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San Gabriel to conduct manual recount to break tied council race

San Gabriel will conduct a manual recount of votes cast in a council election that produced an exact tie

San Gabriel city officials will conduct a manual recount after a close council race saw two candidates garner the same number of votes.

Challenger Denise Menchaca and incumbent Juli Costanzo both received 1,276 votes during a campaign for two contested council seats. Incumbent councilman John Harrington gathered 1,747 votes and won the other contested seat.

The election for the second seat was officially certified as a tie Wednesday. Menchaca, Costanzo and several residents submitted a formal request Thursday afternoon.

The recount starts at 11:30 a.m. next Thursday, March 19, and will cost about $4,000. Though the candidate requesting the recount typically pays for it, the city has agreed to foot the bill to emphasize its commitment to "a transparent and accurate election process," said City Clerk Eleanor K. Andrews.

If the recount fails to break the tie, state election code says the seat must be awarded by lot, or any random selection process.  City officials haven't determined what that process will be -- though other deadlocked elections have been broken with coin flips, Scrabble tile drawings and hands of poker.

The most recent tied election occurred in 2005, when two candidates running for a seat on the Los Nietos School District got the same number of votes. A recount broke the tie in that case, said Brenda Duran, spokeswoman for at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office. She does not know of any previous election in the county that has been decided by lot.

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