Judge orders review that could overturn controversial Oakland school board race

OAKLAND — The election of an Oakland school board candidate who officials say was incorrectly certified the winner could be overturned after an Alameda County judge ordered a partial re-examination of the results.

Judge Brad Seligman has the sole power to rescind the results of the Oakland Unified District 4 school board election in November that was called for winning candidate Nick Resnick, but which county officials later determined should have been won by third-place finisher Mike Hutchinson.

Resnick was certified as the winner of the three-candidate race in December after county officials mistakenly suspended 235 ballots where voters left the first column blank, leading to a messy and drawn-out fight over the results. Had the county followed the Oakland city charter, the majority of those ballots would immediately have been transferred to Hutchinson through the city’s ranked choice format, which allows voters to rank preferences.

Seligman has ordered the county registrar’s office, led by Tim Dupuis, to pull the already-counted ballots and allow both candidates’ attorneys to look them over and verify that Dupuis’ latest tabulation of the votes was accurate.

But the parties involved are resisting calling the process a “recount,” given that the ballots are not being tabulated again but merely checked to ensure that columns weren’t incorrectly determined to have been left blank.

“It’s a very loose process,” Hutchinson said of the limited review. “It’s just all the parties involved coming together.”


Nick Resnick, right, delivers his speech after taking the Oath of Office as Oakland Boardmember of Education for District 4 during the inauguration ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) 


Dupuis’ office has taken public heat for the election snafu. Earlier this month, the county Board of Supervisors requested that an outside registrar be brought in for a hand recount of not just the botched school board race, but also the closely contested Oakland mayoral election and a pair of close races in San Leandro.

None of what the supervisors requested is likely to happen, given that their only apparent legal recourse was Hutchinson and Resnick’s very specific efforts in court to contest the outcome of their school board race. The deadline for any recount not ordered by a judge has long since passed.

“The judge was not prepared to open that vague a can of worms,” Hutchinson’s attorney, Beverly Palmer, said in an interview. “He just wants to see, for now, these 235 ballots re-examined.”

Hutchinson and Resnick are currently serving on the school board together. If the contested race ultimately goes to Hutchinson, the board will appoint a replacement to his current seat in District 5.

It is a largely unprecedented scenario, with Resnick making important policy decisions on the school board—including a recent vote to rescind a number of widely controversial campus closures—despite the strong possibility he was not actually elected to serve.

Seligman, the judge, has scheduled a hearing on Feb. 10 to determine next steps.

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