Alameda County supervisors seek recount in flawed Oakland school contest, other ranked races

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday January 10, 2023
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Nick Resnick was sworn into the District 4 Oakland school board seat January 9 even as it was revealed by the county registrar's office that he did not receive the most votes. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick
Nick Resnick was sworn into the District 4 Oakland school board seat January 9 even as it was revealed by the county registrar's office that he did not receive the most votes. Photo: Courtesy Nick Resnick

Alameda County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to seek a recount of the votes cast in an Oakland school board election where the certified winner, a transgender married dad, it turns out did not receive the most votes. The five supervisors are also seeking recounts in the Oakland mayor's race and two closely decided races in San Leandro, though it remains to be seen if they have a legal pathway to conduct the electoral tabulation do-overs.

All four of the races were decided by ranked-choice voting. But in a shocking turn of events, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis disclosed December 28 that his office had not properly counted ballots in the races.

The error didn't affect the outcomes of any of the contests except the Oakland District 4 school board race, said Dupuis, though he did not disclose at the time what the results should have been. By then Dupuis had already certified on December 8 Nick Resnick as the winner.

"Definitely a situation we had to remedy," Dupuis, who is now facing calls from the public that he resign or be replaced, told the Board of Supervisors at its meeting this week.

As the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported, Resnick's being certified the winner meant he was 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.

The winner of the race, however, was Mike Hutchinson, who has been serving in the District 5 seat on the Oakland school board. The revelation has now mired the candidates in a legal morass, with Hutchinson last Friday seeking the Alameda County Superior Court to declare him the winner.

At a special meeting of the supervisors last week, Dupuis disclosed that Hutchinson's vote tally should have been 12,421, giving him 50.52% of the total ballots cast to win the race. Thus, Resnick actually came in second place with 12,165 votes under the ranked-choice system, for 49.48% of the vote.

"Upon receiving this information l filed a petition in court to have a judge certify the correct results and declare me the winner of the election," Hutchinson noted in a January 6 Facebook post.

Nonetheless, Resnick took his oath of office Monday, January 9, to become a member of the Oakland Unified School District board. He has also brought on attorney Jim Sutton to represent him, who has raised "serious concerns" about how Dupuis has handled the ballot count mishap.

In a statement released January 5 Resnick's campaign stated, "We question whether the new results accurately reflect the intent of the voters who filled out the ballots in question. I believe in Oakland voters and that they understand the ranked choice voting process."

Resnick reiterated that he is "extremely proud to have been elected to the Oakland Unified School Board. I am honored by the opportunity to serve and believe that I can provide real leadership representing the residents, families, and students of District 4."

What happens now still remains unclear. An attorney for Hutchinson called in to the supervisors' January 10 meeting to agree with several other speakers that the "time for a recount has expired" and asked that whatever action the board took didn't interfere with the court intervention the candidate is seeking.

Even Alameda supervisors voiced confusion Tuesday on if they had the legal authority to seek a recount in the four races. Supervisor David Haubert asked of county counsel if it was "legal to do this still?"

To which County Counsel Donna Ziegler responded, "I believe we have a colorful claim. If the board approves these recs, the intent of county counsel is to pursue legal avenues for those reparations. Our intent is to pursue these goals by legal means."

Supervisor Keith Carson had instigated the call for the recounts, the costs of which would be covered by the county registrar's office. He addressed the questions about the relevancy of a recount now that Resnick and the winners of the other races have taken their oaths of office.

"We have direct oversight of the registrar's office," Carson noted. "Our attempt (is) to do checks and balances but also credibility for current issue as well as try to instill trust in Alameda County in the process of voting and selecting our government."

The supervisors also voted to form a public oversight committee tasked with ensuring Alameda County properly conducts its elections going forward.

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