Morro Bay City Councilman Noah Smukler was re-elected in Tuesday’s election, and Christine Johnson will succeed Councilwoman Carla Borchard.
After what the city attorney described as “numerous questions from the media and the public” about Morro Bay’s uncommon municipal primary system, he clarified the results Wednesday.
It appeared Tuesday night that a runoff would be held for the City Council race, and The Tribune reported that. Several residents questioned that Wednesday morning, however, prompting a review.
In the mayor’s race, Borchard placed second in her challenge to Mayor Bill Yates, who placed third in the election. Challenger Jamie Irons won the mayor’s seat, taking almost 53 percent of the vote.
Borchard’s four-year term on the council ends in December.
Morro Bay City Attorney Rob Schultz clarified in a news release that candidates who receive votes on a majority of ballots cast would win council seats. In most California municipal elections with multiple candidates, the top vote-getters win, even if they do not receive votes on a majority of ballots.
Electoral reforms that Morro Bay voters approved under Measure S in November 2006 moved the municipal election to June. A runoff in November would take place only if candidates “do not receive a majority vote in the primary election,” according to that city’s Municipal Code.
Final unofficial results of Tuesday’s election from the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s Office had Smukler getting votes on 63.3 percent of ballots, and Johnson being picked by 54.1 percent of voters.
If no one had captured a majority, all four candidates would have moved to a runoff in November.
Schultz wrote that in each election since the passage of Measure S, “the city has interpreted the majority of votes based upon ballots cast,” not the number of votes cast, noting that each voter can cast votes for up to two candidates running for the council. There were four council candidates in Tuesday’s race.
“It is the number of ballots, not the number of choices exercised on each ballot, which determines the majority,” Schultz wrote. So two candidates must receive a vote on a majority of ballots cast to win, he added.
Supporters of Measure S petitioned to have the reforms placed before Morro Bay voters “because the votes cast by electors may be split among a large field of candidates,” according to the text of the ordinance adopted by local voters.
Arguing that local leaders should earn a majority of votes to win, Measure S backers noted in the adopted ordinance that, “in such a circumstance the candidates receiving the highest number of votes may be elected even though they fall far short of a majority support.”