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Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - Page updated at 05:29 PM

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Election 2007

Simple majority looks like a winner

Seattle Times education reporter

The ballot measure that would allow school levies to pass with a majority vote pulled ahead for the first time Tuesday with a 7,000-vote lead.

Supporters of Resolution 4204 aren't declaring victory yet, but they may be getting close. The measure has gained ground every day since Election Day. If that trend continues, victory is assured.

"Every day has been a little bit better than the day before," said Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, which contributed lots of time and money to the campaign. "We sure hope that continues."

An estimated 69,000 votes remain to be counted. Of those, about 32,000 are in King County, where the measure is leading by a strong margin of 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent.

Supporters raised about $3 million for the campaign, ran three television ads and organized about 6,000 volunteers from across the state who made 350,000 phone calls.

They had worked for decades to get the measure on the ballot. They argued that it was unfair and expensive to require school districts to get 60 percent of voters to approve the property-tax levies that make up, on average, about 17 percent of districts' annual budgets.

There was no organized opposition, but the measure's critics stressed that allowing such levies to pass with 50 percent of the vote would lead to higher property taxes, and, under the state constitution, supermajority votes are required for any government that wants to raise taxes beyond $10 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

If it passes, the measure would amend the state constitution.

As of Tuesday, the measure was leading in eight counties: Jefferson, King, San Juan, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom and Whitman.

A machine recount will occur if the margin is 2,000 votes or less, and also is less than one-half of 1 percent of votes cast.

Election Day may turn out to be the low-water mark for the measure's supporters. In early returns, the measure trailed with 52 percent opposed, and 48 percent in favor.

King County voters have been key to the comeback. Support was strong there even on election night, and has strengthened since then. On Tuesday, for example, about 60 percent of the 25,983 ballots counted in King County were in favor.

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But support has grown in other places as well. On Tuesday, the measure took the lead in Spokane County for the first time, with 50.2 percent of the vote. In Island County, the measure still trails, but 56.6 percent of the votes counted Tuesday were in favor, said Bill Monto, the resolution's campaign manager.

"The late returns are working for us," he said.

As recently as Friday, he said, reporters wanted to know whether the campaign was ready to concede. On Monday, he said, they instead asked whether it was ready to declare victory.

It's impossible to say why later voters have been more supportive than earlier ones — but that's clearly the case.

Monto said supporters planned to spend Tuesday night analyzing the results to see under what scenarios they might still lose.

For that to happen, he said, it's clear "the current trends would have to reverse themselves."

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or lshaw@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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