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Vote Tuesday June 7, 2022!

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LPSF Ballot Measure Recommendations

Prop. A (public transit bond) – NO

Anyone familiar with libertarian thinking know we dislike bond measures, and this year’s Prop. A is no exception. They are a form of tax increase, despite politicians’ efforts to disguise this reality by engaging in a fiscal shell game that keeps property taxes at a permanently inflated level rather than allowing them to decrease when previous bond borrowing is paid off. And due to the costs of interest and servicing the bonds, they are an extremely inefficient way to spend, with each dollar borrowed costing as much as twice as much. As former judge and supervisor Quentin Kopp writes, “the sponsor (MTA) ignores the controller’s statement that interest on the 30-year bond will approximate $600 million. That is borne by homeowners who usually pay double the voter-approved debt, thanks to compounding interest.” Renters will also pay, in the form of pass-throughs raising their rent. And as Kopp also notes, a 2008 court decision effectively removed responsibility for the money to be spent as advertised. Even if it were, if just throwing more money at Muni were capable of fixing the chronic problems with the local government transit monopoly, they would have been fixed long ago.


Prop. B (Building Inspection Commission reform) – NO POSITION

This measure purportedly reacting to corruption scandals at the Building Inspection Commission fails to address the fundamental problem, which is that government has too much discretionary power to block or allow development. While reducing the professional qualifications necessary to serve on the commission could marginally diversify the body and reduce its domination by industry insiders, the legal language of the measure is opaque, and it doesn’t appear to do anything significant.


Prop. C (make recall elections harder) – NO

Despite our opposition to Prop. H (see below), recall elections are in general an important tool in the voters’ toolbox for holding politicians accountable. They are another form of term limits, essentially allowing voters to demand an early election. The successful recall of school board members in February would not have occurred if the narrow time window mandated by Prop. C had been in effect.


Prop. D (create new Victim/Witness Rights Office) – NO

Politicians love to come up with new programs and agencies. It gives the appearance that they are doing something new and concrete to bring about positive change. Certainly doing more to protect victim and witness rights sounds good in theory. But why can’t existing agencies like the SFPD and the district attorney’s office that provide victim and witness services simply reform their practices and coordinate their operations to be more helpful to victims and witnesses of crime without expanding the bureaucracy by creating an Office of Victim and Witness Rights as yet another government department? The official Voter Information Pamphlet argument against the measure points out that the planned new office is tasked with producing “an annual survey, an evaluation plan, and a consolidation plan” without “directly improving victim and witness rights” – in other words “a lot of bureaucracy, without a lot of new services.”


Prop. E (further restrict behested payments) – YES

The term “behested payments” may be new to you (it was to some of us), but it refers to an old form of corruption: Politicians and government officials raising – some would say extorting – donations from lobbyists, permit “expediters” or interest groups fearful of saying no lest the money or favors that they rely upon government to provide will be withdrawn if they don’t pony up. Giving directly to government officials at the behest (request) of those officials is mostly prohibited already, but this measure would further make it illegal for members of the Board of Supervisors to seek money from contractors whose contracts they had voted to approve – i.e. closing an obvious loophole that invites corruption. The YIMBY group Grow SF complains that Prop. E “would make it impossible for the city to work with philanthropic organizations” (a frank admission that local government works with these groups in the first place only so that politicos can extort money from them?) While their “impossible” language is an exaggeration, given that philanthropic groups do more good acting on their own than entering into “public private partnerships” with government that often reek of cronyism, making such collaboration more difficult sounds to us like a reason to support Proposition E.


Prop. F (weak garbage collection reform) – NO

Recology (nee Sunset Scavenger) is backing this “reform”, which tells you most of what you need to know about how much of a reform it really is. In the wake of revelations about the company having overcharged San Francisco ratepayers to the tune of almost $95 million, and its employees having been involved with bribing corrupt former Department of Public Works head Mohammed Nuru, both of which Recology admits, it is a measure of the longstanding trash and recycling monopoly’s clout that it is not employees were bribing the corrupt head of the Department of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru (now facing charges).


