Margin in Santee City Council Race is Razor-Thin, So What Happens If Candidates Tie?

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Two Santee political hopefuls are headed down to the wire with the final votes still to be tallied, and they've been trading razor-thin leads since Election Night.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu released the latest batch of numbers on Wednesday night, with some apparent winners adding to thier totals, while some also-rans watching their chances fade even harder.

Two weeks after election night, there usually isn't much being contested, unless you count that race playing out for Pennsylvania Avenue.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu tells NBC 7's Priya Sridhar what happens in San Diego if an election is tied, which is currently the case in the Santee District 4 City Council race.

A few local races, though, drew attention: While it appears that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will be tipping blue for the first time in recent memory, in District 2. a pair of Republicans -- Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and former State Senator Joel Anderson -- are separated by the slimmest of margins.

The slimmest of margins, though, implies daylight between candidate vote totals, something there is an absence of a little over 15 miles away in Santee, where, in the race for the District 4 City Council race, both Samantha "Samm" Hurst and Dustin Trotter are neck and neck. In fact, at one point they were tied.

According to papers filed with the registrar, Hurst, a self-described public-health scientist, is a third-generation East County resident with an undergrad degree from SDSU and a Ph.D. in biological and medical anthropology who has conducted research at UCSD. She also disclosed that she is "active in the community as a member of the Santee Historical Society, Santee Collaborative, and the FBI Citizen’s Academy Alumni Association" who "will continue the fight to reduce traffic, preserve open space, build trails and parks, and challenge irresponsible high-density development in fire hazard zones that threaten emergency evacuations for all residents."

NBC 7 asked Hurst about her reaction to being currently tied for the seat on the Santee City Council.

"At first, I was just stunned by it, and second, I heard bits and pieces that if the race were to remain tied that we would then choose or pick lots," Hurst said. "I don’t know if that’s the same equivalent to drawing straws, but that worries me a little bit because I don’t think this race is a raffle, and I don’t want to demean the value of every voter's contribution to it, so I’m hoping it doesn’t stay in a tie. I think the voters deserve a winner, and, of course, I hope that winner is me."

For his part, Trotter, who said in his official filing form that he is self-employed, has been a Santee resident for most of his life. He's raising two sons in the city and plans to foster "a business-friendly environment where we cut red tape and get government out of the way of small business." Trotter, too, said he would encourage "open space and parks" and that he wanted to see the community center completed.

Trotter, too, was asked by NBC 7 for a comment on the tied race.

"It doesn’t bother me one bit," Trotter said. "Obviously, the election is the will of the people, so whatever the outcome is, it is, but, like I said, I don’t know any other example where it's actually gone to a coin toss here in San Diego County. Definitely not here in Santee, so it would be one for the records books."

In the extremely unlikely event that Hurst and Trotter were to tie in the race, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened in a San Diego election, of course. Some with long memories recall a tie in a Ramona Municipal Water District race in 1992 that was settled with a coin toss, according to the Voice of San Diego, but not until details -- such as which coin to use and how high it had to be tossed -- were settled beforehand.

Similarly in Santee, the winner in a tie would be selected by the drawing of lots, according to SD County Registrar Vu. How, exactly, that plays out, would be up to Vu.

"Could be a number of ways … drawing out of a hat, coin toss, card game, drawing of sticks, etc.," Vu told NBC 7, adding later that the election official picks the method of selection.

"This tie vote is sitting in a city, and so therefore, if it became a situation where it was a tie vote in a city, then the city clerk -- who is the proper election official and the chief election official for their respective city -- would move toward calling the governing body, which in this case would be the city council, to weigh in, in terms of how to break the tie vote," Vu told NBC 7 on Tuesday..

While there are still 43,000 votes to count in the whole county, it stands to reason that there can't be nearly that many left in Santee, a city of 58,115 as of 2018, per Google. So prepare for "lots" of legal challenges, recounts and contested ballots. Wait … that's that other race. Turns out San Diego will just wait till Vu's office says who straddles the top of the winner's column.

As of Tuesday night's vote totals, Hurst now leads Trotter by two votes. And that County Board of Supervisors race has tightened considerably, with the lead now in Anderson's hands, who is ahead by just seven votes -- Ed.

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