Pubdate: Thu, 22 Aug 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Warren Hinckle


CALL IT a glitch, or call it urban democracy in the raw, but The City's 
elections laws provide a paradise for serial arguers who can enter a 
lottery. The lottery is run by the Elections Department, which has become a 
metaphor in San Francisco for the Marx Brothers.

I kid you not, the Elections Department runs a lottery, as in state Lotto, 
to decide with a pick from the hat who's on top of the ballot arguments in 
the official voters' handbook. This stuff can run to pages and pages, and 
is on the taxpayers' nickel if you are designated the official opponent. 
All other arguments that fatten the voters' handbook are paid for by the 
sponsors at an average cost of several hundred bucks.

But not if you can game the system like my friend Terence Faulkner.

He is the master of the system that makes for a fatter voters' handbook. 
That doesn't make him a bad man. That makes him just smart about the game.

But perhaps, as an upfront Faulkner would allow, the rules of the game 
should be changed. Meanwhile, why not play and grab all the marbles you can 
get in the schoolyard.

Faulkner and other masters of the game get free arguments against ballot 
propositions -- free if you know how to play the game. Otherwise ballot 
arguments for or against by ordinary citizens and organized influence 
groups cost in the neighborhood of $300 and counting, depending on how 
wordy you want to be. Ballot pamphlet words cost real money.

To get thus designated, as the official opponent (rarely are you the 
proponent in this game), you have to win the lottery.

To win the lottery, all you have to do is submit a written and sworn 
statement that it is your argument. Sounds OK.

But the wrinkle is that a prospective opponent can submit multiple 
arguments, five, say, even 10 per proposition, what the hell (there are 
many propositions which one can file against mutiple times) -- and the more 
arguments you submit, the better the odds of your winning the pick out of 
the hat lottery.

Wednesday, I spoke to Faulkner, the man who holds, or should hold, the 
Guinness Book of Records record for the most arguments filed, free, in the 
San Francisco voters' handbook.

On this year's ballot, perennial filer Faulkner has only three official 
arguments. In previous years, Faulkner, an intellectual and historian and 
Republican Party argumentative stalwart -- has had three times those three, 
sometimes four times(he modestly forgets) on the ballot. All for free. All 
you have to do is swamp the lottery argument box.

There is more:

"When you get an official argument, you get to get a response to the other 
side of what you're saying -- it goes with filing the argument," Faulkner 
said with evident satisfaction.

In other words, if you win the lottery for an official opposition, you get 
to get a free two-for to answer the opposition to your opposition. Get it? 
Myself, I'm not that clear, but it works something like that.

Great. If you have access to a typewriter or computer with a print 
function, you can add pounds to the ever-thickening voters' handbook, which 
is sending postmen and postwomen to hospitals to deal with the strain of 

Faulkner, a prodigious ballot argument lottery filer -- he sunk to only 
three official opponents' arguments this year because his typing arm was 
injured by a staph infection -- gentlemanly declined the Guinness Record 
for S.F. and said that should go to Margaret Warren, a tireless and 
relentless crusader for Westside neighborhood issues.

That, in my opinion, makes Faulkner a gentleman in the old San Francisco 
sense, throwing his cape in the mud so a lady can enter the carriage of 
ballot proliferation.

There is something wrong here in the system, but attempts at reform -- such 
as limiting the number of arguments one person or organization can file on 
a single ballot without weighting the "lottery" -- have been rebuffed by 
the current Board of Supervisors, especially board President Tom Ammiano, 
according to voting law maven Chris Bowman.

Bowman said the former Elections Commission sent the supes legislation that 
would end this madness, but the board tossed it to their new Elections 
Commission, which paid no attention to such a reform because members were 
too busy fighting each other and trying to fire the elections director.

Who's on first? Well perennial serial-filer Faulkner, who was hindered from 
sweeping the sleet only by a sore hand. If you want to blame him, go ahead, 
but you might want to blame somebody else,

The perennial filer is not without context to get his free words. He is a 
born-and-raised San Franciscan, and his father was an official with the Rec 
and Parks Department.

One of the propositions he filed an argument against was growing medical 
marijuana in The City, which was free to him. But interestingly, he 
reasoned that while growing up in S.F. and watching his dad and other 
gardeners at work, he knew The City could grow great pot in the six-to 
eight-inch-high category, given an enclosed area.

Faulkner's ballot argument on the no side wasn't moralistic. He thought it 
was Republican practical. He figured it out and estimated it would cost 
more police and fire protection -- and guys with machine guns -- to protect 
The City stash from raids than would make any economic sense.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens