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Court will decide who fills Oakland school board seat, but inauguration won’t be delayed

OAKLAND — Nick Resnick will be sworn in to an Oakland Unified school board seat Monday, though how long he actually serves is now in the hands of the Alameda County courts.

Resnick was the certified winner in the Nov. 8 race for the District 4 board seat, but Alameda County officials in charge of the election now have concluded that his opponent, current District 5 Director Mike Hutchinson, should have won.

The administrative error that led to the county’s mishandling of ranked choice votes is the central argument of a legal filing that Hutchinson submitted Thursday, hoping to overturn the certified election results.

“Hopefully, we can come together and get this done in a timely manner,” Hutchinson said. “We have real work that we’re planning on doing.”

For Resnick’s part, the legal filing will not interrupt proceedings. An employee in the Oakland city clerk’s office confirmed that Resnick will be sworn in as planned on Monday, along with all the winners in the city’s November elections.

Oakland City Clerk Asha Reed and Alameda County counsel could not be reached for comment on Hutchinson’s legal filing.

Resnick is listed as defendant in the filing, which is officially termed an “election contest.” It also Reed and Alameda County Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis as real parties of interest.

Resnick and his attorney, Jim Sutton, have pushed back on Dupuis’ revelation late last month that Hutchinson should have won the school board race.

“We have very serious legal concerns about how the registrar has handled the situation,” Sutton said at Thursday’s county board of supervisors meeting.

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The votes have not actually been re-counted — rather, when the error was caught, county officials re-ran a ranked choice algorithm that transfers votes between candidates based on how voters listed their preferences. The District 4 school board race was the only one where the winning candidate changed.

A full recount of the vote would take significantly more time and cost the county many hours of labor for the registrar staff, Dupuis has said.

When opponents of Oakland Mayor-Elect Sheng Thao last month requested a recount of votes in that race, they could not pay the $21,000-a-day price tag to carry it out.

But one county supervisor, Keith Carson, floated the idea Thursday of ordering a recount of all ranked choice elections in Oakland and San Leandro — two cities that, along with Berkeley and Albany, have adopted the format.

Carson’s proposal will be revisited by the supervisors at a meeting next Tuesday. It seeks to bring in “an independent, third-party” registrar from elsewhere to recount all the ballots.

And it would pin the costs of such an endeavor on Dupuis’ office, since it is “being requested by elected members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors,” according to the proposal.

Thao outlasted Councilmember Loren Taylor — her closest opponent in the mayoral race — by just under 680 votes after ranked choice vote transfers helped her erase Taylor’s lead in first-place ballots.

And after Dupuis’ revelation of an error in the school board results set off alarm bells for skeptics of ranked choice voting, Thao released a statement last week supporting a recount of the results in her race.

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The election debacle has fueled skepticism of the ranked choice voting system. But Dupuis, in his few public statements, has insisted that the mistake had nothing to do with a glitch in election software or a flaw in the ranked choice voting format — saying instead that it was an error on the part of his office. He could not be reached for comment on this story.

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