San Francisco mayoral hopeful didn’t vote in 24 elections 

They’re asking San Franciscans for their votes, but how often have the nine mayoral candidates gone to the polls themselves?

The San Francisco Examiner broke down the voting history of the mayoral hopefuls, plus interim Mayor Ed Lee, and found that venture capitalist Joanna Rees missed the most city elections and several public officials failed to make it to the polls every election.

Rees, registered with no political party, missed 24 elections out of 37 since 1992, according to the data. Between 1992 and 2009, she failed to vote in at least one election every year.

While Rees cast votes in at least four presidential elections, she failed to vote in several mayoral elections. She did not vote in three elections involving Willie Brown — one was a runoff election against Tom Ammiano — and she did not vote in either 2003 or 2007 when Gavin Newsom was elected mayor.  

Asked about the spotty voting record, Rees said she regrets not participating in elections and that if she could do it again, she would. She also pointed to a blog entry she wrote explaining why she failed to vote in so many local elections.

“Reflecting on my past I regret that I didn’t vote some years of my adult life,” Rees wrote. “When I was younger and building my career I didn’t feel that voting was as important as I do now. When I lived in New York City I felt as if it was insignificant in the big picture. When I was traveling for business and out of town on election day I didn’t think about filing an absentee ballot. I missed an opportunity and a right.”

One candidate who didn’t miss the opportunity to vote was Leland Yee. He voted a perfect 39 out of 39 elections since 1992. Tony Hall and Dennis Herrera were nearly perfect, and Herrera disputes data that says he didn’t vote in the 1992 presidential election because he personally worked on Bill Clinton’s campaign.

But that wasn’t the only data to be disputed. The Department of Elections switched over to a different system during the 1990s, and the data shows certain voters being eligible to vote when they didn’t even live in San Francisco.

And one of the most surprising revelations was that John Avalos missed five elections between 1998 and 2000, years in which he was heavily involved in the write-in mayoral election of Tom Ammiano and the supervisorial election of Gerardo Sandoval.

“It’s just crazy,” Avalos said. “If they don’t have a record of my voting in those key elections, there was a major problem at the Department of Elections at that time.”

Michela Alioto-Pier missed two elections, in 1999 and 2000, and David Chiu also missed two elections, although he says that he remembers voting in the 2000 primary because he was a heavy backer of Bill Bradley for president. Phil Ting missed one election in 1998.

The data were all checked by Department of Elections Director John Arntz. Asked about the discrepancies, Arntz acknowledged there were some data issues in the 1990s because the data was transferred over to another system. But as for records after 1997, he said there should be no problem.

“All I can say is that is what our records show,” Arntz said.

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Brent Begin

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