103 Woolsey Street Residents Kicked Off Berkeley Voter Rolls

By Judith Scherr
Friday May 19, 2006

Peter Sussman, noted journalist and editor, often described as a 35-year Berkeley resident, was shocked when he looked at his sample ballot and discovered he was slated to vote across the border in Oakland. 

The border for Sussman is actually close to somewhere between his living room and his kitchen. One hundred and three of his nearest neighbors also straddle two cities. 

“My kids went to Berkeley schools,” he said, aghast that the change could have been made administratively. “There was no warning, no public hearing—they just did it.” 

Living between two cities has often brought bureaucratic headaches, especially when it’s time to pay property taxes. The taxes, often fraught with error, are split between Berkeley and Oakland; every year multiple phone calls to straighten out overcharges are required, Sussman said. 

As close as anyone can figure out, the administrative change in jurisdiction happened because of a parking permit question, with a bureaucrat from Berkeley public works calling the registrar of voters to make sure the residents on the south side of Woolsey belonged to Oakland. 

Not shy, Sussman called every public official he could—Councilmember Kriss Worthington, County Supervisor Keith Carson, Assemblymember Loni Hancock.  

He found that the law gives homeowners with parcels split between jurisdictions the right to decide where they will vote. 

“It was illegal to remove them from Berkeley,” said Worthington, who spent hours addressing the issue. 

Worthington said the problem was resolved and a letter will be sent to residents in the next few days correcting the error.  

“We got the 103 voters back,” he said, affirming his membership in what he called the Woolsey Street Voters’ Liberation Front.