Groups requesting the recount reportedly did not come up with the $21,000 needed to pay for the vote recount this week, despite concerns over the 677-vote margin and the short time frame to send in the money.
After a razor-thin race for Oakland’s new mayor last month, Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao was declared the winner when an automatic runoff was triggered and all ranked-choice votes were tallied, pushing her ahead. Calls for a recount have abounded since, and one was reportedly slated to begin last week — until groups backing the recount failed to offer up the cost of $21,000 a day to recount by Friday morning, according to the East Bay Times.
Mayor-elect Thao had eked out a victory against opponent, fellow City Councilmember Loren Taylor, by less than 700 votes (there were five total candidates). Taylor received the most first-place votes in the election at 41,510 compared to Thao’s 39,909, according to Alameda County election results.
With ranked-choice voting, used in Oakland’s past four mayoral elections, voters can rank their preferences and these ranked votes are transferred between candidates if no candidate immediately secures majority support. After the ranked-choice votes were added in, Thao’s count came to 57,206 votes and Taylor’s 56,529.
California law has no provision for triggering automatic recounts, no matter how small the margin. Instead, individual voters or committees must request one — and foot the bill. Tim Dupuis, the Alameda County Registrar, told Oaklandside that there were “several formal requests for a recount.” The Oakland NAACP, which supported Taylor, reportedly put in one of those requests given the small vote margin and concerns over voters’ understanding of the ranked-choice system, according to KQED.
"Members, including many seniors, expressed frustration with the lack of voter education provided by the County Registrar's office around ranked choice voting and the lack of information regarding the change from selection of three candidates to five in the City of Oakland's Mayoral race," the group said in a statement, according to KRON4.
Oaklandside noted more of the NAACP’s stated concerns: nearly 3,000 votes were not counted because they were considered “overvotes” (the voter selected more than one candidate in the same ranking), 5,000 ballots lacked a selection for mayor, and 11,000 votes were “exhausted” (meaning the voter did not rank additional candidates).
On Thursday, Dupuis said in a live YouTube interview that those requesting the recount needed to pay $21,000 to cover the hand recount of ballots each morning before 9 a.m. for it to take place.
However, by Friday, the registrar’s office posted an update on Twitter that no one paid and the request has been “forfeited.”
The manual recount of votes for the City of Oakland Mayoral contest in the November 8, 2022, General Election that was scheduled to commence on December 16, 2022, at 9:00AM, at the Registrar of Voters’ Office, was forfeited due to non-payment of deposit as required by ELEC 15624. pic.twitter.com/RFI8qLm0lV— Alameda County Registrar of Voters (@ACVOTE) December 16, 2022
Local election officials must notify the candidates if a recall is happening in their race, and candidate Allyssa Victory tweeted that she had only received such notice early Friday morning amid the confusion.
Received this mail notice announcing a manual recount for the Oakland Mayor’s race beginning this morning. pic.twitter.com/TvgcFCVBDK— Allyssa Victory for Oakland (@Victory4Oakland) December 16, 2022
KQED reported that Allie Whitehurst, the local NAACP's political action chair, said the group was only notified of the cost hours before the deadline. "I should note that the letters were received yesterday — I didn't know until I went outside around 10 [p.m] that this was on my porch," Whitehurst said at a Friday press conference, according to KQED.
It’s still unclear if a recount is still possible. Mayor-elect Thao told KQED that she would support a recount to ensure that every vote was counted. Taylor had conceded last month, but had said he supports a recount requested by these groups, according to the East Bay Times.
Sean Dugar, a voting rights expert and supporter of ranked-choice, told Oaklandside recently the 3,000 overvotes could be cause for concern, as it represents a much higher percentage of voters in this election who made this kind of mistake compared to in other cities and states with ranked-choice systems.
The new mayor will start in January and serve a four-year term, following outgoing mayor Libby Schaaf’s two terms.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images