Sunnyvale candidate wins election with a single vote
Sunnyvale City Councilmember-elect Murali Srinivasan won by a single vote. Photo courtesy of Murali Srinivasan.

    By a hair. By the skin of his teeth. By a nose.

    However you say it, Murali Srinivasan won the race for the open District 3 Sunnyvale City Council seat by the slimmest of margins: a single vote.

    Srinivasan received 2,813 out of 5,625 votes, while opponent Justin Wang received 2,812 votes, according to election results from the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, which were certified Thursday.

    “Thank God there are no fraction votes,” Srinivasan told San José Spotlight on Friday.

    Srinivasan, 65, said he feels good about the results, not just because he won, but because District 3 saw much higher participation than the city council race in District 5, which drew 4,512 votes, roughly 1,100 fewer than District 3.

    “Which means that both my opponent and I did a very good job of getting to the voters and asking them to participate in the election. After all, that is what democracy is all about,” Srinivasan said.

    While machines tally votes on the first pass, county policies trigger an automatic hand recount in any election contest with a margin of victory of less than 0.25% of ballots cast, or fewer than 25 total votes.

    Election officials began a manual recount last week, and when it was completed, it showed the exact same result, with Srinivasan ahead by one vote, said Steve Goltiao, a spokesperson for the registrar’s office.

    “I think a lot of people here were surprised at how close it was,” Goltiao told San José Spotlight.

    Like other contests in the county, the District 3 Sunnyvale race saw changes over time as votes were counted in the days and weeks after election night. Srinivasan was initially behind by more than 150 votes, he said, and slowly closed the gap between him and Wang. At one point earlier this week the candidates were tied before all votes were verified and the election results were certified.

    “I am an engineer, so I tracked the trends and trajectory,” Srinivasan said. “And here the trajectory was that the gap was closing.”

    For David Carnahan, Sunnyvale’s city clerk, seeing the prospect of a tied race meant he and other city administrators needed to come up with a way to break the tie. With the result ultimately decided by the county registrar, the city has some time to decide its preferred system.

    “We’ll come up with our plan for the future so next time if the question comes up, we’ll know what we’re going to do,” Carnahan told San José Spotlight.

    Carnahan said Sunnyvale would likely model it after Richmond—which had a tied vote for a council race in this election. Candidate names would be written on slips of paper, put into envelopes, then into a bag. One envelope is pulled from the bag by the city clerk to choose a winner. He also considered a coin flip, like the city of Dixon does, he said.

    Sunnyvale incorporated in 1912, and adopted its city charter in 1949. Carnahan wasn’t able to verify if there has ever been a tie in prior council races in the city’s history, but he highlighted the rarity of this contest’s razor thin margin.

    “In recent history, this is by far the closest vote,” he said.

    Srinivasan, along with the winner in the District 5 race, Richard Mehlinger, will be sworn into office at the Sunnyvale City Council meeting on Jan. 3, Carnahan said.

    Wang, 26, told San José Spotlight he was traveling internationally and was unavailable for a call.

    Srinivasan said there are similarities between him and Wang’s candidacies, though he considers himself a more “pragmatic” candidate. He thinks the slight differences, such as his preference for a more balanced approach to building housing, might have motivated voters to come out for each candidate.

    While he expected the result to be a single digit margin as he saw the gap narrowing, he wasn’t expecting just one vote of separation.

    “It’s all theory. From day one of campaigning, you are taught that 50% plus one is the target you are to look for. But this is real life, this happened in real life. It’s no longer a theory,” Srinivasan said. “So the key lesson here is that every vote counts. Every vote counts, and every citizen should participate in elections.”

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 11/1/2021): We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by administrators.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.