Controversy over early polling places as 49ers stadium vote draws near
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Early polling places set up in four public housing projects have raised controversy in the upcoming vote for a new San Francisco 49ers stadium.
``It smells to high heaven,″ said state Sen. Quentin Kopp, who said he would confer with the secretary of state’s office to see whether it is legal to set up ``selective″ early voting places.
Kopp told the San Francisco Examiner he also may seek a state investigation.
The controversy is only the latest in the looming Tuesday vote on Propositions D and F. The two measures provide for $100 million in bond revenue to build a mall and new stadium at Candlestick Point.
The 49ers say they need the stadium to stay economically competitive in the NFL, and have threatened to leave town if voters reject the bond. They say the deal is risk-free, with revenues from the project paying back any city funding.
But opponents, including Kopp, say the deal is far from failsafe and amounts to a subsidy for the team’s rich owner.
The early voting spots _ where residents were allowed to cast absentee ballots on Saturday _ were set up in four public housing projects.
Election officials have been trying to get public housing officials to set up such polling places for five years with no success.
``The Housing Authority finally made an effort this time,″ said Registrar of Voters Germaine Wong.
Wong said the spots were chosen because they are places where residents tend not to vote and that stadium backers had nothing to do with requesting the sites.
But critics noted that two of the polling places were set up in Bayview-Hunters Point, an area the 49ers have targeted in their campaign. Kopp said that if early polls were open in certain housing projects, they should be opened in several other neighborhoods. Anything else amounts to ``selective voter favoritism,′ Kopp said.
Jim Ross, head of the anti-stadium campaign, said, ``It undermines the confidence voters have in the neutrality of the elections department.″
Kandace Bender, a spokesman for Mayor Willie Brown, said the Housing Authority is independently run by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department. She said Brown, a chief stadium proponent, has no influence over the agency.
``My only feeling is that anytime you can get people to vote, that’s terrific,″ Bender said.