Prop. G (paid sick leave for air quality) – NO

This one is a business- and job-killer. Employees whose jobs are classified as substantially outdoors would get a new legal privilege to take up to two weeks of paid sick leave a year on days when a government agency says that local air quality is poor. As the economy has struggled to cope with and recover from government Covid lockdowns and restrictions, the public has gained a new appreciation for the complexity and fragility of supply chains, and what the result can be if, say, one baby formula plant unexpectedly shuts down. A mandate like that of Prop. G would throw additional monkey wrenches into those supply chains.


Prop. H (DA Chesa Boudin recall) – NO

While recalls of politicians are more often than not deserved, this case is an exception. The Libertarian Party of San Francisco urges voters to oppose Proposition H, the ballot measure in the Tuesday, June 7 election that would recall SF district attorney Chesa Boudin.

Boudin was narrowly elected (with LPSF support) in 2019 over the candidate appointed by the mayor and backed by the police union. A progressive prosecutor, he is by no means perfect from a pro-freedom perspective. He has, for instance, sought to sue manufacturers of so-called “ghost guns” for crimes committed with those guns, which is as silly as suing manufacturers of ballpoint pens over letters written with those pens.

Nevertheless, he is the only SF district attorney in living memory, if ever, to take criminal justice reform seriously by holding police officers accountable for their misconduct as other individuals would be, pushing to end the discriminatory use of cash bail that often results in defendants who don’t pose a risk to the community sitting behind bars pending trial simply because they cannot afford release; de-prioritizing the prosecution of victimless so-called “crimes” involving things like drugs and prostitution; and seeking to reduce the expensive and failed warehousing of criminals in a system of mass incarceration, in favor of a more victim-centered “restorative justice” approach.

This understanding and approach have made him a committed enemy not only of the SF Police Officers Association – the local monopoly SFPD union that rarely sees a meaningful reform it likes or an abusive cop whose actions it isn’t willing to defend – but of the “law and order” crowd generally. Those who still favor the traditional “lock ‘em up” mentality, including many career prosecutors who undermined the DA’s office by quitting after Boudin’s election rather than embrace a reform agenda, can’t stand that SF’s top prosector has disrupted the office’s previously cozy relationship with the police and adopted a more appropriately neutral stance.

Government police did not even exist in the United States until the 19th century. They were not part of the vision of the constitutional founders, who generally feared standing armies and would have been horrified by many of the laws under which people are routinely incarcerated in this country today. Well-informed Libertarians and fellow freedom lovers understand that law enforcers and prosecutors are the enforcement arm of Big Government. Without the threat of violence and kidnapping, all the other immoral and unconstitutional State regulations and controls on the lives of people who are harming no one would be moot. In an environment with so many unjust and unconstitutional statutes on the books, calls for more police, more prisons, and harsher sentences are profoundly at odds with the libertarian belief in limiting government power and upholding individual rights.

While we empathize with San Franciscans upset about lack of respect for property rights in this city, this is a longstanding problem that has far more to do with anti-business and anti-development policies enacted by establishment Democrats than it does with anything the DA’s office has done. Going after homeless people for “quality of life” infractions has further proven ineffective and burdensome to taxpayers. And as Joe Eskenazi has reported in Mission Local, the SFPD’s clearance rate in making arrests for reported crimes has dropped to its lowest level in decades, making the question of whether police are “engaging in a wildcat strike or simply underperforming” a “difference without a distinction". Indeed SF police have gone so far in trying to undermine Boudin that in a recent successful sting by his office that busted an auto theft rin, his office had to reach out to the Feds for logistical support normally provided by the SFPD. We would be unlikely to support someone with Boudin’s views for mayor or supervisor, but as district attorney he is about the best that San Francisco is realistically going to get, given current political realities.

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Vote Libertarian This Election!

The Mini-Panic Over SF Shoplifting

Screen shot from a notorious video of a shoplifting incident at an SF Walgreens outlet taken June 14, 2021.

Since Chesa Boudin was narrowly elected (with the LPSF's support!) as San Francisco district attorney in November 2019 over the mayor's interim DA appointee Suzy Loftus, who was heavily backed by the San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) and other law enforcement interests, there have been plenty of folks unhappy with that outcome.

As in many locales, police in San Francisco had long enjoyed an improperly cozy relationship with prosecutors. Even Boudin's relatively liberal elected predecessor (and former police chief) George Gascon, never really seen as reliably in the SFPOA's corner during his time overseeing the SFPD, failed as DA to prosecute a single police officer for an unjustified shooting or any other abuse. This was despite occurrences like the gangland-style execution of Mario Woods by multiple SFPD officers in 2015.

