UPDATE: As of Thursday, Nov. 19, at 4:15 p.m., Grace Mah's lead of Melissa Baten Caswell for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education stayed at 4,075, according to the latest election results based on 99% of ballots counted by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
In a Nov. 17 statement, Baten Caswell thanked supporters of her campaign. "While the results are not what we hoped for, I'm proud of the people-powered campaign that we were able to run under these extraordinary circumstances." She also offered a positive message to Mah. "I wish my opponent all the best as she enters into uncharted waters with her fellow trustees, working to address the challenges of COVID-19 to ensure our students, teachers and staff are equipped with the tools they need to be successful."
Mah won 52,962 votes, or 52% of the votes counted. Baten Caswell trailed with 48,887 votes, or 48%.
The race for the Area 1 seat on the Santa Clara County school board continues to be too close to call with incumbent Grace Mah holding a razor-thin lead over challenger Melissa Baten Caswell.
Since election night, they've been one or two percentage points apart. With 67% of ballots tallied in Santa Clara County as of Thursday evening, Mah, who's seeking a fourth term, has won 51.26%, or 38,718 votes. Baten Caswell, a current trustee on the Palo Alto Unified Board of Education, has won 48.74%, or 36,821 votes. Those numbers remained unchanged on Thursday morning.
This race grew controversial in recent weeks as outside money from charter school proponents poured into Mah's campaign. She received $243,400 in contributions during the most recent campaign finance reporting period, primarily from charter school organizations and representatives, bringing her campaign total to over $300,000. Baten Caswell raised about $180,000, including significant contributions from outspoken critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos.
On Thursday, Mah said she's "keeping her fingers and toes crossed" as ballots continue to be counted. She said this was the most competitive race she's had in 13 years.
"It's been a very challenging race ... having to raise more than 10 times what I've raised in my previous races," Mah said. "I still wish the money could have been spent on students and classrooms but it's kind of the nature of politics."
Baten Caswell, who ran to challenge the status quo of a three-term incumbent, said on Tuesday evening that she remains optimistic about the outcome of the race.
"I think I had an unbelievable outpouring of grassroots support and hopefully that will carry me through," Baten Caswell said. "Hopefully money won't win the day."
Polling place and early vote-by-mail ballots are counted on election night, while vote-by-mail ballots received after Nov. 2 and provisional ballots are counted after election day, according to the Registrar of Voters.
The Registrar of Voters conducts manual recounts in races where the margin of victory is either less than 0.25 percent of the ballots cast or less than 25 votes.
Baten Caswell is familiar with the experience of waiting for an election outcome. In 2016, a narrow margin between her and another incumbent for the third open seat on the Palo Alto school board triggered an automatic recount. Though the other candidate conceded a week after the election, it wasn't until late December that Baten Caswell was declared the official winner and elected to a third term.
Area 1 includes the Palo Alto Unified, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman, Mountain View-Los Altos Union High school districts, a majority of the Sunnyvale School District and corresponding portions of the Fremont Union High School District.
Mah, a former engineer and Palo Alto resident, has represented these districts on the county board since 2007.
This story will be updated as more results come in.