seeking from a federal judge. California plans to move to a same-day registration system in 2018, he said, after the state certifies its new voter database.
The case is: Voting Rights Defense Project et al. v. Tim Depuiset al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Case No. 3:16-CV-02739, filed May 20, 2016. A PDF of the complaint is available on the San Francisco City Attorney’s website at:
PR Newswire contributed to this report.