Sunnyvale City Council race tied after second recount
Santa Clara County residents cast ballots at the Registrar of Voters office on election day, Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    After a nearly five-day recount and ballot review process, the extraordinary race for a Sunnyvale District 3 City Council seat is now tied.

    While initial election results and a recount showed candidate Murali Srinivasan holding a one-vote lead over opponent Justin Wang, another review validated three previously discounted ballots—swinging the race to a stalemate.

    “It seems like a fitting end to this crazy election season. It’s just been a ride,” Wang, 26, told San José Spotlight. “It’s almost Christmas and we’re still just not quite sure what’s happening, and Sunnyvale has its (city council) swearing in on Jan. 3.”

    Srinivasan, 65, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Following a hand recount by election officials automatically triggered by the close margin of victory in the race, Wang and his attorneys, Jim Sutton and Matthew Alvarez of the Sutton Law Firm, requested another recount and a ballot review process.

    The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters wrapped up that process Thursday afternoon. Two of the newly counted votes were for Wang, and one was for Srinivasan, according to spokesperson Evelyn Mendez. The votes were not initially counted because two were postmarked more than once, appearing to be late, while the third was sent in a June primary election envelope.

    Mail-in ballots needed to be postmarked by election day, Nov. 8, to be counted. The registrar verified with a postal vendor that the two ballots with multiple postmarks were processed on or before Nov. 8, Mendez said. The ballot inside the June primary envelope was the proper ballot for November’s election, and the registrar verified the date, voter’s signature and other information.

    The registrar’s office will wait until end of day Friday to allow time for anyone who wants to request another recount or challenge the results.

    If there are no challenges, the tied results will be certified and Sunnyvale will be in charge of breaking the tie through a drawing lot process, Mendez said.

    “Every vote counts,” she told San José Spotlight. “And if anyone thinks that a vote doesn’t count, this is exactly why they should pay attention and they should do their part.”

    Wang, who under county law is required to front the money for the recount and review process he requested, estimates the total cost is going to be roughly $25,000. County election laws say if the outcome of the race changes as a result of the review and recount, then the county will bear the cost.

    Mendez and Wang could not confirm who will ultimately pay the tab for the recount. Mendez said the county attorney will need to make a determination.

    Mendez noted the recount and review process was done transparently, with several observers watching as it was performed, including volunteers from both Srinivasan’s and Wang’s camps.

    “I could not be prouder of Santa Clara County and the way we handle our elections. There’s an incredible amount of integrity in the way this whole thing was handled,” Wang said.

    Sunnyvale City Clerk David Carnahan said once the city receives the recertified results, a date and time will be scheduled to do the tiebreaker.

    Carnahan said the process will likely include the two candidates writing their names on pieces of paper, which will then be drawn by Caranhan from an opaque container, such as a box or bag.

    The tiebreaker drawing is expected to happen before the Jan. 3 council meeting. It will be open to the public and will likely be held at the city council chambers or another public area, Carnahan said.

    Wang said he is ready to accept the outcome, no matter the winner.

    “I’m looking forward to this being concluded, one way or the other,” Wang said.

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

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