Chesa Boudin has been a breath of fresh air in an office that badly needed reform. A former deputy public defender in the office built by the much-missed Jeff Adachi, he ran on a platform that emphasized issues like opposing mass incarceration, focusing on real (not victimless) crimes, ending cash bail, and holding police accountable. He has been as good as his word on this, enhancing civil liberties and saving taxpayer money via efforts such as getting the SF jail population reduced by around 25% by letting elderly inmates and those with medical conditions, charged with misdemeanors out early, requiring prosecutors to review all available evidence before charging any cases involving allegations of resisting, obstructing or assaulting police officers (charges often trumped up when police don't have any real cause to arrest someone, or want to make their life more difficult), and working with Supervisor Matt Haney to try to stop police officers with records of abuse from being hired, according to Wikipedia. The people who don't like him are upset with him in no small part because he is doing what he said he would do.

In seeking to remove Boudin via an upcoming recall election however, opponents have latched onto one issue in particular as an easier "sell" to San Francisco voters who might not be so enthused about a return to criminal justice "business as usual" – shoplifting. In this they were given a major media assist. While most of the mainstream media may lean to the left on many issues, when it comes to local petty crime their statism often has a more right-wing "tough-on-crime" flavor. ABC7 TV reporter Lyanne Melendez exemplified this when she pushed the shoplifting issue to the front burner on June 14 by tweeting a video of a brazen shoplifting incident at a Walgreens store in Hayes Valley. Without providing any evidence or context to support blaming the district attorney, she editorialized her tweet with the words "#NoConsequences @ChesaBoudin". According to Twitter, that video has now been viewed 6.2 million times.

Watching it raises some obvious questions, like "Why doesn't the store security guard make more than a half-hearted grab at the thief's bag as he rides his bicycle directly past him in a narrow store aisle toward the store exit, when almost anyone in that position making a serious effort could have easily blocked the getaway?"

The incident almost gives the impression of having been staged. If the security guard was afraid for his own safety (isn't being exposed to potential physical confrontations part of his job?), why wasn't he on the phone to 911, or calling for more backup from other store personnel, instead of just standing there watching as the thief swept items from store shelves into a large trash bag? Was this incident really about local criminal justice authorities falling down on the job, or was it about store management having some kind of "don't interfere" policy designed to avoid bad publicity or potential liability?

A Tech-Gate story about the incident reports that the man – subsequently taken into custody – had previously robbed the same store on four consecutive days earlier in the month, but that Walgreens declined to prosecute.

A district attorney can't prosecute anyone unless they are first identified, which generally means apprehending them. Some commenters have also tried to blame the perceived increase in shoplifting – more on that later – on the Black Lives Matter or police abuse reform movement which saw a major surge after the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020, arguing that cops are more afraid to make arrests now, lest they be accused of police brutality.

But unless police happen to be on the scene and catch a shoplifter in the act, it is usually store personnel who apprehend shoplifters, so this doesn't really offer a good excuse for what do appear to be low arrest rates in SF for this type of crime:

"...state and local crime clearance reports show the problem is not San Franciscans’ failure to report shoplifting to police, but the SFPD’s low rate (4.9 percent) of making arrests in reported thefts compared to police elsewhere in the state (10.5 percent)."

– From cjcj org/news/13165

Being arrested is a traumatic experience, typically costing arrestees time and money and affecting their records regardless of what happens afterward, so more SFPD arrests of shoplifters would presumably have some impact.

Nevertheless, despite the shocking Melendez video and some high-profile incidents of organized shoplifting, the rates for this crime in San Francisco are in fact still much lower than they were back in the 1980s, and have fallen further since 2019:

"The data shows police-reported shoplifting incidents that are from
pre-pandemic dates. Also looking even further back then pre-pandemic,
the data shows that shoplifting rates have been falling more or less
steadily since the 1980s.

According to the SF Chronicle, 710 shoplifting incidents were
reported in the city from January to April of 2021 in comparison to 933
shoplifting periods from the same period in 2019, an actual decrease."

