After a three-week initial count of nearly 300,000 ballots in San Mateo County, highway expansionists celebrated yesterday as updated results showed a sudden swing from 66.55 to 66.85 percent approval of Measure W, the half-cent transportation sales tax crafted by county transportation officials with heavy corporate influence. While election results won’t be certified by Assessor-County Clerk-Recorder Mark Church until December 6, tax proponents are confident the measure’s razor-thin margin of just 489 votes above the required 2/3 threshold will hold. However, thousands of ballots missing signatures remain to be verified and possibly counted.
“YES, YES, YES! I am elated! It looks like Measure W is going to pass!” exclaimed SamTrans Board of Directors Chair and Belmont City Council member Charles Stone in a Facebook post yesterday. “This is the validation of 18 months of incredibly hard work by the San Mateo County Transit District and its Board of Directors, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, and stakeholders from all over the region. I am especially thankful to [California] Assembly member Kevin Mullin for his early and fervent support of this crucial transit and transportation measure.”
“Measure W: $2.4 billion over 30 years in local transportation investment for San Mateo County. I was proud to author the enabling legislation and be a strong supporter,” wrote Mullin in his own Facebook post about an hour later. “Thank you to the voters of our County, our leaders at SamTrans including Board Chair Charles Stone, and the Board of Supervisors.”
$540 million of that anticipated $2.4 billion in revenue will be spent on a slew of highway expansion projects that the County has postponed due to rapidly rising construction costs. This glut of highway funding along with a pittance of just five percent of revenues allocated for walking and bicycling improvements inspired a vigorous grassroots opposition from environmentalists and fiscal conservatives.
Opponents of the measure are crying foul at Measure W’s sudden victory, pointing to electoral irregularities and outright illegal actions taken by the sales tax’s proponents. San Mateo County Sheriff Deputy Heinz Puschendorf will file for a recount, while opponents are preparing to sue SamTrans over the measure. A lawsuit brought against the 2016 Measure B transportation sales tax measure in neighboring Santa Clara County blocked the expenditure of all revenue generated by the tax for two years.
The Palo Alto Daily Post reported on the anomalous vote count this morning, noting that Measure W went from failing by 291 votes to passing by 489 votes upon counting a set of 15,500 ballots of which an astounding 71.7 percent voted YES. That’s more than five percentage points above the average rate of YES votes counted in the previous 254,000 ballots.
Opponents of Measure W say the tax proposal was already fraudulent before the first vote was cast, because SamTrans and the Board of Supervisors broke state election law by spending $650,000 in public funds promoting it. Corporations pitched in another $850,000 to market the measure. Opponents managed to raise $5,700 in funds, most of which was spent on text messages and internet ads.