Collection boxes for vote-by-mail ballots on display at the Oakland Public Library. Credit: Amir Aziz

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters used an incorrect method to count ballots for Oakland and other cities using ranked-choice voting, resulting in inaccurate totals for the Nov. 8, 2022 election.

The mistake was serious enough that it may have caused the registrar to certify the wrong winner in the Oakland Unified School District, District 4 race, according to two of the candidates and the registrar’s office.

Nick Resnick was certified as the winner of the D4 race after receiving the most first-choice votes, 38% of the total, and winning in ranked-choice with 12,352 votes.

But on Wednesday, Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis issued a press release stating that his office’s “tally system was not configured properly” and that the OUSD D4 race was “affected” by this “issue.”

Mike Hutchinson, one of the two other candidates, told The Oaklandside that Dupuis called him Wednesday to explain the error and informed him that he appears to have won the D4 race. Hutchinson posted on Facebook about the registrar’s mistake Wednesday afternoon.

“I need to get some legal advice, but my understanding is I need a judge to overturn the certification,” said Hutchinson.

Resnick said in a text message that he also received a call from the registrar today. “I have the same questions as everyone else,” he wrote.

Pecolia Manigo, the other candidate in the D4 race, confirmed to The Oaklandside that she also received a phone call from Dupuis earlier today and that he informed her that the certified results were not accurate and that she might want to seek legal counsel if she wants to contest them.

The registrar’s office did not respond to a phone call and email from The Oaklandside seeking more information about the error. But they included the following information about the miscounted ballots in their press release:

It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round. This means that if no candidate was selected in the first round on the ballot, then the second-round ranking would count as the first-round ranking, the third-round ranking would count as the second round ranking, and so on. For the November 2022 General Election, the setting on the County’s equipment counted the RCV ballots in the manner in which the ballot was completed, meaning no vote was registered for those ballots in the first round of counting because those voters did not identify a valid candidate in a particular rank on the ballot.

The problem affected every race in Oakland where more than two candidates were running, including all three Oakland Unified board seats, the mayor’s race, and City Council District 6. Berkeley and San Leandro’s ranked-choice elections were also affected, but according to the registrar, when they re-ran the ballots using the proper ranked-choice tally method, “no other result for any RCV election in any jurisdiction was changed.”

Darwin BondGraham

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham worked with The Appeal, where he was an investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian, and was an enterprise reporter for the East Bay Express. BondGraham's work has also appeared with KQED, ProPublica and other leading national and local outlets. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017.