At least three mayoral hopefuls will be left off the ballot on Nov. 8. Credit: Amir Aziz

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Oakland officials said today that they won’t allow mayoral candidates who were disqualified after the city miscommunicated a deadline to appear on the ballot this November.

In a written statement shared with The Oaklandside, Assistant City Clerk Britney Davis acknowledged that her office initially provided inaccurate information to candidates, misstating the deadline for filing campaign materials.

“While we regret the confusion this has caused, the candidate filing deadline in question is prescribed by the California State Elections Code,” Davis said. “Neither the City Clerk nor any other City official has discretion to alter or waive state elections law, including authority to extend the filing deadline.”

Earlier this week, The Oaklandside reported on an uproar among some Oakland mayoral candidates, who accused the city of changing the filing deadline at the last minute, resulting in the disqualification of at least three mayoral hopefuls. 

At appointments with the city clerk’s office early in the summer, candidates for mayor were told that Wednesday, Aug. 17 was the final day for submitting nomination signatures, an oath of office, and other materials required to qualify for the Nov. 8 ballot. The city allowed several candidates to schedule those filing appointments for the week of Monday, Aug. 15.

The Aug. 17 deadline was repeated on official election materials posted on the city website. The city explained that this deadline—a five-day extension from the standard Aug. 12 deadline—was for all offices “without an incumbent running.” There is no incumbent running in the mayor’s race because Mayor Libby Schaaf is termed out.

However, numerous candidates were startled to receive phone calls from the clerk’s office the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 12, alerting them that the deadline to file was actually that day—giving some of them only two or three hours to rush to City Hall. Allyssa Victory, one of the candidates who’s been outspoken about her disqualification, said she was “shocked” to receive the call while at work.

Davis said the city had determined, “upon further examination of the elections code,” that the five-day extension from Aug. 12 to Aug. 17 was only permitted for races where an incumbent chooses not to run. Since Schaaf couldn’t make that choice—she is ineligible because she’s termed out—the extension didn’t apply to the mayor’s race.

“Upon confirmation that the language in the candidate handbook was not applicable to the race for the Mayor’s office and the five-day extension was not allowable for that race, City Clerk staff immediately phoned every Mayoral candidate who had not yet filed to notify them,” she said.

Three candidates—Victory, Derrick Soo, and Monesha “MJ” Carter—have said the last-minute deadline change either prevented them from filing at all, or from correcting errors on the materials they scrambled to submit in time. Despite some of them having campaigned for months or even years, they will be left off the ballot in November.

Victory, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, has criticized the city for leaving her out, and said in a statement Tuesday that the city attorney’s office has “refused to provide a complete response and has attempted to shirk responsibility by claiming that it has no authority over its elections or [its] municipal code.”

While her campaign was able to file by the end of the day on Aug. 12, Victory later heard from the city that there were errors with her materials, specifically because some of the required 10-20 “sponsor signatures” were not registered voters. She was unable to collect additional signatures because the deadline had passed.

In her statement today, Victory said she believes—regardless of the deadline issue—that elections law does not mandate that sponsors need to be registered voters. She said she’s filed a complaint with the secretary of state, asking the office to review her disqualification.

In the days since the deadline controversy came to light, some of the mayoral candidates who did qualify for the ballot have begun to pressure the city to allow their competitors to run.

Shortly after the deadline was moved, candidates Greg Hodge and Seneca Scott said the disqualified candidates should be allowed on the ballot. On Tuesday this week, two of the three sitting City Council members running for mayor weighed in.

“I believe these candidates made their plans for their candidate filing in reliance upon this bad information, and should not be punished for it,” tweeted District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor, who said he too was told the deadline was Aug. 17 but that he’d filed much earlier in the month.

“I support any effort to remedy this error,” tweeted District 4 Councilmember Sheng Thao, who said she was also given inaccurate information and had to file at the last minute.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.