With thousands of Oakland ballots uncounted, some candidates are not conceding

Carolyn Anteneh stopped by the ballot drop box at Samuel Merritt College to turn in her ballot as well as her husband’s. She said there was nothing on the ballot she felt particularly strongly about, and that “the ballot was confusing. It felt like I was in college again!” she said. Photo by Sarah Trent.

Carolyn Anteneh stopped by the ballot drop box at Samuel Merritt College to turn in her ballot as well as her husband’s. She said there was nothing on the ballot she felt particularly strongly about, and that “the ballot was confusing. It felt like I was in college again!” she said. Photo by Sarah Trent.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has yet to count half the ballots cast for the November 6 election, which has caused some Oakland candidates to hold off on conceding their races.

As of Thursday afternoon, 255,442 ballots had been counted. But according the county registrar, Tim Dupuis, an estimated 250,000 mail-in ballots have yet to be tallied. These include 90,000 ballots received before Election Day and another 150,000 dropped off on Election Day, either at a polling place, drop box or post box.

The registrar could not say how many of those ballots were from Oakland, but based on past results that number is likely in the thousands. In the 2014 midterm election, nearly 102,000 Oaklanders cast ballots in the mayoral race. So far in 2018, results show about 62,000 voted. If turnout from Tuesday’s election turns out to match to level reached in 2014, that would leave at least 40,000 more Oakland ballots to be counted.

But that may be a conservative estimate. Dupuis said turnout is expected to be much higher: 60 percent of registered voters compared to 45 percent in 2014.

With thousands of ballots yet to be tallied, several candidates are holding off on conceding their races. As of Thursday afternoon, initial results showed Mayor Libby Schaaf winning re-election with 56 percent, compared to the 22.8 percent garnered by her closest opponent, activist Cat Brooks.

Seeing those results, Brooks appeared to concede the race to Schaaf on Wednesday morning in a Twitter post, writing: “let’s hold her feet to the fire and build the town we want to see and deserve.” Hours later, Brooks deleted that Tweet and Thursday morning posted: “Let’s breathe, wait and watch family.”

On Thursday afternoon, the candidate elaborated on Facebook, expressing frustration that some media outlets had declared Schaaf the winner although half the ballots need to be counted.

“The fact is, the media did a disservice to the democratic process by prematurely calling this race and others on the basis of a small fraction of the early votes,” Brooks wrote on Facebook. “Regardless of the eventual outcome, our campaign is committed to ensuring every voice and vote counts and is heard.”

Brooks did not return requests for an interview.

The next closest mayoral candidate, civil rights attorney Pamela Price, is also refusing to concede. In the initial tally, Price received 12.6 percent of the votes.

Posting on Facebook Wednesday, the candidate wrote that her campaign expects at least another 40,000 votes to be counted, and told her supporters to “rest, pray and wait. Oakland deserves our patience.”

Price also did not return requests for an interview.

In the District 4 city council race, Sheng Thao, a staffer for Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan, declared victory Wednesday after receiving 32.6 percent of the ballots counted so far. But her closest challenger, filmmaker Pam Harris, has yet to concede. “It’s not that I’m being a jerk by not conceding, it’s just that there is still a process to go through,” said Harris, speaking by phone Thursday afternoon. “Every vote has not been counted.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Thao lead by 670 votes. Based on 2014 election turnout and predicted 2018 turnout, Harris and her campaign estimate another 8,000 votes need to counted. “To just say this is the winner without a full vote, without every vote being counted … is not responsible,” said Harris. “It’s not accurate and it confuses people.”

Since the initial results were posted, Harris said she’s received emails from supporters saying “We’re sorry you lost. I’m saying ‘Well, the count isn’t over, it’s far from over.”

Harris said language on the Registrar of Voter’s website is contributing to the confusion. In the top right corner, the page reads “Percent Reported: 100.00.” In the past, according to Dupuis that number indicated a complete vote count. But that number only indicates the ballots cast at polling stations, not mail-in ballots.

Dupuis said the county’s method for posting results has been the same for years. He said his office has not received complaints about the language on the results page but added, “If there is some confusion to that, we are always open to updating our website to help with that.”

Dupuis said the counting process is taking more time this year because of the record number of residents who voted by mail this election. Typically, the registrar said, county staff have under 100,000 ballots to count after Election Day. This year staff have 250,000.

Dupuis his office will be working through the weekend, Monday’s Veterans Day holiday, and into next week to get all the ballots counted. Dupuis said staff will post updated results at 5 p.m. each day starting Thursday night.

As to when Oaklanders will know the final results of this election, Dupuis asks for patience. He’s not expecting all the votes to be tallied until middle of next week.

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