By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
California’s proposed $1-a-pack cigarette tax lost by less than a percentage point on Friday, while a North Coast congressional race still hung in the balance as Sonoma County accounted for 23 percent of the state’s untallied ballots.
“Still counting, still feeding cards through,” county elections chief Janice Atkinson said. “It’s just a slow process.”
Only Los Angeles County, with 26,076, had more uncounted ballots, and Fresno County was third with 24,500.
The other 11 counties all had fewer than 10,000 uncounted ballots.
Atkinson attributed the slow count to the county’s large number of vote-by-mail ballots — 23,250 — brought to polling places on election day.
An additional 1,600 provisional ballots also are uncounted. Those were cast by voters who were mailed an absentee ballot but came to the polls and said they had not received or used it.
Atkinson said a final vote count will be available on Monday “at the earliest.”
In the 2nd Congressional District, Republican Dan Roberts held a 760-vote lead over Democrat Norman Solomon in the race for second place, with Sonoma the only one of six counties in the coastal district with uncounted ballots.
Solomon had trailed Roberts by 596 votes on Tuesday, before Marin and Humboldt counties reported final results.
An unknown number of Sonoma’s uncounted votes are in the 2nd District.
The second-place winner will face Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, in November run-off. Huffman dominated the primary with 37.6 percent of the vote, more than Roberts and Solomon combined.
The cigarette tax, Proposition 29, was short by about 27,000 votes on Friday, and The Associated Press said its analysis determined that the uncounted ballots statewide would not make up the deficit.
In Sonoma County, the tax passed resoundingly, with 60.1 percent yes to 39.1 per cent no votes.
The plan to add $1 to the cigarette tax was led by cyclist Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, and opposed by tobacco companies and others that raised $47 million to fight the measure.
California was once at the forefront of smoking restrictions and taxes, but the famously health-conscious state has not raised tobacco taxes since 1998. If the new tax had passed, California still would have had only the 16th highest tax rate in the nation. It currently ranks 33rd.
Tobacco tax proponents said they would try again.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)