An East Palo Alto City Council candidate who lost the third seat on the council by 69 votes is contesting the city’s election results with a lawsuit accusing his opponent of electioneering.
County-certified election results show Antonio Lopez won the third out of three seats up for election in the city, gaining 2,998 votes. Webster Lincoln was fourth with 2,929 votes.
In a court document filed Dec. 7, Lincoln claims that Lopez won the seat illegally by setting up a taco stand outside of St. Francis of Assisi Church on Election Day. The church was one of the city’s three in-person vote centers on Election Day.
Under state law, “electioneering” is defined as a visible display or audible dissemination of information that advocates for or against a candidate within 100 feet of a vote center.
Lopez advertised the tacos on social media. His Instagram post dated Nov. 3 reads: “The taco truck has arrived! Come to the polls at St. Francis from 4-8 & get your free tacos!”
Lincoln claims in the lawsuit that Lopez electioneered by “offering food as an incentive for voters to converse with him and to campaign to the voters.”
“A lot of people in the community reached out to me over the past few weeks, and felt that what occurred at the voting center on Election Day wasn’t right.”Webster Lincoln
Of the seven candidates for the council, incumbent Carlos Romero — who won the second seat — received the most vote center ballots, 489 ballots, followed by Lopez who received 452 vote center ballots. Lincoln received 363 vote center ballots.
Lincoln claims that Romero and Lopez received the most vote center votes because of their alleged illegal campaigning.
Lincoln said via email that it was a difficult decision to contest the results.
“A lot of people in the community reached out to me over the past few weeks, and felt that what occurred at the voting center on Election Day wasn’t right,” Lincoln said. “As a community leader, I want to make sure that the concerns of voters in our community are addressed.”
The suit is seeking that the court “annul and set aside” Lopez’ election certificate.
Lopez said in a statement that Lincoln is “focused on achieving power at any cost.”
“Rather than wasting time focused on his publicity stunt, I will focus my time and energy serving the residents of East Palo Alto,” Lopez said. “They deserve elected officials who will always put them first.”
The county certified election results on Dec. 3. Lopez was sworn in at a special City Council meeting on Dec. 8.
California’s online voter guide states that if local election results are contested, “a judge will determine whether the allegations involve a number of votes sufficient to change the outcome of an election as a threshold step to proceeding.”
San Mateo County’s certified election results are available online.