Sunnyvale City Council recount is one for the ages
A mail-in ballot box at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters on Nov. 8, 2022. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    The race for a Sunnyvale City Council seat, teetering on a one vote margin, isn’t over just yet.

    With Murali Srinivasan, 65, holding a one vote lead over Justin Wang in the District 3 race, Wang has asked the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters to count each ballot by hand once more, he said.

    “If I was down 200 votes, I don’t think I would go out and say, ‘I think we can find that somewhere,’” Wang told San José Spotlight. “I think because it’s so close, it just makes sense to really make sure we have accurate results.”

    Wang, 26, said if the situation was reversed, he’d expect Srinivasan to do the same thing, because of the one vote margin.

    “I think it’s in our interest as candidates, and it’s also in the interests of all the District 3 residents and Sunnyvale residents that we really make sure we get this thing right,” Wang said.

    David Carnahan, the Sunnyvale city clerk, said previously this is the closest race in recent city history.

    District 3 Sunnyvale City Council candidate Justin Wang (first from left) with supporters. Photo courtesy of Justin Wang.

    The registrar’s office confirmed it will conduct another recount based on Wang’s request beginning Monday. It will mark the second recount for the District 3 race.

    Under state and county laws, any voter in Santa Clara County can request a recount in a race, but they must front the costs for the process.

    The county will bear the cost of the recount only if it results in a change in the outcome of the race, said Steve Goltiao, a spokesperson for the registrar’s office. If a recount in this race slightly shifts vote tallies, but still show Srinivasan as the winner, then Wang will need to bear the costs, which are not cheap.

    Goltiao said the manual recounting of ballots is estimated to cost about $12,000 per day. The recount process for this District 3 race, in which 5,625 votes were cast in all, will take one to two days, he said.

    County election 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. The registrar previously completed a manual recount in the race last week ahead of certifying election results countywide on Dec. 8.

    The recount produced the same results as the initial machine count, with Srinivasan ahead by one vote, Goltiao said.

    Srinivasan said he observed part of the recount process, and trusts the results the county has produced.

    “It is (Wang’s) prerogative to ask for a recall, because the system allows that,” Srinivasan told San José Spotlight. “They did counting and recounting and it all came to the same result, so why would it change now?”

    Murali Srinivasan, left, a candidate for District 3 Sunnyvale City Council, speaks with Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein. Photo courtesy of Murali Srinivasan.

    Wang’s attorney has also requested to review “challenged ballots” in the race, Goltiao said. When the registrar cannot verify a voter’s identity by the signature on their ballot envelope, it is considered challenged.

    Election officials notify those voters and ask them to fill out a form to verify authenticity before counting the votes. Goltiao said the review of those ballots could add about a day to the recount process, and an estimated additional $8,000 per day.

    Wang was leading the race for the District 3 seat in initial election results after polls closed on Nov. 8, but with each new batch of votes, his margin over Srinivasan narrowed.

    At one point just two days before the registrar certified election results, the two candidates were tied.

    “It was a nailbiter,” Wang said. “Even on election day I kind of had the sense we were going to be in for a long ride.”

    Wang said for now he is giving himself a personal loan to front the costs for the recount, but will be seeking some financial support from friends and supporters as well.

    “If there is one thing this election taught me, it’s not over until it’s really over,” Wang said.

    Whatever the outcome, he’ll be happy with it, he said.

    “We’ll be well represented one way or another,” Wang said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Murali and the work that he has done.”

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

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