Gary Ernst, an Oceanside official, who died a few weeks ago, was elected in California over a woman. You have read correctly; a dead man beat Nadine Scott, a woman running for office.
Many are asking, why wasn’t Ernst’s name removed from the ballot after he died of natural causes on September 23 at the age of age 61? Ernst, who remained as a rival for Scott, won Oceanside City Treasurer in San Diego County by six points.
The late politician was reelected despite the fact that his opponent took to Facebook to remind voters that he was dead. She wrote:
“Did you know that my opponent for City Treasurer has sadly passed away yet remains on the ballot due to Election Code law? Make your vote count by voting for me.”
Officials claimed that because Ernst died less than 68 days before the election, there was not enough time to remove him from the ballot. This is where the situation gets complicated.
Scott, a lawyer and an activist, said she is fighting for the seat because she received 15,500 votes. She added that no efforts were made to let voters know that Ernst had passed away before the election because “some city leaders wanted to appoint another candidate after the election.”
Scott is now feuding with Councilman Jerry Kern over an interview where he explicitly told voters to back the dead man so that he could hand-pick a successor and it worked. Talking to local media, Kern said:
“Vote for him anyway, because that way we can get somebody that’s qualified there.”
On December 7th, the election results will be certified by the city council. City councilmembers will announce the seat vacant since the winner cannot physically take office. According to Oceanside’s City Attorney John Mullen, officials will either decide to appoint someone for two years or hold a special election.
Scott has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission because she believes that the city illegally backed her opponent. Her complaint read:
“If Mr. Ernst prevails, the office will be declared vacant and the City Council can fill the vacancy in a sixty-day time period following certification of the results.”
Some critics say that this incident is proof that the electoral system needs to be improved.