Oakland Sees Another Election Mix-Up Involving Candidates for School Board

A city error that almost disqualified the only two candidates from Oakland Unified’s District 5 race appears to be resolved, although future legal challenges are not out of the question.

Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez and Jorge Lerma are vying for OUSD’s District 5 seat, which includes parts of East Oakland, such as Fremont High School and Fruitvale.

“The boundaries were adjusted last year, and the city’s election officials intended to use the new ones for November’s special election,” the Times Herald reports. “But the school board director who last held the seat — before vacating it early this year, which requires someone to finish out his term — had been elected before redistricting took place, so the old boundaries are the ones that apply: the candidates and their voters must live within them.” 

Last week, Ritzie-Hernandez and Lerma were informed they wouldn’t qualify for the ballot because of the mix-up. The Alameda County registrar said they hadn’t collected enough qualified signatures from the old boundaries. 

With the deadline for signature gathering over, that meant there would be no candidates in the race. Ritzie-Hernandez and Lerma were understandably upset.

Oakland Spokesperson Jean Walsh said the city spent days looking into the issue. On Friday, the city announced it had determined that the November election could go on with Ritzie-Hernandez and Lerma as candidates.

“It would be patently unfair, and likely a violation of their fundamental right to hold public office, to disqualify these candidates” said City Clerk Asha Reed in an email. “We cannot support such an unjust result.”

This is not the first flub to impact a school board election in Oakland. Last year, the county erred in calculating the winner of OUSD’s ranked-choice election for District 4. A judge stepped in and declared a new rightful winner. 

Also in 2022, the city clerk’s office provided three potential candidates for the Oakland mayor’s race with inaccurate information, causing them to miss the application deadline.