Leanna Louie, the bullhorn-wielding scourge of vanquished DA Chesa Boudin, is expected to give incumbent Sunset District supervisor Gordon Mar a run for his money come November.
To do so, however, she’ll need to be on the ballot. Department of Elections director John Arntz said Wednesday that he would review Louie’s eligibility to run in District 4 based on residency questions indicated in records his own department provided to Mission Local via public records request.
Those records show that Louie, a longtime District 10 resident, registered to vote in District 4 on May 7. On June 3, she signed the documents declaring her candidacy for District 4 supervisor.
Those records also indicate Louie changed her registration three times in three months, bouncing back and forth between her longtime District 10 address and District 4, where she now wants to run.
On her declaration of candidacy, she listed a District 4 address on 35th Avenue as her “home,” but included her longtime family home in District 10 as her “mailing” address.
Additionally, only 27 days elapsed between her May 7 registration and June 3 candidacy declaration, too few to meet the Department of Elections’ residency requirement needed to run.
“A candidate for the Board of Supervisors must reside and be registered to vote in their district for at least 30 days immediately preceding the date he or she files the Declaration of Candidacy,” reads the “Candidate Eligibility” section of the Department of Elections’ Candidate Guide.
The City Charter, however, is more vague about residency requirements: Section 13.1110 merely states that a candidate for supervisor “must have resided in the district in which he or she is elected for a period of not less than 30 days immediately preceding the date he or she files a declaration of candidacy.” It does not refer to the formal process of registration.
“Voter registration is one of a number of factors we would look at if we were asked to do a review of residency,” says City Attorney spokeswoman Jen Kwart. “The Department of Elections has immediate access to voter registration records, but they may also review additional information.”
The City Attorney’s office laid out its residency review process in a meticulous 15-page memo generated from a 2009 investigation of whether District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly truly resided in District 6 (he did).
Louie’s multiple registrations will potentially be subjected to similar scrutiny.
Leanna Louie registered to vote in Bayview in 2016.
She then registered to vote in a Sunset apartment with a month-to-month lease in March 2022.
In April, Louie re-registered at her address in Bayview – in time to vote in the Matt Haney/David Campos Assembly race.
In May, she re-registered again at her Sunset address.
In June, Louie submitted paperwork to run as District 4 supervisor.
But Louie’s paperwork was submitted less than 30 days after registering there as a voter – in apparent contravention of city law.
Louie blames this situation on an “election error” from the Department of Elections.
Elections Department records indicate that, in March, Louie registered to vote at a 35th Avenue address in District 4. This was a move across town, as she had previously voted from a Bayview home owned by family since 2016.
To prove her District 4 residency, she subsequently provided the Department of Elections with a month-by-month lease for the District 4 address, dated March 1, 2022.
In April of 2022, however — while ostensibly residing at the District 4 address — Department of Elections records reveal Louie re-registered at the family home in Bayview. Louie then voted in the April 19 special election that pitted Matt Haney against David Campos for the District 17 Assembly seat.
Notably, Assembly District 17 does not include the West side; had Louie remained registered in the avenues, she could not have voted in April. But Department of Elections records indicate she did vote, in Bayview.
On May 8, Louie sent out a tweet with a photo of her mail-in ballot for June’s election. “Did you get your Vote By Mail ballots in SF yet? Got mine on Saturday morning,” she wrote. “I looked through it all & went straight to Prop H, where I darkened the circle for YES on H to Recall Chesa Boudin!”
While Louie has, sensibly, blotted out her home address in the photo, one can clearly read the precinct: 7019. That’s the Bayview district precinct where Department of Elections data show Louie voting, all the way back to 2016.
Louie sent out this tweet on May 8. “Saturday morning,” when her ballot arrived in the Bayview home where she was registered to vote, would’ve been May 7.
Despite the Tweet, Louie did not “darken the circle” and vote on this ballot. Rather, Department of Elections records indicate that Louie re-registered to vote at the same 35th Avenue home in District 4 on May 7. Elections Department records show that, in the June election — when voters recalled Boudin — Louie voted by mail in Precinct 9437. That’s in District 4.
Based upon the information his department this week provided to Mission Local, Arntz confirmed he would undertake a review of Louie’s eligibility.
District 4 candidate Joel Engardio said he’s awaiting that ruling: “The City Attorney and Department of Elections should set a standard of what it means to reside in a district,” he said. “Let’s make the relevant agencies make the determination.”
Incumbent District 4 supervisor Gordon Mar said that “the facts, as alleged, are seriously troubling. If true, they are potentially disqualifying as well as being deeply offensive to District 4 voters. It’s up to the Department of Elections and the City Attorney to undertake a full investigation.”
Louie told Mission Local that she, in fact, did not register and re-register multiple times as Department of Elections records indicate. Rather, she said this was the result of a series of foul-ups committed by the Department of Elections.
“It’s an election error. I never changed it [my registration]. They kept sending ballots to my [Bayview] address,” she said. In April, she says, her father called her and told her she’d received a ballot. Rather than contact the Department of Elections at that time and make an issue over an apparently erroneously sent ballot, Louie said she returned to the family home and voted in the special election — from an address at which she no longer lived.
“I’ve got to vote,” she said. “It’s my civic duty.”
Louie said the Department of Elections continued to plague her with mistakes, sending her two ballots in May. She claims to have discarded them both — including, presumably, the one photographed on Twitter — and had this situation remedied on May 7 at the Department of Elections in City Hall.
She told Mission Local that she voted in person at City Hall on that day. Department of Elections records indicate that she “voted by VBM [vote-by-mail] ballot” in precinct 9437.
Our messages to Arntz about Louie’s claims regarding his department have not yet been returned. This story will be updated if and when they are.
Louie is not the only aspiring supervisor to list an out-of-district address where she formerly resided as the mailing address on her declaration of candidacy. Cherelle Jackson registered in District 6 on Feb. 6; her prior registration was in District 11. On Feb. 7, Jackson filled out her declaration to run for District 6 supervisor.
Multiple messages for Jackson have not been returned.
The timeframe of Arntz’s determination is not certain. He said that anyone unhappy with his ruling — hoping to keep Louie on the ballot if he moves to remove her or remove her if he opts to keep her on — will have to put the matter before a judge.
District 4 has a colorful history with regard to candidate residency. In 2007, Supervisor Ed Jew was arrested after it turned out that he did not reside on 28th Avenue in District 4, but in Burlingame. Jew, who was also found guilty of federal extortion charges, eventually served prison time.
“I know I’m in the right,” Louie told us. “I’m not panicking.”
Veteran San Francisco election attorney Jim Sutton, meanwhile, said this matter deserves a thorough investigation, potentially by more than one city agency.
“I think there are enough questions about her eligibility based on the 30-day deadline and whether she resides in District 10 or District 4 that the Department of Elections should undertake an investigation prior to allowing her name on the ballot,” he said.
Sutton, who does not have a client in this race and has never represented any of the three aspirational supervisors, said it may be incumbent on the District Attorney to investigate for potential voter registration fraud.
“I don’t think it passes the legal smell test,” he said of Louie’s record of three registrations in three months. “This is not just a stupid ‘gotcha’ campaign issue — this is fundamental. If you’re going to have elections by district, it’s fundamental that the people live in the district.”