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Yes on 29 campaign refuses to concede on tobacco tax initiative

June 7, 2012 |  4:21 pm

Proponents of the tobacco tax initiative on Tuesday’s state ballot refused to concede Thursday, saying they still hope to overcome the current 1.4% margin of defeat as elections officials across California tally an estimated 1 million uncounted ballots.

The measure, on the ballot as Proposition 29, on Thursday was losing by just over 55,000 votes as updated ballot counts continued to trickle in from county elections offices.

The Secretary of State’s office of released a partial estimate of the number of uncounted ballots as of Thursday afternoon -- 702,000 -– but that did not include estimates in more than half of California’s 58 counties.

Among those not included were Orange, Fresno, Kern, Santa Clara and San Bernardino counties. There were 176,000 ballots left to be counted in Los Angeles County, which was included in the state estimate.

Steve Smith, a political consultant for Yes on 29, said the campaign believes there are more than 1 million ballots left to be counted. Just under 4 million ballots cast in the primary election already have been tallied, state election records show.

“We’re talking about 20% of the overall vote essentially not being counted yet," Smith said. “The election almost certainly is going to get narrower."

Beth Miller, spokeswoman for No on 29, said their campaign was happy to emerge with a 63,000 vote advantage on election night.

"Nothing that we’ve seen right now would indicate there would be a big vote swing one way or another. But obviously we are watching it closely,'' she said.

The pool of uncounted ballots consists of many vote-by-mail ballots, including some that were turned in on Election Day, as well as provisional and damaged ballots. Signatures on the vote-by-mail and provisional ballots must be verified by elections workers before being counted.

So-called “provisional ballots” are given to voters when polling places do not have a record of their registration, often because a voter has moved since registering. Provisional ballots must also be checked to make sure that votes were not cast in local elections outside the jurisdiction in which the voter lived. About 80% to 85% of provisional ballots are usually deemed valid.

County elections officials have until July 6 to process those ballots and report their final results to the Secretary of State.


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-- Phil Willon