'Yes' gains in Tigard light-rail vote update Thursday evening
UPDATE: The margin for 'yes' on Measure 34-255 is 75 votes, just outside the margin to trigger an automatic recount, as of 4:50 p.m. Thursday.
Reversing a general trend of narrowing since the first unofficial results of Tuesday's election were published that evening, yes on Measure 34-255 has a more stable lead after an update in the vote count at about 4:50 p.m. Thursday.
Tigard voters are closely split on the measure, with yes holding a thin margin of 75 votes out of 24,581 cast 50.15 percent support according to unofficial results published on the Oregon secretary of state's website. That margin is just outside automatic recount range and has grown from the 39-vote edge yes held after a 3 p.m. Thursday update an edge that had fallen from the 619-vote lead it had at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Under Oregon elections law, a recount is triggered automatically if the margin of victory in a race is within 0.2 percentage points.
Measure 34-255 would authorize the city of Tigard to support efforts to design and build a MAX light rail line from Southwest Portland through Tigard. Current plans call for the MAX to make stops along that route in the Tigard Triangle and downtown Tigard, terminating at Bridgeport Village.
The Tigard City Council voted this summer to place the measure on the ballot a step made necessary by voters' approval in March 2014 of a charter amendment requiring the city to formally oppose any high-capacity transit project in Tigard unless voters allow otherwise. A no vote would likely bring talk of MAX service in Tigard to an end, officials have warned.
Mayor John L. Cook, who sits on the steering committee for the Southwest Corridor Plan that includes the MAX line, chaired the yes campaign on Measure 34-255.
When Tigard voters approved Measure 34-210, the 2014 charter amendment, it passed with 5,094 votes in favor out of 9,958 cast on the measure 51.2 percent of the vote.
With higher voter turnout amid presidential and gubernatorial elections in Oregon this year, the number of votes already counted for and against Measure 34-255 has well outstripped the vote totals from March 2014.
It is unclear how many ballots remain to be counted. Another update is set for 4 p.m. Monday. Election results remain unofficial until certified, which is set to happen on Dec. 8 at the latest.
Mickie Kawai, Washington County's elections manager, spoke with The Times Thursday evening. She described essentially three groups of outstanding ballots:
Ballots that are not machine-readable, such as digital ballots sent in by military and overseas voters and large-print ballots used by visually impaired voters. There are about 600 to 800 of these outstanding in Washington County, which must be duplicated by hand, double-checked and then scanned, Kawai said.
Ballots that have been challenged because the signature affixed to the envelope does not appear to match the signature of the voter that is on file. There are about 3,300 of these in Washington County. Voters whose ballots have been challenged will be contacted and given an opportunity to come in by Nov. 22 to affirm them. Kawai said the plan is to have those notifications in the mail Saturday.
Ballots from Washington County residents that were cast in other counties. Under state law, an Oregon ballot can be returned at any official drop site throughout the state by 8 p.m. Election Day and it will be counted, but it can take several days and sometimes even more than a week for all of those ballots to be located, identified, returned to the appropriate county elections office and tabulated, Kawai said. She said there is no way of knowing how many are still out there, but many of them accounted for the additional votes added to the count Thursday.
It could be some time before all the outstanding votes are tallied, Kawai said.
"Pretty much after the 14th challenge day, I think that probably we would have picked up everything that came from the other counties," she told The Times.
As of the 4:50 p.m. update, Washington County now reports the voter turnout rate to be 78.4 percent. The county had 81.9 percent turnout in 2012, the last presidential election year.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Washington County's elections manager, as well as Thursday's latest results, and to correct the total number of votes counted as of Thursday evening.
By Mark Miller