– From davisvanguard org/2021/07/are-shoplifting-rates-in-san-francisco-rising-data-says-nope/

Some of the people who believe, despite the evidence, that shoplifting is way up in San Francisco, also like to blame state Proposition 47, the criminal justice reform measure that helped address the epidemic of mass incarceration by releasing some non-violent offenders from overcrowded jails.

But contrary to the myth that the law now lets people caught stealing goods worth less than $950 get off scot free, California statutes actually classify it as a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail, in addition to potential civil liability to the store owner for:

• the retail value of the merchandise, if the property is not recovered in sellable condition
• damages of at least $50 but not more than $500, and
• costs of bringing the action.

– From criminaldefenselawyer com/resources/criminal-defense/crime-penalties/petty-theft-california-penalties-defense

While it's true that prosecution rates for shoplifting are down since the start of Covid not long after district attorney Boudin was elected, it's a bit of a stretch to hold him mainly responsible, as a July 9 San Francisco Examiner article shows:

The numbers show the prosecution rate for shoplifting cases involving
a misdemeanor petty theft charge for a loss of $950 or less fell under
Boudin, from 70 percent under former District Attorney George Gascon in
2019 to 44 percent in 2020 and 50 percent as of mid-June 2021.

Prosecutors filed charges in 116 of 266 cases presented by police
involving petty theft in 2020, compared to 450 of 647 cases in 2019,
according to the data provided by the District Attorney’s Office.

On the other hand, the prosecution rate for certain organized retail
theft cases remained between 81 and 84 percent under both Gascon and
Boudin between 2019 and 2021.

The office charged 35 of the 43 organized retail theft cases presented in 2020,
compared to 21 of the 25 cases in 2019...

Boudin said the decline in prosecution rates for shoplifting cases is
a reflection of the “difficult choices” his office had to make during
the pandemic, when the Hall of Justice closed most of its courtrooms and
city officials decided to largely empty the jails, in part to prevent
an outbreak.

“We made an intentional decision to prioritize crimes involving
violence, injury to human beings and use of weapons,” Boudin said.

– From SFExaminer com/news/data-shows-chesa-boudin-prosecutes-fewer-shoplifters-than-predecessor/

So if you're inclined to blame Chesa Boudin, which of the following alternative courses of action do you think he should have taken?

• Prioritizing the prosecution of petty theft over crimes involving violence?
• Trying to force the courts to reopen their courtrooms to enable more prosecutions, and the sheriffs to refill the jails, risking Covid outbreaks?
• Violating the Constitution by somehow prosecuting people without due process?

Meanwhile, while shoplifting in San Francisco has decreased in recent decades, homelessness is way, way up. Which must be a bit of a head-scratcher if you think homeless people are disproportionately the ones to blame for such petty crime.

More to the point though, what should concern us more as a society?

Petty theft, whether organized or by individuals, from retail establishments of property worth less than $950 per offense?; or

Organized State robbery in the form of taxes, often many thousands of dollars a year per victim, that leave people with fewer resources to help themselves and their families and exacerbate poverty?

In humanitarian terms, which is the greater problem that we should be more concerned over?

While it's frustrating to see blatant, repeated shoplifting from stores occurring in the community, which ultimately means higher prices for everyone, libertarians should resist the agenda – often pushed by conservatives – of just inflicting harsher punishments on the residents committing these thefts. Asking government to put more people behind bars for longer terms tends to be far costlier to the public. Not to mention a far greater threat to freedom.

We should not let this largely manufactured panic over shoplifting cause us to vote out a district attorney who is pursuing real, valuable reforms.

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Screen shot from a notorious video of a shoplifting incident at an SF Walgreens outlet taken June 14, 2021.

A vaccine mandate hides an ID mandate

Not everything is as it seems in the San Francisco Public Health Department's vaccine mandate.

[NOTE: The author will be the guest speaker at November's LPSF meeting!]

By Edward Hasbrouck

(Reprinted from PapersPlease.org)

As we have long feared, and as has already happened in other countries, COVID-19 vaccination requirements are being used to impose unrelated ID requirements.

There’s a difference between “unvaccinated” and “undocumented” — a difference that’s  gotten lost in some recent regulations and orders imposing “vaccination mandates”.

