Ballot count blunder means trans dad didn't win Oakland school board seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday December 30, 2022
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Ballot count blunder means Nick Resnick, with his sons Jude, left, and Dylan, didn't win an Oakland school board seat. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick
Ballot count blunder means Nick Resnick, with his sons Jude, left, and Dylan, didn't win an Oakland school board seat. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick

For weeks following his closely contested November 8 race for an Oakland school board seat, Nick Resnick had waited to officially declare himself the winner. Finally, after it appeared his reported first-place finish wouldn't change, he did so in a November 22 email to his supporters.

"After nearly two weeks of vote counting, it's finally clear: Oakland parents and neighbors have given me the honor and the privilege of representing our community," wrote Resnick, a married father of two sons who formerly worked as a teacher in the East Bay district.

His status as the Oakland Unified School District's boardmember-elect for the District 4 seat meant Resnick was set to become the first transgender person elected to oversee a K-12 public school district in California. And it made him only the second trans man elected to an education post in the Golden State.

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis had certified the results of Resnick's race in early December. Yet, it turns out, Resnick didn't win.

In a surprise announcement on December 28 Dupuis disclosed his office had not properly counted ballots in races decided by ranked-choice voting. While the error didn't affect any of the other contests, said Dupuis, it did change the result in Oakland's District 4 school race.

"It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round," stated the registrar's office. "This means that if no candidate was selected in the first round on the ballot, then the second-round ranking would count as the first-round ranking, the third-round ranking would count as the second round ranking, and so on."

Yet, per the release, "the county's equipment counted the RCV ballots in the manner in which the ballot was completed, meaning no vote was registered for those ballots in the first round of counting because those voters did not identify a valid candidate in a particular rank on the ballot."

It went on to state that "after reviewing the election data and applying the correct configuration, the ROV learned that only one outcome was affected: Oakland School Director, District 4, for the Oakland Unified School District."

The office didn't disclose, however, who the new winning candidate was or what the correct vote tally was for the race. The registrar's office, as of Friday afternoon, still lists Resnick as winning the race after two rounds of RCV tabulations with 51.24% of the vote. His lead over the listed second-place finisher, Pecolia Manigo, is 599 votes.

New winner seeks to be certified

The true winner of the race was apparently Mike Hutchinson, who currently holds the District 5 seat on the Oakland school board. His term for that seat runs through January 6, 2025, meaning if he is seated next month as the District 4 director, there will be a vacancy on the nine-member school board to fill.

"Guess what I just found out....... I won the election!!!!! It turns out there was an error in the ranked choice algorithm and when it was corrected and the results were rerun I won," Hutchinson disclosed on his Facebook page Wednesday. "Now I need to find a lawyer and sue to overturn the election certification in the next week. It's crazy, but I won."

The revelation has thrown into doubt which of the three candidates will become the next District 4 school boardmember. At this point, even the Oakland school district is unsure.

"The district is waiting for the final decision from the registrar. The swearing in happens the second week of January," spokesperson John Sasaki told the Bay Area Reporter Friday in an emailed reply.

As for Resnick, he told the B.A.R. December 30 that he has retained legal counsel to help him navigate through the issues the registrar's announcement have raised.

"This is a truly unprecedented situation. I have, and I expect other candidates have, concerns about why the Registrar took the actions they did after the official certification of the election. Additionally, there are serious questions about what, if anything, happens next," stated Resnick in a texted response, as he is out of town celebrating the holidays with his family.

For the time being, he is acting as the school boardmember-elect.

"Setting aside these questions, there is no change to the results of the election without the formal action of a court," noted Resnick. "I remain honored by the opportunity to serve on the Oakland Unified School Board and look forward to representing the residents, families, and students of District 4."

In a texted reply Wednesday to the Oaklandside online newsite, he had written, "I have the same questions as everyone else."

Hutchinson announced Friday (December 30) that he had hired a law firm that specializes in election law and next week would file a petition in Alameda County Superior Court to re-certify the election results in the race using the now corrected vote counts showing him as the winner.

"There is no question nor dispute, I won," he wrote on his Facebook page. "Unfortunately before the error was detected the Registrar certified the election on December 7, and certified Nick Resnick as the winner. Only a judge change or throw out election certifications. Thankfully under the law you have 30 days to challenge certification."

He noted it will cost tens of thousands of dollars to contest the certified results and was looking into establishing a legal defense fund in order to raise donations to help pay his legal fees. It could take a few weeks for the courts to settle the matter, noted Hutchinson.

"Hopefully Nick Resnick won't contest us and this can be a smooth process," he wrote.

Gay man wins Richmond council race

The situation now makes Resnick's race the most bizarre 2022 electoral contest with an LGBTQ candidate in the Bay Area. That honor had gone to the race with gay District 4 Richmond City Councilmember-elect Cesar Zepeda.

He initially had ended up in a tie with his opponent, Andrew Butt, with both receiving 1,921 votes. A random draw in early December saw Zepeda be declared the winner.

Butt then requested a recount of the ballots cast in the race, which the Contra Costa County Elections Division undertook. It was then discovered several people who didn't live in the council district had cast ballots for Butt, so their three votes were disqualified.

In the end, Zepeda was declared the outright winner December 23 with 1,921 votes. Butt came in second with 1,918 votes.

Outgoing Clerk-Recorder-Registrar for Contra Costa County Debi Cooper, as she opted not to seek reelection this year, noted such a close race is "extremely rare." It also "should remind voters how important every single vote is," she stated.

UPDATED 12/30/22 with a response from Nick Resnick.

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