Mayor Lisa Gillmor may have many shortcomings, but one of them isn’t a lack of imagination.
Unable to get the City’s actual voters behind her agenda, she and her allies have invented a whole new class of voters in Santa Clara elections — voters who don’t live here.
It’s a bold move that would earn the admiration of New York City’s 19th century wizard of political corruption, Boss Tweed. Tweed invented a lot of individual voters, but even he didn’t have the imagination to openly invent an entirely new class of voters.
At the July 12 City Council meeting Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Council Member Kathy Watanabe and Planning Commissioner Ron Patrick advanced the novel idea that “qualified elector in the City of Santa Clara” isn’t limited to people who reside in Santa Clara in the plain meaning of the word. They assert that working here, visiting friends here and the occasional snooze in your parked car also qualifies you to vote here.
As Gillmor put it, “It doesn’t matter where you live as long as the Registrar of Voters qualifies you as an elector in the City of Santa Clara.”
Boss Tweed couldn’t have said it better.
How will this work out?
This means that tens of thousands of employees of NVIDIA, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, Applied Materials and Apple will now be able to vote in Santa Clara by merely claiming their offices as their home addresses. Jed York can register to vote from his office on 4949 Marie DeBartolo Way, as can every other 49er and Levi’s Stadium employee. Denying their applications would invite discrimination and voter suppression lawsuits.
Perhaps Council Member Kathy Watanabe, a strong supporter of the new Gillmor standard, thinks many of these new voters would be in her district.
But that wouldn’t necessarily be the case.
Pre-COVID, it was estimated that the population of Santa Clara doubles between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Adding tens of thousands of new voters to the rolls in Santa Clara will likely trigger a demand for redistricting. We could end up with five of six districts in the industrial Northside and the rest of Santa Clara in a single district.
Imagine a City Council with members from the Intel, NVIDIA, Applied Materials and Levi’s Stadium districts holding the deciding votes on land use questions or developer fees.
Northside commercial property owners could put together a coalition to reduce to zero the City’s share of parking fees collected on their lots.
Maybe Related could team up with hoteliers to abolish the City’s hotel and sales taxes. They could vote to load actual Santa Clara taxpayers with trillions in bond debt — remember, they have a hundred thousand employees to vote for those bond measures.
Not only is Gillmor & Co.’s cavalier attitude toward voter qualification disturbing. Their attitude toward obeying the law is even more alarming. Living, as Patrick claims to, in a manufacturing facility violates both city code and state law.
Per the city attorney’s report: “The use of the building for one ‘dwelling unit’ would also not comply with the minimum density for residential units on the site, which is 60 dwelling units per acre.”
In addition, there is no residential certificate of occupancy — a violation of the California Building Code.
And we’re talking about appointment to a commission that oversees these very codes.
But Gillmor et al. aren’t the only ones at fault here.
We have tried to learn what standards the Registrar of Voters uses to qualify voters, but the Registrar of Voters has stonewalled us so far. Right now, it appears that any address from which mail doesn’t return ‘addressee unknown” or “no such address” qualifies someone to register to vote there.
In the meantime, invite your friends to visit Santa Clara for a few months to cast their ballots for mayor.
It seems to me that:
a) It is highly unlikely (0%) “that tens of thousands of employees of NVIDIA, Intel, Kaiser Permanente, Applied Materials and Apple” will actually claim their offices as their home addresses and vote in Santa Clara. It takes quite a vivid imagination to think this will be the case.
b) The mayor doesn’t determine who does and doesn’t get to register to vote. That’s the ROV, so the focus of this opinion piece is misplaced.
c) The part about Mr Patrick living in a manufacturing facility is scant on details. Regardless, it’s the ROV that determines the rules.
I will say, as I recall, Mr. Anthony Becker was allowed to join the planning commission by the mayor and her supporters. At the time I thought it was a questionable call, but appearantly when I inquired with one of council memebrs they wanted to “give him a chance”. IMO, unfortunatley he didn’t do anything on PC to prove his worth. And even today, as a District 6 resident, I wonder what he has done to represent his district.
Becker helped to rid our city of Deanna Santana and Brian Doyle.
According to the County of Santa Clara Registrar of Voters, where you live does matter for the purposes of voting: “Each person who registers to vote must provide an address where they live and an address where they receive their mail, if different.” “…the address where you live determines which contests that you are eligible to vote.” “Information about how a voting domicile is determined is found in California Elections Code sections 2020 through 2035.”
2028. If a person has a family fixed in one place, and the person does business in another place, the former is the person’s place of domicile. However, if the person having a family fixed in one place, has taken up an abode in another place with the intention of remaining, and the person’s family does not so reside with the person, the person is a domiciliary where the person has so taken up the abode. For purposes of this section, a person may take up an abode at the same place at which the person does business.
2031. If a person has more than one residence and that person maintains a homeowner’s property tax exemption on the dwelling of one of the residences…there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the residence subject to the homeowner’s property tax exemption is that person’s domicile. However, this presumption shall not apply in the event any other residence is listed as the person’s current residence address on any driver’s license, identification card or vehicle registration issued to that person by, and on file with, the Department of Motor Vehicles.
If a person has more than one residence and that person claims a renter’s tax credit for one of the residences…there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the residence subject to the renter’s tax credit is that person’s domicile. However, this presumption shall not apply in the event any other residence is listed as the person’s current residence address on any driver’s license, identification card, or vehicle registration issued to that person by, and on file with, the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I don’t think we need to be concerned about tens of thousands of employees of Santa Clara businesses claiming their offices as their home addresses for the purposes of voting. They would have to go through a lot of trouble to game the system
Having said that, if you look at the census block data for Santa Clara that was used for the 2021-22 city council redistricting you will see small pockets of residents in industrial areas, especially in Districts 1 and 2. When you compare these areas with what you see on the Google Maps satellite image, you only see commercial buildings indicating a few people in Santa Clara are living at their place of business or they are gaming the system.
For Santa Clara census block data see pages 3-4 of https://www.santaclaraca.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/76376/637793286481870000