California Race Nears 'Really, Really, Really Unlikely' Result

If the tie for second place holds, ballots under state's 'top two' system would have a third candidate
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 4, 2024 6:40 PM CDT
California Race Looks Like a Tie—for Second Place
Then-state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, speaks at the California Capitol in Sacramento in 2012.   (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

A US House race in California appears headed for a mathematically improbable result: After more than 180,000 votes were cast, there's a tie for second place. If the numbers hold, that means that the state's "top two" election system would have to make room for a third candidate on the November ballot, an apparent first for a House race in the state, the AP reports. "This is a fantastically unlikely outcome," said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc., a research firm that closely tracks voting trends.

Eleven candidates were on the ballot in the heavily Democratic 16th District in the March 5 primary, south of San Francisco, a seat held by retiring Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo. Under California rules, all candidates appear on the same primary ballot, but only the two with the most votes advance to the general election, regardless of political party. The top spot was claimed by former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Democrat, according to unofficial results that indicated all votes had been tallied. Two other Democrats were deadlocked for the second spot, with 30,249 votes each—state Assembly member Evan Low and Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, per the AP.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber has until April 12 to certify the results. With three Democrats potentially headed for November, the contest will not play into control of the narrowly divided US House. The tallies for Low and Simitian seesawed in recent days before settling into a tie on Wednesday. The race is a reminder of the state's agonizingly slow vote counting—Election Day was weeks ago. A three-way contest in November, with a different electorate coming to the polls, would reshuffle the dynamics of the race—"a total reset," Mitchell noted. "It's really, really, really unlikely this would happen," he said.

(More California stories.)

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