MARTINEZ -- After narrowly losing a bid to annex part of North Pacheco, city leaders may seek advice from an elections law expert on the implications of a tie vote.
But the county elections division says a tie is tantamount to a loss; and further, it's not clear that the vote was in fact tied.
According to the certified results, the vote was 40-39 against annexation. The county elections division mailed 150 ballots to registered voters and landowners in the proposed 111-acre annexation area stretching along Interstate 680 from Highway 4 north to the BNSF railroad overcrossing.
However, one ballot should have been tossed out because the signature on the envelope didn't closely resemble the signature on the voter's registration card. If that ballot had not been counted, the measure either would have failed by a vote of 40-38 or tied at 39. According to the county elections division, a tie is technically a loss.
"All (ballot) measures require a majority, and you can't have a majority on a tie," said Candy Lopez, assistant county registrar.
Furthermore, the elections division staff doesn't know whether the person who submitted the disputed ballot voted yes or no. The only way to find out would be if the city contested the election result and a judge required the person to say, under oath, how he or she voted. But Lopez believes a judge would be unlikely to do so.
"There would be no basis to call a voter into court to reveal their vote when, in fact, it wouldn't matter because that vote wouldn't change the outcome," Lopez said.
But it was clear during last week's City Council meeting that Councilman Mike Menesini mistakenly believes the vote was tied.
"I'm not really sure when a vote amounts to an exact tie, 39-39, that there really is a decision that was made," Menesini said.
"It's hardly a decisive vote, in fact, if anything it's a very indecisive vote," he added.
The council postponed certifying the election results because Mayor Rob Schroder and Councilwoman Lara DeLaney did not attend the meeting.
A group of North Pacheco residents who believed annexation would lead to poorly maintained roads, longer police response times and higher property taxes forced the city to hold an election.
Other critics said the annexation would be a bad deal for Martinez because the costs of providing police protection and other services to North Pacheco were projected initially to exceed the property tax and sales tax revenue the area generates.
Menesini said voters who mailed their ballots after the city made a push to reassure residents that their taxes wouldn't go up and police service wouldn't suffer if the area joined Martinez "overwhelmingly" favored annexation.
The Contra Costa County Local Area Formation Commission was scheduled to take action to terminate the annexation at the Sept. 12 meeting. Under LAFCO regulations, city leaders must wait at least a year before trying to annex the area again unless the commissioners waive that requirement.
"Clearly we can go back and ask the residents, give the residents another opportunity to look at this proposal particularly since the vote was overwhelmingly in favor once the information was gotten out there," Menesini said. "So much misinformation was given to them early on that I think warrants another chance for those residents to take a look at it."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.