Did Peninsula Planning Board Voting System Cause a Flawed Election?

by on March 22, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The Peninsula Community Planning Board held its first election in two years Thursday, March 18.  Last year’s election was cancelled due to COVID.  This election was also clearly affected by COVID and not in a good way.

Every year, five of the 15 seats on the PCPB are up for election.  Because there was no election last year, 10 seats were up for election.  Because a board member resigned last year without completing the term, there were 11 open seats. This was a large number of seats to fill but the election attracted 16 candidates.

There were 644 total ballots, which surprised the Board.  In fact, that was the largest election turn out in many years. Is it possible that the complete relaxation of all voting rules was the reason?

A Comparison of How Local Planning Boards Handled Their 2021 Elections

The pandemic threw planning board operations and elections into a turmoil.  The city took a year to study the problem of how to hold safe planning board elections. The resulting advice from on high was to do whatever each planning board wanted to do. That took a year.

The three local boards, OB, Midway, and the PCPB all handled the elections differently.

Midway postponed its elections until September. The most difficult issue was how to check voter eligibility without in-person voting.  The usual procedure was for a voter to show proof of eligibility at the polling place, then vote.  With no polling place, this could not be done.

OB and the PCPB both allowed voters two options.  People could mail their votes in or drop them off.  The PCPB had two forms on its website to download: a ballot and proof of voting eligibility. The eligibility form required an address of a residence, property, or business to show the voter was within the PCPB boundaries. Then, the form had to be signed.

OB, apparently, went a step further and required voters to provides copies of their confirming documents with the ballots, according to board member Tracy Dezenzo.  OB also had a third option for voting: on-line. As Dezenzo explained, when a voter would enter their address in the on-line system it would show who they were allowed to vote for.  OB votes by districts, in the same manner as the city council.

Voters then submitted pictures of their confirming documents. The addresses were confirmed and the vote could be made. After the election all of the submitted information was deleted.

Yet, in the PCPB and the OBPB voting systems, there was no voting privacy because voters submitted their ballots along with a signed document, in the PCPB’s case, or with pictures of personal documents, in OB’s case. This appears to be a violation of the basic rule of voting: privacy.

OB complained of a low voter turnout, which is actually a yearly complaint for all planning boards. But it could have been the voting requirements that discouraged folks. It could have been too cumbersome for voters or voters may have balked at submitting images of personal documents.

Although many believed the PCPB voter turnout would also be low, the opposite happened.  The voting requirements were probably the reason again but for a much different reason. In this reporter’s opinion, what the PCPB decided to do affected the voting total.

The only past PCPB elections that had high turnouts were ones when the board was swinging between two poles, much like national politics.  The board has variously been controlled by either the community or development interests over the years, depending who was the most upset at the time.  But, that was not the case this year – there was no such turmoil.

Did Peninsula Voting System Cause Unusually High Voting Totals?

Is it possible the high turnout was due to how easily voting could be manipulated using the voting process this year? Anyone could have made as many copies of the ballot and the eligibility form as they wanted and collected actual votes. A person could have taken the forms to a gathering, or to a church, or on walks through Point Loma and collected votes from people who may never have voted without that request. And maybe there was some guidance on who to vote for as well. These collected ballots could then be mailed or dropped off.

In the past, people had to be encouraged to show up and vote.  The ways things were managed this year, they didn’t even have to make that effort.

What other explanation can there be for the extremely high number of votes the candidates received? The top three candidates received over 350 votes, which was more than most election totals.

There has always been an under-the-radar political force in Point Loma that has tried to influence almost every PCPB election – in this reporter’s experience. That force does not represent the whole of Point Loma either, just a certain class. One can only imagine the glee when these voting rules came out.

See the chart for the winners.  Four are incumbents, three are former board members, and now there are four new faces to the PCPB.

One incumbent lost a seat. Five people will have a full three-year term. Five people will have a two-year term, what would be left of a three-year term from 2020.  This election ensures there will be entertainment, read controversy, during PCPB meetings this year.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar triggerfinger March 22, 2021 at 2:43 pm

The better question, is how does someone like Don Sevrins get re-elected, after suing the planning board, running off productive members, and being a recalcitrant pain in the ass?

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Avatar triggerfinger March 22, 2021 at 2:48 pm

As for the turnout, perhaps easier access increased it. Or perhaps there were fraudulent votes, but that’s a bold accusation without evidence. If someone disputes the election, I suppose the election committee should retain the documents long enough to address that.

Did you also question the national election results based on increased access and turnout, decreased vetting, and record low numbers of refused ballots?

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Avatar Geoff Page March 22, 2021 at 2:54 pm

finger, I did not accuse anyone of fraud. What I described would have been perfectly legal under the rules. Whether such an effort was moral, or ethical, is another matter.

The question in your first comment is a very good one.

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Avatar triggerfinger March 29, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Vote manipulation, fraud. Potatoe potaato

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