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A Superior Court judge decided this morning that school board member Katherine Nakamura can soon start gathering signatures for a write-in campaign to keep her seat in San Diego Unified.

But the court still has to decide whether or not any written votes for Nakamura would count.

Nakamura placed third behind two challengers in the June primary for the San Diego Unified school board. Only the top two finishers advance from the primaries to the fall election. Nakamura did not campaign for her seat, saying that she wanted to focus her attention on the school district budget crunch.

After the election, Nakamura started exploring a write-in campaign for her seat on the school board, but city officials said a city code barred her from doing so. San Diego Unified falls under city election rules, even though its day-to-day operations are completely separate from the city.

Nakamura teamed up on a legal petition with several parents who lived in other areas of the school district, who couldn’t vote for her in the primary, to argue that she should be allowed to run a write-in campaign. She also argued that the whole election system was confusing, outdated and failed to represent all voters.

In San Diego Unified, competitors battle out the primaries in smaller subdistricts. Then, in the general election, the top two vote-getters from each subdistrict face each other in front of all voters in the school district.

Nakamura now has between Sept. 6 and Oct. 19 to gather 200 signatures to qualify as a write-in candidate. Even if she does, it is still uncertain whether voters who write down her name in the voting booth would get their votes counted. That issue will be settled in another, later hearing in Superior Court.

Nakamura had also sought to allow voters to put down stickers with her name to avoid misspellings; the court said she could create stickers to help voters remember her name and bring them into the voting booth, but that they could not actually put them on the ballot, Nakamura said.

— EMILY ALPERT

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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