The Mercury News
Ranked choice voting controversy resolved
Mike Hutchinson declared winner of District 4 seat
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.