Saturday, November 10, 2012

Crescent City Connection toll referendum margin unchanged after ...

The razor-thin margin favoring approval of the extension of the tolls on the Crescent City Connection remained unchanged Friday, though?Jefferson Parish recorded two more "yes" votes and two?more "no" votes among military and challenge?ballots. Voting machines in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes were opened?as elections officials slogged their way toward an official certification of the Nov. 6 election numbers on Tuesday.

The counts are being closely watched around the metro area because of a scant 8-vote differential that favors a continuation of the tolls for 20 years.

Residents in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes cast more than 308,000 ballots on the issue, with Jefferson and Plaquemines rejecting an extension. While Orleans residents supported a continuation of the tolls beyond their Dec. 31 expiration,?elections officials have yet?to count about 30 provisional, military and overseas ballots, which they will do Tuesday.

Elections officials in all three parishes reported no difference in the numbers after the voting machines were opened. The four?votes?from military and challenge?ballots were counted by Jefferson Parish elections officials Friday.???

Jefferson Parish?Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco said the parish received three military ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline Wednesday that was extended because of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, the parish received a challenge ballot from a voter who was not sure if his ballot was actually cast, DiMarco said.

With the addition of the four votes in Jefferson Parish, the overall unofficial total in the three parishes for?the toll referendum stands at 154,375 in favor and 154,367 against.

"It makes the drama even greater in New Orleans,'' DiMarco said of the count of military ballots there Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Jefferson and Plaquemines officials said?they would certify the numbers Tuesday.

Still, depending on the official results, grassroots groups opposed to extending the tolls are mulling a challenge to the numbers.

When the Orleans votes were counted Tuesday night, it appeared the measure failed by 874 votes. But after it was announced that the Orleans totals did not include 24,000 early votes, the final result was an eight-vote difference that leaned toward approval after those ballots were tallied until early Wednesday.

Leaders in the anti-toll movement said they were concerned about the pendulum that initially indicated voters rejected the measure before Orleans Parish elections officials counted ballots from early voting.

Michael Teachworth of Stop the Tolls and a member of a legislative task force that studied the toll issue, said suspicions are running high.

"I'm certainly not going to rule out challenging it,'' said Teachworth, the lone task force member who voted against the report that recommended extending the tolls. "It (the vote) needs to be challenged, the way the whole thing went down.''


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