One Vote Really Does Matter: County Pursues Election Recounts for Mountain View and Los Altos Hills Council Races

December 7, 2020 


Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian announced today election recounts in Mountain View and Los Altos Hills following the November 3rd 2020 City Council elections in those two cities. As of Thursday (December 3), when results had to be certified for the State, two contests remained so close that a recount was required.   

In the Mountain View race for four seats on the City Council, apparent fourth place fished Pat Showalter was 58 votes ahead of apparent fifth place finisher Alex Nunez. In the Los Altos Hills race for three Council seats, apparent third place finisher Lisa Schmidt was just one vote ahead of apparent fourth place finisher Jay Sutaria.  

Since 2016, at Simitian’s urging, the County has conducted recounts (at no cost to the candidates) to make sure every vote is counted correctly in the County’s closest elections.  Elections where the margin of victory is less than either .25% (one quarter of one percent) of ballots cast or 25 votes or less are now automatically recounted.  

“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.” In May of 2016, on Simitian’s motion, the Board directed the Registrar of Voters to conduct an automatic recount for any local contest wholly contained within the boundaries of Santa Clara County that fell within specified parameters ( now set at the .25% or 25 vote margin).  

Previously, candidates could get a recount only if they – or another concerned community member – covered the cost, no matter how close the election or how great the cost. In almost every instance the cost was too great for an individual candidate to absorb. 

“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.” 

Also at Simitian’s urging, the Board has authorized additional staffing and technology to improve efficiency and the timeliness of reporting. Simitian’s interest in this issue is in part a function of the role he has previously played 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.” 

 The initial recount for both races is likely to be completed sometime in the next few weeks. 


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