The Stranger Election Glee Club is... well, gleeful about this result. We strongly believe the monorail will be the shot of octane necessary to create a dense, affordable, hopping city. The 14-mile Green Line will eventually jump-start a web of routes, giving people a better way to live, work, and play in Seattle. It's a Seattle-centric solution that is, in our estimation, the only way to enhance regionalism while creating a bona fide, manageable centerpiece for the Puget Sound region.
According to numbers released by King County Elections at 3:35 p.m. on Tuesday, November 19, the monorail squeaked by with a razor-thin margin of 868 votes, receiving 50.2 percent of the more than 185,000 votes cast. There were about 20 votes left to count as we went to press. (It's no wonder the monorail barely won; anti-monorail campaigner Henry Aronson clearly outmaneuvered the lifeless pro-monorail campaigners, who relied on a "run-out-the-clock strategy" rather than building on the project's base of populist appeal.)
The final result came down to the last 3,900 or so absentee ballots. Though the monorail won 54 percent of Election Day voters' support, ending the night with a 4,500-vote lead, the tens of thousands of absentee ballots that trickled in over the ensuing two weeks went consistently against the monorail despite predictions to the contrary, shrinking the project's advantage with each batch counted.
On Monday, November 18, the penultimate release of 5,400 ballots from the 37th District (which voted heavily against the system) briefly tipped the overall count against the monorail by three votes, setting the stage for Tuesday's dramatic announcement. The small final batch, mostly comprising absentee ballots handed in at polling places on Election Day, put the monorail over the top.
The win comes despite the pro-monorail campaign's belief that King County Executive Ron Sims (chair of Sound Transit, the monorail's rival public transportation project) oversaw a suspect election at King County. The campaigners cite various red flags: county deceptions about mailing out late absentee ballots, batches of votes residing in the King County offices rather than the vote-count depot, and awkward, slow vote counting, whereupon new batches of anti-monorail ballots miraculously turned up.
Nonetheless, the final result, which reached pro-monorail supporters after campaign staffers Chris Gregorich and Stephanie Stauffer got the numbers firsthand from the ballot counters, was greeted with cheers from the monorail crowd. Peter Sherwin, co-chair of the campaign, actually got the word on the victory when a KIRO radio reporter called him at his home asking for a quote on Tuesday afternoon. Sherwin called The Stranger a few minutes later. "We won," he said quietly, adding, "What an awesome statement this is for the power of the people. You just can't take the popular out of monorail." Shortly afterward, Sherwin headed down to the Westlake Mall monorail stop, where a gathering had been planned for 5:00 p.m.--win or lose.
The initial Green Line (the first part of which should be up and running by 2007, according to Elevated Transportation Company projections) is estimated to cost $1.7 billion; the money will be raised by a 1.4 percent motor vehicle excise tax levied on Seattle residents.