Case in point: the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

An order from the SFDPH  purports to require people entering indoor businesses or other indoor venues including anywhere food or beverages are served, gyms, and other “large indoor events”  to show “proof” of having been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But proof of vaccination is not what the order actually mandates. Its only real mandate is a an ID mandate, and in practice its effects would be felt primarily by undocumented people (including vaccinated but undocumented people) who don’t have or don’t choose to show ID, not by unvaccinated people.

Regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or whether you think other people should be vaccinated, the ID mandate hidden in this order, like similar ID mandates lurking in other “vaccination” regulations and directives, is a step backward for civil liberties. It is vulnerable to, and deserving of, Constitutional challenge.

Here’s what the SFDPH order would actually require:

The SFDPH order defines several acceptable forms of “proof” of vaccination including, among others, a paper vaccination card printed in blank by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and filled in by hand at a vaccination site, a photocopy of such a card, an image of such a card displayed on a smartphone, a QR code displayed on a smartphone, or “a written self-attestation of vaccination signed… under penalty of perjury.”

None of these, with the possible exception of a declaration under penalty of perjury, provides more than the flimsiest evidence that someone (not necessary the person presenting the card or paper copy or showing the image or QR code) was vaccinated. None of them provides “proof”.

Anyone could write anything on a blank CDC card, photocopy such a card, copy an image or QR code, create a QR code, borrow a smartphone on which an image or QR code is already stored, or edit such an image to fill in the blanks or change the name or other information.

The most secure of these forms of evidence, at least in terms of the risk taken by someone using it to support a false claim to have been vaccinated, would appear to be a self-certification under penalty of perjury. It’s not clear what law would be violated by changing the name in an image of a vaccination card. And whatever might be said — in seriousness or in jest — about the possible penalties for misuse of Photoshop, the penalties for perjury are probably quite a bit more serious than those for altering an image of a vaccination card.

But while the SFDPH order defines a self-certification as “proof” of having been vaccinated, Appendix B to the order defines a variety of venues and events for which a self-certification of having been vaccinated will not be accepted, but other trivially produced forms of evidence of having been vaccinated will be accepted.

There are other inexplicable quirks in which forms of evidence of vaccination are and aren’t acceptable under the SFDPH order.

The most “official” and widely-recognized record of vaccination is the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (“yellow book”), a longstanding global standard adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) pursuant to international treaties. These can be used to record vaccinations against COVID-19, and in some countries including Germany they are the primary vaccination records being issued to individuals. In the US, WHO-standard blank “yellow books”  are issued by the CDC and distributed to health care providers and the public by the US Government Printing Office.

The SFDPH doesn’t include the CDC “yellow book” in its list of acceptable forms of “proof” of having been vaccinated (although international health regulations require its acceptance), but does include any “similar documentation issued by another foreign governmental jurisdiction.” So a WHO-standard yellow book from any other country is acceptable, but not one from the US CDC. Is this deliberate? If so, why?

But that’s not all, and that’s not the worst feature of the SFDPH order.

For the venues and events defined in Appendix B to the order, “Covered Businesses are required to cross-check proof of Full Vaccination for each patron against a photo identification.”

What does this mean? Members of the public and businesses charged with enforcing the order are left to guess. Despite detailed (albeit, as discussed above, arbitrary and unexplained) definitions and specifications of acceptable evidence of vaccination, the SFDPH order contains no definition at all of “photo identification”.

Responsibility for enforcing this order is assigned to businesses (i.e. to their frontline staff) and operators of venues and events, none of whom have any particular expertise or qualifications to assess claims or evidence of vaccination or identity. There’s no reason to expect such a system to be any more effective at controlling who is actually allowed to enter venues subject to the SFDPH order than the existing and widely flouted rules purporting to require evidence of age to purchase alcohol, tobacco, or other items.

Whatever is meant by the mandate to “cross-check proof of Full Vaccination… against a photo identification,” it is likely to imply a requirement to remove face masks, which (as at TSA checkpopints and other places where masks must be removed for ID checks) poses a clear health risk.

As is typical of government orders requiring individuals to show ID to private businesses, the SFDPH order places no restrictions on the ability of those businesses to scan ID credentials (which they are likely to start doing just to be able to show that they have complied with the order to make all workers and patrons show ID) and to retain, use, or monetize the databases of personal ID data they have thus compiled. There are no requirements for securing this sensitive personal data or disclosing how it has been used or with whom it has been shared.

