A recount in San Jose’s District 8 City Council race is going on day six today. Jimmy Nguyen’s loss to Sylvia Arenas by 68 votes was already affirmed by an automatic recount. But Nguyen challenged those results and opted to pay out of pocket for another tally.
This time, Nguyen wants to take a closer look at 79 mailed ballots that were rejected by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters (ROV) because the signatures didn’t match those on file. He accused the ROV of disenfranchising voters by dismissing their ballots.
At a press conference outside of the elections office Friday, Nguyen explained that his campaign tracked down those voters to inform them that their ballots had been voided. He then asked those voters to sign statements asking for their ballots to be counted.
“It is very frustrating that, in this case, these people could make me the winner of this race, but the Registrar of Voters won’t count the vote,” Nguyen told reporters Friday.
ROV Shannon Bushey said the signed declarations in question will have no bearing on the recount, because state election law prevents her from considering extrinsic evidence.
“We’re not disenfranchising voters,” she told San Jose Inside. “The election code mandates that I must compare the signature that voters returned with the one we have on file. So we’re not able to take an outside form and make that our official comparison. The law is clear. We’re following the law.”
Nguyen paid $1,300 for each day of the recount, but he’s paying less now because there are fewer elections officials on the case.
The standoff in District 8 marks the second time this year that the results of a local election were challenged. Following his loss to Councilman-elect Lan Diep in the June primary, District 4 Councilman Manh Nguyen paid for another count. But the results still put Diep in the lead.
Bushey said this has been an unprecedented year for her office, partly because of the recounts. Earlier this year, the county Board of Supervisors created a pilot program to automatically recount any contest in which the top two candidates finished within a margin of a half percent. After that, the candidate has the option of funding a third count. Ten contests in the Nov. 8 general election finished close enough to prompt the automatic recount.
To make matters more intensive, Bushey said, the fall election came with the longest ballot and the highest number of registered voters in county history. She said the ROV plans to bring a post-election report to county supervisors in a few months.
“We’ll look at lessons learned, and what can be improved,” Bushey said.