Election: Officials work to process ballots as San Jose mayoral race remains tight

ByAmanda del Castillo and Lena Howland KGO logo
Thursday, November 10, 2022
Ballots still being processed as SJ mayoral race remains tight
As San Jose's mayoral race remains tight, elections officials say an automatic recount could be triggered by 25 votes separating the two candidates.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Registrar of Voter offices in all Bay Area counties are busy processing, sorting, and counting every single ballot from Tuesday's midterm elections.

"The numbers get higher, but it's still the same process," Evelyn Mendez, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters said.

ELECTION RESULTS: Live updates on national races, balance of power

San Jose State University political science professor Melinda Jackson says California didn't have too many surprises in the first batch of election results Tuesday night, such as Governor Newsom's win and Proposition 1 passing.

However, the tightest races in the Golden State were the local races.

The San Jose mayor's race is one much too close to call the morning after Election Day, although San Jose City Councilman Matt Mahan is holding a slight lead over Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.

By Wednesday, the race remained too close to call. Updated numbers by the county's ROV office showed 4,766 votes are all that separated the two mayoral candidates.

Relative newcomer Mahan continued to narrowly lead the race against Chavez.

"However this plays out, I'm gonna be on the city council and I wanna be part of the process of bringing people together to lead our city forward," Mahan told ABC7 News reporter Amanda del Castillo in a sit down interview on Wednesday.

VIDEO: San Jose mayoral race still too close to call

It is a neck-and-neck race for the mayor of San Jose, which is currently too close to be called, as Councilmember Matt Mahan is emerging as the slight frontrunner.

The current councilman said he's optimistic, but understands about 50% of ballots have yet to be counted.

It's a process San Jose State Political Science professor Melinda Jackson said could take up to a week to complete.

"When we're down to a few hundred or a few thousand votes making the difference, we really want to make sure that every vote is counted," she explained. "And you know, we end up with the final result."

It's a sentiment that has been echoed by both campaigns.

Chavez was unavailable for an in-person interview on Wednesday, but released a statement in response to the updated election data. She told ABC7 News, "It was a spirited campaign, and it's critically important that every vote is counted. While we don't yet know the outcome of this race, my focus remains on representing my community on the Board of Supervisors."

With focus on the tight race, county elections officials answered questions about what would trigger an automatic recount. Mendez said 0.025% separating the two candidates, or 25 votes.

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"We're not anywhere close because we still have a lot of ballots to process," she added. "A lot of ballots came in the mail, and the vote centers from the other counties, from the post office. So we're still processing a lot of ballots."

However the mayoral race shakes out, the City of San Jose is set to see big changes in leadership come January 2023. Half of its councilmembers term out at the end of this year.

"This is a big transition, you're right," Mahan said. "There will be quite a few new faces on the council. And in whatever role I'm in, I'm looking forward to working with them. We've got a lot of work ahead of us. Our city has some big challenges."

For now, the 10th largest city in the country awaits for the rest of the ballots to be counted.

But why the delay in results?

Santa Clara County's Registrar of Voters says the vote-by-mail system takes longer to get through each ballot and some, haven't even arrived yet.

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"There's a lot of ballots that came in the mail, that come through the mail, they had to be postmarked by last night and received in our office by the 15," she said. "And then all of the ballots that came in at the vote centers, people that voted in person, there were a lot of people that voted in person, which the weather did not stop people, they were still here."

No matter who wins, Mahan and Chavez will have to continue to work together -- with one of them being mayor and the other remaining in their current position.

He explained how the collaboration would look moving forward.

"After elections, elected officials have a responsibility for coming together trying to understand what the electoral is telling them, and then working together to solve problems and I am committed to focusing on the solutions we need," he said.

Chavez acknowledged she always knew it was going to be a tight race.

"When you work really hard for something, it's very easy to feel let down when things don't go exactly the way you wanted them to, but the thing I know - and this may be age, it may be experience - that every single time we move people forward, you make a change that's meaningful to someone," she said.

As ballots continue to be processed, voters and candidates are now asked to be patient.

"In these really close races, it may take a week to get that final number and we're down to a few hundred or a few thousand votes making the difference, we really want to make sure that every vote is counted," Jackson said.

Santa Clara County is planning to release the next batch of election results on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Each county is now given 30 days from the time that poles closed on Tuesday, to certify their election results.

2022 MIDTERMS: Election results for key races across Bay Area, CA

RELATED: How San Jose mayoral candidates plan to take action for future of nation's 10th largest city


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