Do you want every restaurant, bar, club, gym, or theater you have attended to have a copy  of your passport number in an insecure  jury-rigged database? Or to be able to make a little extra money off each customer by selling this information to a commercial data aggregator — without telling you they have done so?

The SFDPH order also applies to events open to the public and held at indoor public forums operated by government agenccies, to which entry is a right. If someone reserves a room at the library or rents the Civic Auditorium for a political meeting, should the government, as operator of the venue, be allowed to require that attendees identify themselves, and keep a record of who attended? We think not.

While the SFDPH order allows, or at least originally allowed, self-certification of vaccination in some circumstances, it doesn’t explicitly allow self-certification of identity. In the absence of any definition or qualification of “a photo identification”, it’s at least arguable that the requirements of the SFDPH order could be satisfied by showing a self-certified photo ID, such as a photo with your name or signature written on the back. We’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has tried to gain entry to a covered venue or event with such self-certified photo ID. If you are turned away, what recourse do you have, if any?

It’s particularly irrational and unfair that the SFDPH is requiring evidence of vaccination to be “cross-check[ed] … against … photo identification”, when no identification at all has been, or is being required by the SFDPH to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

As the City and County of SF says, “You can get a free COVID-19 vaccination regardless of your immigration status” and without ID. That’s as it should be. Undocumented people are at just as much risk of infection themselves, and pose just as much of a risk of infection to others, as people who have and choose to show ID.

The effect of the ID mandate is that undocumented people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 by the SFDPH at its vaccination sites are prohibited by the SFDPH, purportedly on the basis of their vaccination status, from patronizing or working in restaurants or other covered venues. There is no rational relationship between the ID provisions of the order and any health purpose.

Vaccinated but undocumented people are barred from working in, patronizing, or attending events at restaurants and many other indoor venues in SF. Unvaccinated people with acceptable ID can get into those same venues by copying and/or making trivial changes to a vaccination card or image.

The burden of the SFDPH order will fall primarily on vaccinated people who are undocumented or who don’t choose to show ID, not on unvaccinated people.

A variety of people don’t have ID — especially in a dense city like San Francisco with many transportation options that don’t  require a drivers license — or don’t choose to show ID. Many of them are vaccinated against COVID-19.

Having been vaccinated isn’t proof of not being infected or not being infectious. A significant percentage of current COVID-19 cases in San Francisco, as throughout the U.S.,  are among people who have been vaccinated. But neither is having or showing ID proof of not being infected or not being infectious. Government-issued ID is not a magic talisman against COVID-19 and does nothing to enhance the effectiveness of any vaccine. There is no reason to conflate ID with vaccination, and good reasons to keep them separate.

Because the SFDPH order applies to workers as well as patrons in any of the venues to which it applies, it constitutes (or purports to constitute) an additional bar prohibiting undocumented people — even if they are vaccinated — from working in restaurants or other covered venues. Was this really what was intended? Or it is just another example of the inevitability of unintended  collateral damage whenever ID requirements are imposed?

Supporters of universal ID requirements have long been quick to seize any opportunity to embed ID requirements in short-term rules that can then be made permanent. COVID-19 vaccination requirements, no matter how well intended, are being used as the latest such pretext. Officials genuinely concerned with public health should resist any attempt to hide ID requirements or ID-linked surveillance in vaccination rules.

This is just one case study of the “health” orders in San Francisco. How widespread are vaccination rules that are Trojan horses for ID rules? What do they say? Have they been challenged?

We’re interested in hearing about other “vaccination mandates” hiding ID requirements (please share links in the comments) and in hearing from any attorneys interested in working on challenges to this new flavor of back-door ID mandate.

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Not everything is as it seems in the San Francisco Public Health Department's vaccine mandate.

Go ahead and engage in vote-buying, just don't be hypocrites

I heard the same thing about the controversial new Georgia voting law (the "Election Integrity Act of 2021") that most of you probably have – that it criminalizes giving water to people waiting in line to vote. That part is what many in the media seem to want to focus on. Taken out of context, it definitely sounds like the GOP carrying vote suppression to an utterly petty level.

Then I read what that part of the legislation, which applies within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter at a polling place, actually says:

"No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector."

