The only law definitively broken by the pro-Ed Lee volunteers caught on film filling out and collecting ballots in Chinatown was the law of common decency. The introduction of a stencil-like device that allows people to expediently vote only for Lee and his chosen items introduces a literal aspect to the notion of "machine politics." This coarse and unseemly behavior hearkens to tales of Tammany Hall -- but at least the chislers of old were discreet enough to conduct their business behind closed doors.
While seven of Lee's mayoral opponents have fired off a letter to state and federal authorities requesting intervention, the missive is not particularly strongly worded. It notes that, if the aforementioned allegations are true then they may violate state and federal law. Asked what election laws, if any, have allegedly been violated, half a dozen legal experts gave SF Weekly roughly the same reply: Answering that question would require several hours of scouring the state and federal codes. This task, apparently, is being left for the recipients of the candidates' letter.
That being said, this is a potential political black eye for the mayor and yet another example of -- at the very best -- mortifying behavior from Lee's supporters. At worst, of course, multiple felonies have been committed. Filling in others' ballots is one thing. But collecting them is something else entirely -- and perhaps a far graver matter. "What if they saw a person didn't vote for Lee and threw that ballot away? That is a problem," says Alix Rosenthal, an attorney and former president of the city's Elections Commission. "Given the city's concern with the custody of ballots from the moment they're printed, this should raise the city's hackles."
The collection of the completed ballots, as caught on video and as recounted by eyewitnesses, is the most clearly problematic element of this budding scandal, which is awaiting its own "-gate" suffix. If you're not an absentee voter or the spouse, family member, or legal representative of one, it's hard to conceive of a scenario in which handling others' completed ballots is acceptable.