Supporters and opponents of a tobacco tax hike ballot initiative say the votes from Tuesday's election are too close to call, the Orange County Register reports (Perkes, Orange County Register, 6/6).
Latest Vote Tally
With 3.8 million ballots counted, Proposition 29 trails by 63,176 votes. As of Wednesday, 50.8% of voters had rejected the measure, while 49.2% voted in favor of it.
There still are hundreds of thousands of votes left to count, most of which are from last-minute voters who used mail-in ballots (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 6/7). The number of uncounted ballots is not known, but some estimates say it could be as high as one million (Willon, Los Angeles Times, 6/6).
Background on Proposition 29
Proposition 29 would increase California's tax on cigarettes by $1 per pack to raise funds for cancer research and smoking cessation programs.
It was written by the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
Supporters of Prop. 29 said the tax hike would be able to generate about $600 million annually to fund research on smoking-related conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
They noted that it also could produce $179 million each year for tobacco cessation, prevention and enforcement initiatives.
Opponents said that funds raised by Prop. 29 would create a new bureaucracy and could be spent on out-of-state research.
The tobacco industry and its allies contributed about $42.6 million toward a campaign to defeat Prop. 29, while supporters of the tax hike proposal, led by a national health coalition, spent nearly $9 million to advocate for the ballot initiative (California Healthline, 6/6).
Reaction From Campaigns
Neither supporters nor opponents of Prop. 29 were confident enough in the voting numbers to declare victory.
Supporters of the tobacco tax hike said they were prepared to wait for days or weeks to determine if the uncounted ballots would put them ahead.
Chris Lehman, campaign manager for Yes on 29, said, "They're going to vigilantly watch these returns come in and hope for the best."
Beth Miller, spokesperson for the No on 29 campaign, said, "We're very encouraged with a 63,000-vote lead, but there are obviously ballots still outstanding to be counted." She added, "We are waiting to get a better assessment of how many ballots are still outstanding and evaluate whether that will have an impact" (Sacramento Bee, 6/7).
On Wednesday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on the uncertain outcome of Prop. 29 (Quinton, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 6/6).