Recount potential looms over $15 wage initiative

SEATTLE — Voting in the heavily contested $15 minimum wage ballot initiative is so close that the SeaTac measure will likely go to a recount, supporters say.

With a lead of just 46 votes, proponents said they expect an opposition group to pay the money — possibly less than $1,000 — needed to conduct a new count. After all, the cost of the recount will be minor compared to the overall cost of an initiative campaign that has totaled some $1.8 million.

The results of the race are being closely watched by both national labor and business groups who invested both time and money into influencing the vote. The proposal requires a $15 minimum wage for many workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Gary Smith, a spokesman for opposition group Common Sense SeaTac, said officials with the campaign discussed the prospect of a recount Friday morning. No decisions have been made, Smith said, and there’s still hope that the remaining ballots will trend in their favor.

In the meantime, both sides are working on contacting voters who have had ballots challenged due to mismatched or missing signatures.

“This is kind of a civics class example of why every vote matters,” Smith said.

King County officials are working to count the final batches of votes, and some additional ballots that have signature verification problems may be counted in the coming days as voters confirm their identities.

Election results will be certified November 26th. Campaigns can request a recount within two days of certification, but they will have to pay for the cost of the count. The costs are 15 cents for each ballot in a machine recount or 25 cents for each ballot in a manual recount.

So far the race has had fewer than 6,000 votes, so the cost of a recount could be under $1,000 or closer to $1,500.

On election night, the initiative was leading by a 261-vote margin, leading supporters to declare victory. But they have since lost much of that advantage. After the ballot drop Saturday, the measure was passing with 2,936 “yes” votes compared to 2,890 “no” votes.

Washington has the nation’s highest state minimum wage at $9.19 an hour; the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

Proponents say the plan will support the local economy and particularly help thousands of workers who could use the money. Opponents express concern about the impacts on businesses and contend that the plan’s enforcement may end up costing the small city of SeaTac money.

Heather Weiner, a spokeswoman for the campaign to support the initiative, said workers in the area have been calling to ask about whether their wages will increase next year. For some, Weiner said, the increase could influence Christmas shopping decisions in the coming weeks.

Weiner said campaign workers are telling everyone to be patient. While they expect a recount, they are hoping to build enough lead that the campaign won’t have much of a worry if there is a recount.

“My hope is that we will be far enough ahead,” Weiner said.

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