A tobacco tax hike ballot initiative is behind by just fewer than 53,000 votes as county officials continue to count ballots from Tuesday's election, the Los Angeles Times reports.
On the night of the election, Proposition 29 was trailing by about 63,000 votes (Willon, Los Angeles Times, 6/7).
Background on Prop. 29
Prop. 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 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, 6/7).
Details of Uncounted Ballots
The secretary of state's office said that as of Thursday afternoon, there were about 830,000 uncounted ballots. However, that partial estimate did not include outstanding ballots in more than half the state's 58 counties.
The uncounted ballots include mail-in ballots, as well as provisional damaged ballots.
Reaction From Campaigns
Steve Smith -- a political consultant for the Prop. 29 campaign -- said supporters of the initiative believe that there are more than one million uncounted ballots.
"We're talking about 20% of the overall vote essentially not being counted yet," he said, adding, "The election almost certainly is going to get narrower."
Beth Miller -- a spokesperson for the campaign opposing Prop. 29 -- said tobacco tax hike opponents do not expect "a big vote swing one way or another." She added, "But obviously, we are watching it closely" (Los Angeles Times, 6/7).