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After failing to gather enough signatures for the school board primary, San Diego Unified trustee Luis Acle could get a spot on the ballot for a November general election after all, potentially with only a few votes, through a write-in campaign. The question hinges on the unique nature of the school board race, which falls under both city and state election rules. And the answers remain unclear, even as Acle rejoins the race.

Currently, Democratic labor organizer Richard Barrera is running essentially unopposed to represent District D, after Acle, the Republican incumbent, failed to qualify for the June primary. An eleventh-hour attempt to join the race by attorney Charles Kim Jr. failed, despite efforts by Republican supporters to gather signatures.

Under state rules, a candidate running a write-in campaign must get second place and 1 percent of the number of votes cast in the last general election to earn a spot on the fall ballot, said Cathy Glaser, supervisor of campaign services for the San Diego County Registrar.

But under city rules, the top two vote-getters in a primary appear on the November ballot — there is no minimum number of votes required, said elections analyst Denise Jenkins, who works for the city clerk. And unlike the mayoral and City Council races, scoring a big win in the primary doesn’t end the race, Glaser said. A school board candidate could win 80 percent of the primary vote, but would still face his or her opponent in the districtwide election in November.

The uncertainty over which rules apply to San Diego Unified has raised the possibility that Acle, re-entering the race as a write-in candidate, could garner only a handful of votes, then proceed to the fall election as a ballot candidate. County counsel and the city attorney’s office are still conferring on that question, Jenkins said.

“The school board race is a strange one,” she said. “Both city law and state law are involved. That’s why it’s not an easy determination.”

Acle pulled papers Monday as a write-in candidate. To qualify as a valid write-in, he must gather 200 valid signatures by May 20. Earlier this year, that requirement proved a stumbling-block for Acle, who fell short of the required signatures. Tuesday, he said he had rejoined the race after community members complained that Barrera would be running unopposed, giving them no choice.

“I’m not going to shortchange people,” Acle said. “My bottom line is, people are saying, ‘We want you to be available.’ I don’t want to deny whatever is required of me.”

Even the question of who makes the decision is unanswered. Jenkins said the city attorney and county counsel were determining “who should be doing the decision on this.” Glaser, meanwhile, is unsure when the registrar will know how many votes Acle would need to gain a place on the ballot.

“We’re waiting for them to tell us — is one vote enough?” she said. “We’re already in it. We’re issuing papers to Luis Acle. We just don’t have the answer yet, for him, about how easy it’s going to be to get on the November ballot.”

EMILY ALPERT

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