After a highly charged meeting, the San Francisco Elections Commission voted to schedule a special meeting at which they may oust three members of the Redistricting Task Force. Local elected officials reacted strongly on Thursday, with some describing the move as a politicized threat to a process designed to be nonpartisan.
In statements, Mayor London Breed, State Sen. Scott Wiener and members of the Board of Supervisors decried the commission’s decision. Thursday’s motion comes in the wake of pressure by political organizers, and just days before the task force is scheduled to submit a final map of the city’s supervisorial districts.
“This undermines and corrupts what is supposed to be a transparent and non-partisan process,” said Breed in a statement. “The Elections Commission should recognize that a decision to remove members of the public who have served this city for months would destroy the integrity of the redistricting process.”
The redistricting task force is an all-volunteer body that convenes every ten years to redraw the city’s district lines according to population changes reflected in the census. It is comprised of nine members: the mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the Elections Commission each appoint three members.
The Elections Commission is also comprised of appointees. The Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the City Attorney, the Public Defender, the District Attorney, the Treasurer, and the Board of Education each appoint one member with the intention of fostering nonpartisan oversight of the city’s elections.
Political organizers were outraged by the redistricting task force’s vote early Tuesday to change a map that organizers said would unfairly split communities in District 6 and elsewhere. Progressive political groups, along with supervisors Dean Preston and Aaron Peskin, accused the task force of gerrymandering. Both Preston and Peskin’s districts would change to reflect population growth in neighboring District 6. Organizers were also angered by the timing of the vote, which came after 3 AM Tuesday after hours of discussion and public comment on the map proposals.
The commission moved to consider removing Ditka Reiner, Chasel Lee and Raynell Cooper, their own appointees, at a special meeting. That meeting was originally planned for Sunday, but was later scheduled for Friday, April 8 at 1:30 PM.
Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents District 6 and is currently running for State Assembly, said late Thursday that he also opposes removal of the task force members.
“While there are decisions they’ve made that I’ve disagreed with, the independence of the Redistricting Task Force is essential and must be protected,” Haney said in a statement to The Standard. “They’ve been serving for months, and should continue to serve and complete their work.”
The ACLU Northern California San Francisco Chapter, the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus submitted statements to the elections commission urging it to reinforce the need to incorporate community feedback in maps, though none specifically called for the removal of the three task force members.
In a joint letter to elections commission president Lucy Bernholz, supervisors Catherine Stefani and Ahsha Safai expressed “grave concern” over the commission’s decision to consider removal of the three members.
“To remove them before any final decisions have been made is alarming, inappropriate and anathema to the principles of democracy,” the two supervisors wrote.
Likewise, State Sen. Scott Wiener blasted the commission’s move as a “truly bad and confidence-shattering move.”
“The public will understandably and reasonably view the redistricting process as hyper-politicized, which is exactly what the voters’ creation of an independent redistricting task force was supposed to avoid,” Wiener wrote.
Annie Gaus can be reached at [email protected]