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'Yes' on Measure 34-255 now leads by 139 votes out of more than 25,000 cast.

FILE - Tigard is already served by TriMet buses and the WES commuter rail service, pictured here. Whether Measure 34-255 passes or fails will determine whether Tigard is on track to eventually have MAX service.

Ballot Measure 34-255 has legged out to a more comfortable lead of 139 votes after additional ballots were tabulated Monday afternoon, according to unofficial election returns.

The local measure, which would authorize the Tigard municipal government to support the design and construction of a MAX light rail line through the city, was the most divisive item on the ballot in the southwestern slice of the Portland metropolitan area this November. As of 4 p.m. Monday, “yes” was ahead with 50.28 percent of the vote.

Under Oregon state law, a recount is automatically triggered if the margin between “yes” and “no” on a ballot measure is 0.2 percentage points or less. The lead for “yes” is a small one, but it is outside that margin.

“Yes” led by 75 votes after last Thursday's updates.

The city of Tigard released a statement last Wednesday morning announcing that Measure 34-255 appeared to have passed, but Mayor John L. Cook, who chaired the “yes” campaign, was more cautious in speaking with The Times later that day, and Arthur Crino, who led the “no” campaign, suggested he could request a recount in the race because of the closeness of the results.

Mickie Kawai, Washington County's elections manager, told The Times on Friday that the county could still be counting votes as late as two weeks after Election Day, which was last Tuesday. That is in part because the state of Oregon gives voters whose ballots were challenged — due to an apparent mismatch between the signatures on their ballot envelopes and the signatures on file — up to two weeks to appear in person to affirm the validity of their ballots.

It is unclear how many votes remain to be counted. The total number of votes on Measure 34-255 tabulated as of Monday afternoon, 25,037, already surpasses the mark set by Measure 34-203, a Tigard charter amendment requiring a future vote on any tax or fee to pay for light rail, in 2012. According to the Washington County Elections Office, 21,908 votes were cast on Measure 34-203 four years ago.

However, the voter turnout rate in Washington County in 2012 was 81.9 percent. As of Monday's update, Washington County reports about 80 percent turnout.

The next update is set for Thursday afternoon.

The vote on Measure 34-255 is required by a charter amendment voters adopted in a lower-turnout special election in March 2014. That amendment stipulates that the city of Tigard opposes high-capacity transit within the city limits “as a matter of public policy” and requires voter approval to authorize city support for any such transit project.

Although Measure 34-255 does not impose any tax or fee to pay for the MAX project, part of Metro's Southwest Corridor Plan, Crino's campaign adopted the slogan “No Tax for MAX,” arguing that Tigard taxpayers would be forced to contribute. Cook has said he expects Metro to seek voter approval of a tax levy for the project in 2018.

As planned, the MAX line would run from downtown Portland through Southwest Portland and Tigard, serving stops in the Tigard Triangle and downtown Tigard, before terminating at Bridgeport Village just west of Interstate 5. A final route alignment has yet to be determined.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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