Democrats can make voting by mail work
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.”
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.