Democrats can make vot­ing by mail work

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - BAY AREA - By Wil­lie Brown

Pres­i­dent Trump is right when he says Democrats have an ad­van­tage in a vote­by­mail elec­tion.

Any­one with a good or­ga­ni­za­tion and a bit of smarts can turn vot­ing by mail to their ad­van­tage. I know, be­cause we’ve done it here in San Fran­cisco.

We did it in my first cam­paign for mayor in 1995. Gavin New­som did it in his first may­oral elec­tion in 2003, and Mayor Ed Lee’s team did it in his first elec­tion in 2011.

The idea orig­i­nated lo­cally with po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant Jack Davis, who con­cluded be­fore my first may­oral run that the key to vic­tory lay with peo­ple who are regis­tered to vote but rarely turn out.

In the months lead­ing up to the 1995 elec­tion, we sent out teams to sign up as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to vote by mail. Then we logged their names and ad­dresses into a data­base.

When the city Depart­ment of Elec­tions mailed out the ab­sen­tee bal­lots, we set up a sec­ond army of door knock­ers and phone bankers to make sure the newly signed­up vote­by­mail peo­ple filled out their bal­lots and sent them in.

One re­sult was that the ab­sen­tee re­turns in the public hous­ing de­vel­op­ments that year matched the ab­sen­tee re­turns in Pa­cific Heights.

The same strat­egy was cru­cial in New­som’s first elec­tion. He lost the elec­tion day vote by 14,000, but thanks to the ab­sen­tee op­er­a­tion, he had the cush­ion to win.

“Har­vest­ing” votes can be also be ef­fec­tive — that’s where the cam­paign ac­tu­ally de­liv­ers ab­sen­tee bal­lots for

Pres­i­dent Trump is smart enough to know that vote­by­mail could drive up Demo­cratic turnout, es­pe­cially if ev­ery ac­tive voter gets a bal­lot.

peo­ple — but you have to be care­ful. It’s le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia but not in all states, and even in Cal­i­for­nia, you can get in trou­ble.

Lee’s peo­ple got into hot wa­ter in his first elec­tion when they set up a booth at a Chi­na­town street fair and helped fill out and col­lect ab­sen­tee bal­lots for el­derly Chi­nese­speak­ing vot­ers. It prompted an up­roar and led to a months­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion by then­Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ge­orge Gascón into whether it amounted to vote fraud. He ul­ti­mately de­cided there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to charge any­one. Trump is smart enough to know that vote­by­mail could drive up Demo­cratic turnout, es­pe­cially if ev­ery ac­tive voter is sent a bal­lot, as will be the case in Cal­i­for­nia.

Why? Be­cause Democrats fol­low up. Repub­li­cans are too busy try­ing to dis­credit the whole sys­tem to ac­tu­ally take ad­van­tage of it.

Sign of the times: I was hav­ing cof­fee at Caffe Greco in North Beach the other day when it struck me how much you can tell about the state of the pan­demic by look­ing at restau­rants.

I’ve started see­ing what looks like fram­ing to add roof cov­er­ings to the out­doors ar­eas where restau­rants have to seat peo­ple now. It’s a sign that they ex­pect the pan­demic to con­tinue into the win­ter.

Not a good sign. But a real one.

Bike hike: I’ve been walk­ing along Mar­ket Street daily be­tween Beale and Third and have no­ticed that the bi­cy­cles are gone.

All that money and work that went into clos­ing off Mar­ket Street to cars to make it safer for bikes, and there aren’t any on the street.

The techies who ped­aled to work have all set up their of­fices at home, and the lower­in­come front­line work­ers still come down­town by bus.

The only place I’m see­ing bikes is along the Em­bar­cadero, and those are recre­ational rid­ers, who, by the way, still ride on the side­walk de­spite hav­ing clearly de­fined bike lanes.

Good hair: I was talk­ing to my fa­vorite mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors for the Con­tem­po­rary Jewish Mu­seum the other day when we got on the sub­ject of hair.

“The only good thing about the shut­in is that I don’t have to worry about dy­ing my hair,” she said. “And if you sit back far enough when Zoom­ing, it looks OK.”

Sarah­beth Maney / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle 2018

Damian Buoni (left) and Do­minic Buoni sort mail­in bal­lots at San Fran­cisco City Hall in June 2018. Democrats have used mail vot­ing to their ad­van­tage.

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