May 29, 2024
The county expects to update results later Wednesday or Thursday after historically low voter turnout.

BERKELEY — The race between two UC Berkeley students for Berkeley’s District 7 City Council seat is tight but so far is leaning in Cecilia Lunaparra’s favor.

Lunaparra, a senior at UC Berkeley studying history and urban studies, and James Chang, chief of staff for Councilmember Ben Bartlett and a graduate student at the Haas School of Business, both entered the race to replace former Councilmember Rigel Robinson, who stepped down from the council and bowed out of the race for mayor earlier this year, citing escalating harassment, burn out and a wish to focus on his family.

As of 8:53 p.m. Tuesday evening, Lunaparra was leading with 60.3 percent, or 117 votes, with Chang carrying 39.7 percent of the vote, or 77 ballots cast in his favor.

“We’re feeling hopeful and the numbers are looking good. We’re hoping the next batch will also be our favor,” Lunaparra said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run.”

Chang did not respond to requests for comment.

Given the low voter turnout, updated results are expected sooner than normal. Updated results were expected after 5 p.m. Wednesday or sometime Thursday, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Voter turnout in the district has been low historically. Only 2,857 people are registered to vote in a district with more than 16,600 residents and largely populated by university students, according to the registrar of voters and 2020 census data.

Residents in the area often don’t update their registration, Lunaparra said. Special elections also often result in low turnout, she added.

“I don’t think this diminishes the importance of this district at all,” Lunaparra said. “There’s been some questioning about whether a student majority district should exist in the first place but I think it’s crucial to the functioning of our city government.”

Voters in District 4 will also soon vote for their new representative after Councilmember Kate Harrison announced she’d be stepping down just weeks after Robinson.

The four candidates in that race are Rubén Hernández Story, chief of staff for District 2 Councilmember Terry Taplin; Rent Board Commissioner Soli Alpert; community volunteer Elana Auerbach and Igor Tregub, policy director at Reimagine Power.

District 4 residents — those living in downtown and central Berkeley — have until May 13 to register to vote. Mail-in ballot voting will begin April 29, with ballots due by May 28.