A fresh batch of election returns Thursday dealt Pierce Transit a setback, as progress toward approval of the agency’s tax measure stalled.
Proposition 1 supporters had been encouraged by earlier ballot counts that appeared to be inching the measure closer to passage. It was failing by 1,643 votes on election night, but was only 829 votes down Wednesday.
Thursday, the gap grew to 915 votes. Pierce County elections officials estimate that they have 70,000 ballots left to count, although not all of those voters would have been eligible to weigh in on the Pierce Transit measure.
Nick Sherwood of the Reject Proposition 1 campaign said he took some encouragement from the new numbers, but not enough to assume victory. The campaign is continuing its efforts to notify likely opponents whose ballots have been challenged.
“Things appear to be trending our way,” he said. “But I am only slightly more comfortable.”
The margin between “approved” votes and “rejected” votes is roughly 0.5 percent. If the race ends in a squeaker, a recount is not a given. Ballot measures aren’t subject to the automatic recount rules that govern races for elected office, county Auditor Julie Anderson said.
But the campaigns for and against could pay for a recount. Anderson’s office estimated the cost of recounting every ballot at $200,000. Or the sides could order a partial recount at a lesser cost.
Kate Whiting of the Restore Transit Now campaign said Thursday that supporters will wait for the final count before deciding whether to request a recount.
Sherwood, who earlier this week said a recount was a given, retreated from that statement Thursday after hearing of the price. He said his side, should it end up losing, doesn’t have that kind of cash.
“That is a lot of money,” he said. “I had no idea it cost that much.”
Proposition 1 would raise the local sales-tax rate by three-tenths of 1 percent, to 9.8 percent. Pierce Transit officials say the additional revenue is needed to help the agency recover from a hit to sales-tax collections during the recession. Without it, they plan to cut weekend buses and service after 7 p.m. and reduce service for the disabled.