California cigarette tax still undecided


Blame it on the voters who mailed in their ballots at the last minute -- 700,000 of the 900,000 outstanding ballots are vote-by-mail. It could take county election workers weeks more to verify the signatures on the ballots. The count is crucial when it comes to a very close race like Proposition 29, the $1-per-pack cigarette tax for cancer research, where the 'No" side holds a slight lead, but won't declare victory.

"We haven't seen any huge shifts from election night and we don't anticipate any. Having said that, we've got to wait and watch the process unfold," said Beth Miller from No On Proposition 29.

Many eyes are on Los Angeles County. It's traditionally a blue county with lots of Democrats, but voters there didn't support the tax like the Bay Area did, another traditionally blue area.

Some political watchers think with the upturn in Silicon Valley boosting the region's economy, people up north are feeling better about voting for a tax.

Plagued by high unemployment still, Southern California, on the other hand, isn't doing as well. But Prop 29 supporters say just because LA County has the most uncounted ballots, doesn't mean they alone will decide the fate of the cigarette tax.

"A 'yes' vote in Modoc County counts the same as it does in Los Angeles County. So we're going to wait until all the votes are counted and then see where we land," said Tim Gibbs from Yes on Proposition 29.

Tim Gibbs, though, concedes the tobacco companies' $47 million war chest to defeat the measure versus their $12 million was too much to compete with.

"We were not able to get on the air as much as we would've like in Los Angeles and set the record straight," said Gibbs.

The anti-tax efforts say they were only pointing out the measure's flaws to a pool of voters known in California politics as a "must-win."

"It's extraordinarily difficult to win statewide without LA. It's possible -- very, very difficult," said Miller.

It could be July before a winner is declared.

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