Tallying error in Oakland, Calif., led to inaccurate election results

On December 28, 2022, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters acknowledged in a press release that the initial certified results were incorrect for the school director race in District 4 of the Oakland Unified School District in California.

Although Nick Resnick was certified as the winner of the race in November, Mike Hutchinson, who originally finished third, says he was later told by election officials that he won: “Without being cynical, I now believe in holiday miracles. So it was very shocking to wake up this morning and receive a phone call at 10:30 a.m. from the Alameda County head of elections informing me that I had actually won the election.” Hutchinson filed a petition in Alameda County Superior Court on December 29, 2022, asking a judge to overrule the prior certification and name him the official winner.

According to the press release from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters:

“The ROV learned that its RCV tally system was not configured properly for the November 2022 General Election. It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round. … After reviewing the election data and applying the correct configuration, the ROV learned that only one outcome was affected: Oakland School Director, District 4, for the Oakland Unified School District. No other result for any RCV election in any jurisdiction was changed.”

California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition and FairVote, two organizations that supported the use of ranked-choice voting in California, discovered the error while auditing the election results. They found that county officials used the wrong method to tally votes that did not include a first choice candidate. Sean Dugar, consulting executive director of the California Ranked Choice Voting Coalition, said, “In Alameda County, the correct setting should have advanced the second choice to become the first choice … The algorithm and the election officials almost always get it right. In this instance, it was simply a button that was left checked in the menu option for the algorithm.”

Resnick’s attorney responded to the developments in a letter to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, saying, “We are not aware of any legal authority… which allows the registrar’s office to retabulate election results or take any other actions vis-a-vis the results of an election after it completes the official canvass and the results are certified by the local governing body.” 

As of January 2023, litigation was ongoing. Resnick was officially sworn into the position of District 4 Oakland school director on January 9, 2023.