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Opponents gain as Proposition 29 tobacco tax vote count continues

June 22, 2012 | 12:17 pm

The tight vote count for the June 5 tobacco tax ballot initiative swung sharply toward the opposition as elections officials across California continue to tally the last remaining uncounted ballots.

The measure, known as Proposition 29, was losing by 27,326 votes Friday morning -– two days after the gap was just over 13,000 votes. The gap has narrowed from 63,000 on election night.

More than 5 million ballots already have been counted across the state. The California secretary of State’s office estimates that, as of Friday morning, just over 148,000 ballots remained uncounted. Shortly after the primary, there were more than a million uncounted ballots statewide.

The uncounted ballots consist of many cast by mail, as well as provisional and damaged ones.

Proposition 29 would add a $1-per-pack tax on cigarettes to raise an estimated $860 million a year for research on tobacco-related diseases and prevention programs. The American Cancer Society and cycling champ Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, were among the measure’s biggest proponents, raising more than $11 million to support the ballot initiative.

Tobacco companies poured nearly $47 million into their campaign to defeat Proposition 29 and were joined by anti-tax and business groups.

County elections officials have until July 6 to process ballots and report their official results to the secretary of state.

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-- Phil Willon

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