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Mayoral candidate Don Perata thanks his supporters, fighting through a case of laryngitis, during his election party at Z Cafe & Bar in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday Nov. 2, 2010. (Laura A. Oda/Staff)

OAKLAND -- The outcomes in a couple of East Bay mayor races -- including the battle for the Oakland mayor's seat -- became no clearer today, and may remain cloudy for days.

Dave Macdonald, Alameda County's registrar of voters, said his office -- in agreement with Oakland city officials -- would not release new results today based on the ranked-choice voting process because ballot counting was not complete.

"We still have a relatively small number of provisional ballots that are taking a little longer to process than expected,'' Macdonald said.

Both mayor races in Oakland and San Leandro remain up in the air, as no candidate in either race received the needed majority of initial votes to claim victory, leaving the races to be decided by the ranked-choice voting process -- which is being used for the first time in Alameda County in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro. Several thousand votes remain to be counted, he said.

Ranked-choice voting -- also known as instant-runoff voting -- allowed voters to rank their first-, second- and third-choice candidates for a single office. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote when ballots are tallied, the ranked-choice voting system kicks in.

The system starts eliminating candidates from the bottom up. When a voter's first choice is eliminated, their second choice is then counted. This process of elimination occurs until a candidate has 50 percent of the vote. The system eliminates the need for a primary.

However, for the system to work, all votes must be verified before the process can begin -- thus necessitating the current delay in knowing the winner of a race.

Macdonald's office released ranked-choice voting results for the first time Friday. The results showed -- in a surprise -- Oakland City Councilmember Jean Quan edging out former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata in the Oakland's mayor race. They also showed Stephen Cassidy beating incumbent Tony Santos for the San Leandro mayor seat.

Macdonald said his office would only continue to release the initial vote count, but would not run the ranked-choice voting algorithm until all ballots had been counted and results would be more meaningful.

Guy Ashley, a spokesman for the registrar's office, said the ballot count is taking longer than expected as campaign officials and attorneys question some provisional ballots.

Provisional ballots are filled out by voters whose names did not appear on the polling location's lists of registered voters when they voted. The laborious process in counting such ballots requires research into whether the voter was registered.

Ashley said the hope is for the count to be completed sometime Tuesday, but would not guarantee that happening.