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Latest count shows Measure 92 supporters narrowing deficit

The narrow majority no voters held 11 days ago in Oregon's GMO labeling measure is melting away.

While elections officials evaluate the validating of a few thousand uncounted ballots, the pro Measure 92 forces are picking up steam, both in the tally and digital communications.

The day after polls closed, the nays led by a margin of about 13,000 votes, or 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. Two days ago, the advantage of no voters had dwindled to 6,349 votes, according to the Secretary of State's office, a margin of 50.21 percent to 49.79. On Friday, the trend continued, with the difference falling to 5,186 votes — 743,515 (50.17 percent) to 738,329 (49.83 percent).

"At this point we're just making sure every vote is counted," said Kevin Glenn, the press secretary for the Yes on 92 campaign. "We've been watching the returns and we feel the race is definitely too close to call."

Without explaining how Oregon Right to Know was keeping tabs on the counting, Glenn said his organization is monitoring the process.

"We're in contact with the whole state voting apparatus to make sure everything goes as it should," Glenn said. 

Measure 92 detractors say they aren't losing sleep over the matter. 

"We still think the outcome is going to hold," said Katie Fast, the Oregon Farm Bureau's public policy vice president, whose organization opposed the measure.

"We're really proud of the campaign we ran."

Fast wasn't bothered by the prospect of a possible recount.

"My understanding is that a recount has never resulted in an overturn of a ballot measure," Fast said.

In comparison to other election races, she said, 92 isn't all that close.

"There's a Polk County commissioner race where the difference was two votes (Thursday). That puts into perspective for me, there are just a lot of close races this year."

Tony Green, spokesman for Secretary of State Kate Brown, said the margin hasn't yet reached automatic recount territory of less than 2/10ths of 1 percent.

"We'll know more Tuesday," Green said. "After that, voters can no longer fix their signatures, and those votes are off the table."

Some votes that haven't been totaled yet are from ballots dropped in counties outside the voter's residence.

"It happens a lot if you work in Portland and live in Beaverton, so that Multnomah County has to send its ballots to Washington County," Green said. "The same thing is true for people living west Salem. They live in Polk County, but often work in Marion County."

Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker said that of the 838 people whose signatures required validation or needed to sign their ballot envelopes, about 20 had responded.

"Right now we're sitting on about 1,000 ballots that are included in the turnout, but not counted," Walker said.

Four two-person election boards were sorting through ballots Friday.

"There's not enough to change a statewide vote, but the cumulative numbers could change things," Walker said.

Voters whose signatures or eligibility are in question have until Nov. 18 to get their ballots remedied.The numbers will be certified Nov. 24.

In an email to its supporters Thursday, Food Democracy Now, an organization supporting GMO challenges here and elsewhere, wrote: "The Challenged Ballot Chase in On! This is groundbreaking and could shift the election our way! Oregon is an all vote by mail state with a new law that allows us to contact voters with challenged ballots to makes sure their vote is counted for our side if that was the voter’s intent."

County elections officials must contact voters whose ballots are in question. Walker said her office sent out letters early this week.

"We are in unchartered territory right now and need everyone to step up to make sure we can win this," Food Democracy wrote. "As of (Thursday), Monsanto and the Big Food lobbyists will be sending planefuls of lawyers to Oregon to try to block our success. As they have before, the opposition will use every intimidation tactic in the books to stop us from winning but we’re counting on you to help us make sure we have the resources we need to chase down these final votes."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.