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One vote really does matter — at least it does in Santa Clara County.
Now that election results have been certified, county officials have pursued recounts for city council races in Mountain View and Los Altos Hills because results were so close.
In Mountain View, there are four seats on the City Council and the fourth-place finisher Pat Showalter is 58 votes ahead of Alex Nunez, who is in fifth place, according to election results.
In Los Altos Hills, candidates vied over three seats. Lisa Schmidt is barely holding to third place by just one vote ahead of fourth place finisher Jay Sutaria.
Recounts in the county are required for races where the margin of victory is less than either 0.25% of ballots cast or 25 votes or less — a policy in place since May 2016 because of Supervisor Joe Simitian’s urging.
“The right to vote is fundamental,” Simitian said. “And when it comes down to the wire, we want to make sure that every vote counts, and is counted correctly.”
Recounts are currently done without any cost to the candidates, but that’s not how it was always done in the county.
Before 2016, a candidate or concerned citizen could call for a recount, regardless how close the election, but they were required to cover the cost. In most instances, the cost was too much for an individual to absorb, according to Simitian’s office.
“This isn’t an abstract idea. These elections can be incredibly close, and an individual candidate not being able to afford a recount shouldn’t mean that we don’t do everything we can to get it right,” said Simitian. “The Registrar of Voters has one essential job. Count the votes and count the votes correctly.”
Simitian said he is a strong advocate for efficient, timely and accurate voting in part because of his experiences as an election supervisor and observer in Bosnia and El Salvador.
“You watch what people in other parts of the world go through in order to cast a ballot, and you become very clear about the importance of every vote cast,” he said.
Also, at Simitian’s urging, the county Board of Supervisors has authorized additional staffing and technology to improve efficiency and timeliness of ballot reporting. The initial recount for both races will likely be completed over the next few weeks.