A proposal to add fluoride to Bellingham’s drinking water lost its narrow lead Saturday, with opponents calling the shift “tremendous news.”
Unofficial election results show 50.3 percent of voters against the measure and 49.6 percent supporting it, with 33,080 ballots counted – a difference of 91 votes. Officials are counting ballots almost every day in Whatcom County’s first vote-by-mail election, but did no tally Friday in observance of Veterans Day.
More than 10,000 processed ballots from Tuesday’s general election remain uncounted at the Auditor’s Office. Thousands more have yet to be processed.
Though initially winning on Tuesday, the fluoride measure saw its lead wane to only 68 votes in Thursday’s count.
If the measure fails, it would represent a coup for fluoride opponents, who mounted a series of grass-roots campaigns to stop the measure. Bellingham Families for Fluoride, a political-action committee created to support the measure, has spent more than $260,000 so far in its campaign.
Danelle Weaver, treasurer of Healthy Goals for Bellingham, a group opposing fluoridation, said that she was gratified by the news.
“We had hoped all along that we would pull ahead, and to gain by 91 votes is just tremendous,” she said.
Curt Smith, the retired Bellingham dentist who co-chaired the pro-fluoride campaign, said the turn in results didn’t surprise him. The margin of victory has been shrinking as more votes were counted, he said.
“That seems to have been the trend,” Smith said. “I’m not particularly surprised.”
Weaver said that the “demanding” campaign is far from over. County Auditor Shirley Forslof will certify the election results Nov. 29.
“(The final result) remains to be seen, it’s so close,” Weaver said. “To see us pull ahead is just really, really gratifying,”