The latest recount in a Sunnyvale city council election that’s been simmering for more than six weeks has ended without a clear winner, likely sending the two candidates to a tiebreaker-in-a-bag finish sometime in the next few days.
The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters confirmed Friday that the final tally in the District 3 election was 2,814 votes each for Murali Srinivasan and Justin Wang. On both the initial count and a first recount of the Nov. 8 election, Srinivasan had been leading by a single vote.
The second recount yielded an extra three votes that had not previously been counted. They initially were excluded because two were double-postmarked and one was mailed in an envelope for the June primary election instead of the November midterm election.
Two of those votes went to Wang, who had requested the recount, and one went to Srinivasan.
“One vote made a difference – it was a tie, and then went to one person winning, and went back to a tie,” said Evelyn Mendez, the registrar’s spokeswoman. “So if people think their vote doesn’t count, this is their proof that they need to vote.”
The second recount ended on Thursday, after which there was a 24-hour period where anyone – not just the two candidates – could challenge the recount or submit any additional requests about the recount to the registrar, Mendez said.
The registrar would then certify the results to the city of Sunnyvale, which will resolve the tie by drawing lots, Mendez said. Neither of the candidates could be reached for comment on Friday. The winner was supposed to take his seat at the Jan. 3 council meeting.
Jennifer Garnett, a city spokeswoman, confirmed the process, but said Sunnyvale still has some details to confirm with the registrar before proceeding.
“The names will be drawn from a bag, basically,” Garnett said. “That’s how the tie will be decided.”
“There will be some sort of public process around that, but the timing has to do with when the ROV (registrar) makes their determination, whether or not the candidates do any sort of contesting of the results, things like that, and I think that’s still in a little bit of flux.”
According to Mendez, the office had to do some investigating before tallying the three ballots discovered during the recount to ensure they met California state election law.
“By Nov. 15, if we get any ballots postmarked by Nov. 8, we count them,” Mendez said. “These particular ballots were postmarked for Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 – one of them was even postmarked for Nov. 10. …They were all postmarked more than once, but we were able to talk to the postal vendor to determine when those ballots came in, and they verified that it was on Election Day.”
The third ballot, which was mailed in the wrong envelope, was initially set aside and deemed unusable for this election. But the ballot was counted after the registrar opened the envelope and reviewed the signature to ensure the ballot was valid for this election, Mendez said.
The end of the Sunnyvale recount comes shortly after another recount in Richmond’s District 2. There, a tie between candidates Cesar Zepeda and Andrew Butt was broken by having the two candidates write their names on unmarked green envelopes and then drawing one of them from a red gift bag. Zepeda was declared the winner.