The end of campaign season in San Francisco has revealed at least one clear theme — the power of The City’s Asian voting bloc. Essential to the outcome was a much heavier reliance in Asian neighborhoods on vote-by-mail ballots.
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While voting by mail just barely outnumbered traditional in-person voting across the entire city, mail-in votes in San Francisco’s eight most-Asian neighborhoods exceeded in-person votes by more than one-third. Meanwhile, across the less-Asian neighborhoods of San Francisco, in-person voting still dominated.
A map released Thursday by Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign showed that he owes a good portion of his victory to those Asian neighborhoods. And the results were no coincidence, said campaign spokesman Tony Winnicker.
“That’s absolutely where we targeted our vote-by-mail effort,” Winnicker said.
Winnicker said the campaign sent mailers and voter registration forms to Asian neighborhoods shortly after Lee entered the race, an effort that garnered about 1,000 more registrations.
The availability of mail-in ballots a month before the election represented progress in encouraging more participation, especially by the elderly and disabled, Winnicker said.
“This gives people 30 more opportunities to vote,” he said.
More controversially, however, an independent group supporting Lee was accused of ballot fraud in October when it set up a makeshift voting booth on Stockton Street in Chinatown and allegedly assisted older voters with their mail-in ballots, which workers then collected in bags.
Mobile-phone video shot by members of a rival campaign prompted a still-ongoing investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, plus a request by seven of Lee’s opponents for the state elections monitors who oversaw Tuesday’s voting.
Lee’s late entrance into the race in August hurt the other four Asian candidates in the race most, as evidenced by the preliminary ranked-choice voting report released Thursday. It shows that when Asian candidates were eliminated from the race, most of the reallocated votes went to Lee.
Three of the top five finishers — Lee, David Chiu and Leland Yee — are Chinese-American, while the other top five candidates — John Avalos and Dennis Herrera — are Hispanic. In every case, most of the votes redistributed by ranked-choice voting stayed within ethnic lines.
“That’s exactly the research I’ve done for years,” said political consultant David Latterman. “Asians are one of the most cohesive voting blocs around. Chinese voters are more likely to vote one, two, three for each other and they’re more likely to have ethnic voting patterns rather than ideological ones.”
Mayor Ed Lee spent his first morning after declaring victory in the mayoral race in Chinatown, where strong support boosted his bid for a full term.
Lee thanked shopkeepers along the neighborhood’s bustling streets Thursday, acknowledging their votes helped him become The City’s first Chinese-American mayor. They, in turn, bowed and shook hands with the man they hope will help turn around their economy.
Lee became interim mayor in January when former Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected California’s lieutenant governor. — AP