An effort to add fluoride to Bellingham’s drinking water saw its lead narrow yet again, holding only a 68-vote advantage as of Thursday afternoon.
Unofficial results released by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office show 50.3 percent of voters supporting the fluoride measure and 49.6 percent against it with 29,115 ballots counted.
While support for the measure waned in the latest count, more than 10,000 processed ballots remain uncounted at the Auditor’s Office. Thousands more have yet to be processed.
Curt Smith, a retired Bellingham dentist who co-chaired the political action committee behind the fluoride initiative, said “yikes” when he heard of the latest vote count.
“I wish it was going in the other direction,” Smith said. “We’ve got so far to go.”
Close results in such a contested issue are reminiscent of last year’s contested gubernatorial race between Democrat and eventual winner Christine Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi. However, any potential recount over the fluoride measure would play out far differently.
State law provides that candidates would see their race automatically recounted if results were separated by less than one-half of 1 percent. However, there is no rule mandating recounts on ballot measures, Forslof said.
Law does allow a group of five Bellingham residents to form a committee and request a recount within three business days after Forslof certifies the election results.
The group would have to provide either a deposit of 25 cents per ballot in a hand recount or 15 cents a ballot for a machine count, Forslof said.
Results are scheduled to be certified Nov. 29.
Danelle Weaver, treasurer for anti-fluoride political action committee Healthy Goals for Bellingham, said opponents of the measure haven’t discussed asking for a recount.
“We wanted to wait and see how the numbers changed,” Weaver said. “That will give us an idea if we want to direct our energy to that and try to raise the money for that.”
In other election results, the races for several seats on the Whatcom County Council remain close coming into the weekend.
Only 442 votes separate incumbent Seth Fleetwood from challenger Gary Lysne for the council’s at-large seat. Fleetwood, a Bellingham lawyer, has 50.8 percent of the vote. Lysne, a retired Seattle police officer, holds 49 percent.
Pipeline safety advocate Carl Weimer remains ahead of Realtor Mike Kent with 51.4 percent of the vote in the race for the council’s District 3 seat. Kent has 48.4 percent.
In the race for the council’s District 2 seat, incumbent Laurie Caskey-Schreiber holds 53.8 percent of the vote over challenger Craig Mayberry’s 46 percent.
Election workers will take today off in honor of Veterans Day, Forslof said. Counters will work on Saturday and provide a new ballot count sometime that afternoon.