October 23, 2015

A STATEMENT BY CCDC’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

“LET’S NOT LET PARTISAN POLITICS DAMAGE OUR COMMUNITY”


Two days ago, CCDC Board President Susie Wong and I met with the Chinese language media to alert our community of two election scams which are being perpetrated upon unsuspecting voters. First, we warned that there were canvassers who were misrepresenting themselves as CCDC staff to gain people’s trust and to promote one cause or another. Second, we cautioned the community about people who are providing improper assistance in completing the ballots.

As the election season heated up we wanted to alert residents of both scams without turning it into a partisan political message. I said:

“We are not pointing our fingers at any candidate campaign. We have no reason to believe that any candidate is directing these scam artists.”

Then yesterday, another organization did turn the issue into just another round of partisan politics and name calling. A campaign committee called the Asian Pacific Democratic Club held a press conference and made sweeping and unfounded accusations against CCDC suggesting that we were responsible for the “widespread” mishandling of absentee ballots in our buildings. They accused us of covering up such activities. And they accused us of violating the law by allowing Aaron Peskin to visit one of our buildings.

Each of these accusations against CCDC is false. The allegations are based upon a one-sided, distorted, and partisan presentations of the facts. In each instance, they left out critical information from the story.

APDC reported three examples of “widespread voter fraud” in three buildings with “ties” to CCDC. But they left out critical elements of the story:

- In none of the examples that APDC selected was any member of CCDC’s staff identified as having been involved in handling absentee ballots. The persons involved were described as strangers.
- One of three buildings with “ties” to CCDC has no present relationship to CCDC. “Orangeland” has never been owned or operated by CCDC. Our only relationship was 30 years ago when Chinatown Resource Center (our predecessor) worked with a young attorney named Ed Lee to represent the tenants.
- CCDC owns and operates more than twenty buildings. We take every allegation of people coming onto our building and misleading voters very seriously. But two reports do not show a “widespread” pattern particularly if the source has selectively chosen which story to tell. We need to know the wider context for what is happening in the community as a whole.

APDC accuses us of violating our nonprofit charter by allowing Aaron Peskin to visit one of our buildings. What they failed to say is:

- CCDC does not and cannot exclude candidates who are invited by our tenants to visit a building.
- At her request, Supervisor Christensen has already visited and campaigned at several of CCDC’s buildings with cooperation of our management team. Candidate Wilma Pang is also welcome to visit as well.

CCDC has not engaged in any cover up of the issue in our buildings. APDC chose to keep the reports of mishandling of ballots to themselves until yesterday. Upon learning of the reports we immediately began checking with residents and thus far have found no broader pattern in our buildings. Nevertheless, beginning today we are conducting a voter education program in all of our buildings in partnership with the Department of Elections so that voters know the rules and know where to get help if needed.

But beyond the particular allegations, I want to express concerns about how our community talks about this issue and its impact on voter participation.

In their sensationalistic press release, APDC describes the problem as “widespread voter fraud” and have tried to make it a partisan issue. One day before in our press release CCDC described the problem as “fraud on voters” and did not point any fingers.

The mishandling of absentee ballots is wrong and we want it stopped. But it is also wrong to call it “voter fraud” because it suggests that the voter did something wrong—that is why CCDC called it “fraud on voters.” We need to be careful about the language that we use because it may divert attention from real solutions. And we should not create a climate of fear that will chill voter participation in the process.

Similarly it is also dangerous for our community to talk about this problem as “widespread” until we have an impartial and nonpartisan assessment of the issue. We have fought many years against stereotypes and the fears about the ‘Yellow peril.” Claims of “widespread voter fraud” are often used by the Rightwing as a justification for more restrictions on the right to vote. That is why CCDC is working with the Department Elections and other city agencies to assess how extensive the problem is before we call it “widespread” or before we call it “voter fraud.” And then let’s work together to prevent it from happening now and in the future.

Therefore, I want to urge APDC and others that we all step back from the partisanship of the moment. Elections often divide us. We all can feel fervently about the righteousness of our cause: Yes or No on X, Y, or Z. Candidate races particularly raise emotions and partisanship. But as leadership we have the responsibility to stay objective about some things.

Let’s not blame others before we know all the facts. We don’t know who it is who are taking ballots and misleading seniors. We don’t know their agendas. We do know that in the heat of a campaign, some individuals may go rogue and do things they should not do. But as leaders we need to be careful that we do not jump to conclusions and let our own statements add fuel to the fire.

That is why we need to help and rely upon the District Attorney and the Department Elections to do their work before making sensationalistic claims for partisan gain. As community leaders we need to step back from partisanship in moments like these and make sure the voters in our community have the support and protections they need to make their own choices and exercise their right to vote.

Peace,
Norm
 
 
 
 
 

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