The Mercury News

Ranked choice voting controvers­y resolved

Mike Hutchinson declared winner of District 4 seat

- By Shomik Mukherjee smukherjee@ bayareanew­

The ballot foulup controvers­y that dogged an Oakland school board election for months is finally over, with a judge declaring Mike Hutchinson the rightful winner of the District 4 seat.

Hutchinson will replace Nick Resnick, who last month resigned from the seat for which the two men had run against each other in a tightly contested November election.

Resnick was erroneousl­y certified the winner in November because of an error in how the Alameda County registrar of voters tabulated the ranked choice voting results, leading to weeks of uncertaint­y over how the mishap could be rectified.

Judge Brad Seligman on Monday declared Hutchinson the election's winner, determinin­g that another review of the ballots supported the notion that Hutchinson would have won if votes cast with a blank first column or an ineligible write-in submission had immediatel­y been transferre­d to him.

“It was nice that in the end the process worked itself out,” Hutchinson said in an interview, “though it took longer than anyone could have imagined.”

Hutchinson, the school board president, soon will be sworn in to represent a district that spans the Allendale neighborho­od in East Oakland to Montclair in the north.

The resolution of the election snafu comes at a pivotal time for Oakland Unified, where Hutchinson is pushing for short-term budget reallocati­ons — including for certain administra­tive positions at the district, such as the chief business officer, to be eliminated — to preserve money needed for teacher salary negotiatio­ns down the line.

“I haven't been able to celebrate yet,” he said of his election victory, “because I've been in crisis mode for six days.”

Hutchinson until now had represente­d District 5 on the school board, where his home address used to be before it was redistrict­ed. By winning the District 4 seat, he will serve out the rest of the four-year term that Resnick had begun after being inaugurate­d in January.

What will become of the vacant District 5 seat when Hutchinson moves over? The school board will have the choice of appointing a new member within a 60day timeline, after which the county superinten­dent of schools can initiate a special election to fill the seat.

“If we have an election, there's a cost attached to that,” Hutchinson said. “But there's a lot of unease — and I share it — with the board appointing someone for two years of a term.”

Resnick did not immediatel­y concede the race, even after county Registrar Tim Dupuis revealed in late December that he had incorrectl­y been certified as the election's winner.

But in his resignatio­n last month, the education executive said he no longer wanted public funds spent on a legal process or to allow the public to be uncertain about who ultimately would represent District 4 on the school board.

“At this time, I don't think that is what's best for this community, and I don't think that's going to help get our schools where they need to go,” he said in his resignatio­n statement.

 ?? RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER ?? A judge ruled Mike Hutchinson, seen in 2022, the rightful winner of the District 4seat on the Oakland school board.
RAY CHAVEZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPH­ER A judge ruled Mike Hutchinson, seen in 2022, the rightful winner of the District 4seat on the Oakland school board.

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