You remember Brad Raffensperger? The Republican secretary of state in Georgia who defended the integrity of the election results that showed Biden winning the poll in that state and resisted pressure from the president when Trump phoned him and asked him to "find" over 11,000 votes? Well, Raffensperger promised last year that the state would crack down on "line warming," or handing gifts to people waiting in line to vote as a way to "inappropriately influence voters in the crucial final moments before they cast their ballots."

So yeah, Republicans trying to suppress the vote, and Republicans trying to stop shenanigans by their opponents – the two go hand in hand, one providing cover for the other. But the deeper truth is that both sides are trying to rig the system in their favor as best they can. Certain voters in certain areas are generally presumed (with lots of evidence) to be likely Democrat voters. The Republican Party is trying to reduce voter turnout in these areas by making it more difficult to vote, while the Democratic Party is trying to increase voter turnout in these same areas by, among other things, bribing voters. The media mostly understands the first half of this dynamic, and reports it as such, but ignores or misses the flip side of the coin. Free water and snacks may not seem like much of an incentive to vote, but if someone's on the fence, a little detail like that can make a difference. And in a tight race, every bit of turnout matters.

Again, both halves of the establishment are trying to rig the game in their favor, they just have different ways of trying to cheat. And don't think for a minute that this is just about whether people waiting to vote can be given water. That's just media spin. The real question is whether anything of value can be used to lure people to the polls. If gifts of bottled water are allowed, it won't stop there; the envelope will be pushed. Democratic operatives will supply as many inducements to vote in areas and among populations where the vote tends to swing their way as they legally (and sometimes maybe illegally) can – snacks, sandwiches, whole chickens, tote bags, gift certificates, etc., so that more of "their" people will make it to the polls.

Don't get me wrong though – I oppose this Georgia law. Attempting to influence voters should not be criminalized, regardless of whether the lobbying occurs right before they vote or at some other time. Ditto for vote-buying. Your vote belongs to you, and true ownership isn't only about the right of use, it's also the right to transfer the thing in question to another person or group of your choosing. If you can't sell your vote, in a sense it's not really yours.

Politicians and election commentators seldom acknowledge this, but – especially for someone trying to make ends meet – getting the equivalent of $5 (about the price of a bottled water and a snack) or $20 or $50 or whatever from somebody hoping you'll vote the way they want you to, may have more of a direct, positive impact on your life than any votes you as one individual cast in the voting booth.

For some people, a decision to sell their vote (or to receive something of value, however slight, from someone seeking to influence how they cast it) might be not only rational, but a more honest reflection of their values and priorities than any selection available to them on the ballot, and thus a more legitimate expression of democracy.

Only let's call it what it is, and not pretend this latest hullabaloo is motivated by a sudden humanitarian concern for grandma's physical nourishment while waiting in line to vote, from people who never showed any similar interest in her well-being when she was waiting in line at the DMV, or sitting around at court after being called for jury duty.

Attempted vote-buying is nothing new. The reason many people vote for the politicians they do in the first place is because the pols promise free stuff. If they're allowed to get votes by promising "free" health care, "free" education, "free" border walls, "free" Covid relief checks, etc., after they're elected, why shouldn't they be allowed to get votes by handing out freebies before the vote, and using their own resources to pay for them, instead of stolen tax money? That way voters have a chance to get something concrete, in advance, that is at least a bit more ethically sourced, and they don't have to just rely on politicians' promises. It would be an effective way of transferring money from the rich (big money donors) to the poor (low-income and minority voters) without coercion and without government taking the lion's share before the money gets to those for whom it's purportedly intended.

If you're recoiling in horror from the idea of buying and selling votes, you can rest easy. It's about as likely to become law any time soon, as the Biden administration is to be fiscally responsible. Please direct your outrage toward the practices already in place now that tilt the political field in favor of the well-heeled. Like shutting less deep-pocketed alternative party candidates out of debates, not allowing voters to register with their parties in many states, and charging outrageous filing fees just to get on the ballot or have a candidate statement. When I ran for State Assembly last year, no statement appeared by my name in the voter information pamphlet, because they wanted to charge me $1572.00 to print one. But of course voters reading the pamphlet weren't informed of that reason; all they saw was a blank space, giving the impression that I just didn't care enough to write anything. Just one of the dirty little tactics of the 2-party duopoly cartel.

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