A recount of ballots cast for trustee candidates in Los Banos Unified School District Area 4 determined Friday that challenger Gary Munoz indeed beat Dominic Falasco, the incumbent who had challenged initial results.
The roughly 3 1/2 -hour recount found Munoz beat Falasco by a total of five votes, two more than initially had been tallied, said Barbara Levey, Merced County registrar of voters.
While Falasco accepted the outcome, he said the difference between the certified and recount results made him lose faith in the Merced County Elections Office.
Levey said Falasco’s statement was unfair, noting that at least one of the two extra votes was due to a voter error.
The total vote count was 660 votes for Munoz, and 655 votes for Falasco.
“I am obviously disappointed with the results, but I accept the outcome,” Falasco said in a statement to the Enterprise, adding that he congratulated Munoz in a message Friday.
Falasco had requested the recount in a letter sent Monday to the county Elections Office.
On Friday, workers at the Elections Office warehouse started the recount at 9 a.m.. The Elections Office sent an official news release of the results shortly after 12:30 p.m.
Two groups of four election technicians recounted votes from Election Day, vote-by-mail and provisional ballots.
Munoz and Falasco each were allowed to send two election observers. Munoz didn’t send any while two observers were present for Falasco: his campaign manager, Colleen Menefee, and supporter Monica Gallagher.
Munoz said he wasn’t interested in participating in the recount.
“When the recount came up, all the stress kind of came back,” Munoz said. “I didn’t want to feel all the tension and stuff, so I let it alone.”
Munoz said he is now focused on what lies ahead for the school district. He wants to discuss building new schools to lower student class size, and how to help teachers and non-English-speaking parents better educate students.
For Falasco, the recount results also delineated several critical points, including the need for registered voters to cast ballots.
He also said that while the recount didn’t change the outcome, the difference with the certified vote count highlighted “definite problems” with the Elections Office.
One of the two votes Munoz picked up was originally not counted because the voter picked Munoz but also wrote Munoz’s name as a write-in candidate.
Levey said that vote was sent through a tabulator at a precinct, which gave the voter an opportunity to accept or deny the canceled vote.
“I am sad to say that, because of the change in the final numbers, I no longer have that faith, at least when it comes to our county Elections Office,” Falasco said.
Levey was confused by Falasco’s statement, noting that she answered all of his and his observers’ questions after the recount.
“I think it’s completely unfair,” she said, noting that she explained to Falasco’s campaign that it was voter error. “The machine did it absolutely right. I think (Falasco’s claim is) disturbing.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562