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By Miriam Raftery

December 1, 2022 (La Mesa)  With two seats open on the La Mesa City Council, the latest returns reported tonight by the San Diego Registrar of Voters are so tight that a recount may be in the cards.

Patricia Dillard appears assured of a seat, with 8,576 votes. But Councilmember Laura Lothian and challenger Mejgan Afshan are separated by just 5 votes, at 8,382 and 8,377 respectively. 


Two other candidates,Tony Orlando and Kathleen Brand, have 6,579 and 3,923 votes respectively.)


Countywide, 5,800 ballots remain outstanding, though likely only a fraction of those are in La Mesa.  


Ballots not yet counted this long after the election are likely “uncured” ballots, meaning mail-in ballots returned without a signature on the envelope, or with a signature that doesn’t match the voter’s signature on file with the Registrar of Voters.  Notices were sent to all voters with ballots in this situation, and such voters have until December 6 to “cure” their ballot.


Voters can cure their own ballots through the Registrar’s office, or candidates can obtain signed affidavits from voters affirming that the ballot mailed in is theirs.  


In such a close race, a recount looms as a possibility. 


For any election in California, per California Code of Regulations Chapter 8, any registered voter may request a recount. This could be a candidate, a political party official, or any other person who is registered in the district. In the La Mesa race. Though the La Mesa City Council race is officially nonpartisan, Lothian is endorsed by the Republican Party while Afshan is endorsed by the Democratic Party, so the party of whoever is trailing once all votes are tallied might be motivated to pursue a recount.


Any other voter besides the original requestor can also request a recount of any precincts not recounted in the original request, but must make their request during or within 24 hours after a recount.


Whoever requests a recount must pay a hefty deposit to cover staff time for the recount.  In a 2020 Santee City Council race with a slim 5-vote margin, a partial recount cost $30,000. Additional funds may be requested for a larger or full recount.  In the Santee case, the outcome did not change.


But if a recount does change the outcome in an election, the deposit would be refunded and the election results recertified by the Registrar of Voters.  


What happens if a race ends in a tie?


It happened in 2020 in a Warner Springs school board race.  State law dictates that tie races must be determined by a game of chance, such as drawing straws. In Warner Springs, the winner was decided by a coin toss.  

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