UPDATE: The second recount confirmed Lan Diep’s win just as the City Council certified the results. But Manh Nguyen demanded a do-over in November while threatening to sue the ROV over alleged incompetence.
Unless a lawsuit proves otherwise, Lan Diep remains District 4’s councilman-elect.
Two months since June’s primary election and hours ahead of a vote to confirm results that put the challenger ahead by a remarkably slim margin, San Jose’s North Side City Council incumbent refused to concede the race.
“What we have is a de facto tie,” Councilman Manh Nguyen declared in a last-minute memo, which hinted at legal action while imploring his colleagues to hold off on certifying the outcome at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Hours later, however, the council affirmed the results anyway just as a second recount ended with Diep still clinging to his 12-vote lead. Coincidentally, that’s close to the margin Nguyen held when he beat Diep last year. The pair first squared off for the seat in a 2015 special election to complete the term for Kansen Chu after his election to the state Assembly.
— Lân Diệp (@LTDiep) August 3, 2016
When Santa Clara County’s Registrar of Voters (ROV) certified the D4 results two weeks ago, Diep finished 28 votes ahead Nguyen out of 17,000 ballots cast. That the margin between contenders fell below half a percentage point triggered an automatic recount—a new rule enacted earlier this year.
The mandated recount dropped Diep’s lead to a dozen votes. But Nguyen still refused to concede, so he agreed to foot the $2,500-a-day bill for a second recount. Tuesday marked the 11th day, which cost Nguyen $27,500—and then some. He also enlisted a private attorney to keep an eagle-eye on the recount and sue the ROV over alleged missteps.
Unfortunately for Nguyen, his redux only affirmed victory for Diep, who won without any major endorsements and kept his hopes up as the latest recount hit the home-stretch.
— Lân Diệp (@LTDiep) August 2, 2016
Meanwhile, Nguyen’s lawyer, Bradley Hertz, sent a letter to the ROV demanding another review of all voided and duplicate ballots on the public dime. Hertz also called for a new election on Nov. 8 presidential ballot.
The county responded some hours later wondering on what grounds the ROV should comply with that kind of request.
“We are currently investigating the factual allegations in your letter,” James Williams, acting county counsel, wrote in a letter to Hertz (available here). “However, as an initial matter, we note that your letter does not identify the legal authority that you contend authorizes the relief that you request.”
ROV officials followed county policy and state election laws, Williams added, urging Hertz to point out what authority would supersede those guidelines.