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‘Really Disturbed’: Elections Commissioner Calls it Quits, Citing Redistricting Turmoil

Written by Mike EgePublished May. 18, 2022 • 1:21pm
Rico Riemedio, with United Playaz, discusses the proposed redistricting maps with other attendees of a press conference in Kapwa Gardens in SoMa on March 31, 2022. | Camille Cohen

English

Three weeks after the finale of the city’s turbulent redistricting process, San Francisco Elections Commissioner Charles Jung has resigned from the commission. 

Jung, a mayoral appointee who had been scheduled to term out in January 2023, confirmed his resignation in a text message on Wednesday. Among other things, the seven-member elections commission makes appointments to San Francisco’s redistricting task force, which convenes once every ten years to redraw the city’s district lines. With Jung’s resignation, there are now two vacancies on the body.

The redistricting task force adopted a final map on April 28. 

Jung’s resignation also comes days after the release of a draft report by the redistricting task force, which includes extensive commentary on the unusually fraught process that played out this year. Jung said the release of the report played no part in his departure, but cited a much-scrutinized April 8 hearing that fueled accusations of improper political influence in the redistricting process. 

“I considered resigning immediately after the hearing because of what happened, but decided to give it more thought out of respect for Mayor Ed Lee appointing me to the seat in the first place,” Jung said.

At the April 8 hearing, the elections commission weighed the removal of its three appointees to the redistricting task force—Ditka Reiner, Chasel Lee and Raynell Cooper—in the wake of intense political pressure. 

The now-infamous April 8 hearing was preceded by mobilization by political interest groups unhappy with the direction of redistricting, as well as letters criticizing the process sent on behalf of the ACLU Northern California San Francisco Chapter, the League of Women Voters and the Asian-Americans Advancing Justice (Asian Law Caucus).

The commission ultimately declined to remove the members in a unanimous decision, but Jung called the hearing “wrong and unwise” and speculated that some of his fellow commissioners felt intimidated. 

“I was really disappointed in institutions I respect [like the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California] allowing people representing them to allege illegality about the process,” Jung told the Standard. “When we questioned [the League of Women Voters’ representative] about it, they couldn’t identify what was wrong. It contributed to an atmosphere of turmoil and confusion.” 

Abdi Soltani, executive director of ACLU of Northern California, later apologized to the elections commission, saying that the letter sent on the organization’s behalf “went further than findings or positions ACLU of Northern California attorneys have reached in San Francisco or in other jurisdictions.”

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The report released last week cited various problems with this year’s redistricting process, including the lengthy comment periods that drove meetings into the wee hours, vitriolic rhetoric hurled at members of the task force as well as “unprecedented assaults on [the redistricting task force’s] independence by political actors invested in a specific outcome.” 

Throughout the city’s redistricting, which kicked off last September but came to a head in a series of heated meetings this spring, members of the task force were accused of harboring bias or bowing to political influence. The city’s new district maps, which shifted the Tenderloin into District 5 among other changes, could shape the makeup of the Board of Supervisors for the next ten years. 

The report recommended that the city consider stronger protections against partisan intrusions, as well as other conflicts of interest, among other recommendations. 

“I was really disturbed by the fact that such an attempt to interfere with the process was happening. It was almost successful, and happened at the 11th hour,” Jung said. “How does this not undermine public confidence?”

Annie Gaus contributed to this story.

English

Mike Ege can be reached at [email protected]


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