The results of four races in the past election may be revisited after Alameda County officials learned the voting system may have been set incorrectly for races determined by ranked choice voting.
On Jan. 10, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unanimously decided to hold a recount for four close ranked choice voting elections — the Oakland mayoral race, the District 4 seat on the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education, the San Leandro mayoral race and the 5th District seat on the San Leandro City Council. Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler said the courts will have to decide if the county can actually do a recount, and that county counsel will do all it can to make that happen.
“We believe that we have a colorable claim, a colorable right to seek the relief that we’re requesting,” Ziegler said.
The supervisors also requested that the registrar hire a temporary election officer who has experience overseeing ranked choice voting, possibly a registrar from another county, to oversee a public, manual recount and established an elections oversight committee intended to ensure the county is holding the most transparent elections possible going forward.
Ranked choice voting is an electoral system in which voters rank the candidates of a race in order of preference. Voters’ second and third choices are used to determine a winner if no candidate wins a majority of ballots in the first round.
The county learned the votes needed to be recounted more than two weeks after the votes had been certified by Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis. Dupuis told the supervisors the California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition contacted his office on Dec. 23 and alerted him there could be an issue with the ranked choice voting results.
After working with the vendor of the voting system, Dominion Voting Systems, they learned the system may not have counted everyone’s votes correctly in successive rounds.
“What I’ve been told is that this is a setting that Minnesota has had added because they want to see a blank first choice handled differently than we do here in the state of California,” Dupuis said.
The races in question were determined by slim margins. Sheng Thao beat out Loren Manuel Taylor for the Oakland mayoral seat by 677 votes; Nick Resnick beat out Pecolia Manigo for the Oakland Unified school board seat by 599 votes; Juan Gonzalez III won the San Leandro mayoral seat by 296 votes over Bryan Azevedo; and Xouhoa Bowen won the San Leandro City Council seat by getting 32 more votes than Monique Tate.
Several members of the public expressed frustration with the process, some wanted greater accountability for the registrar of voters, and one commenter said the county should do away with ranked choice voting, while others expressed support for it. The county does not have the authority to force cities to do away with ranked choice voting if they’ve adopted it.