SALT LAKE CITY — The Associated Press on late Friday afternoon called the races for Utah ballot initiatives expanding Medicaid coverage and legalizing medical marijuana.
But Proposition 4, the state's anti-gerrymandering initiative, continues to walk a thin line between pass and fail as more vote tallies are released.
The Associated Press' projections on two of the ballot initiatives came on the heels of additional vote totals being released in 16 of Utah's 29 counties, including Salt Lake, Utah, Davis and Weber counties.
Proposition 2, the medical marijuana legalization measure, was sitting at 52.75 percent support shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, with 877,055 votes cast on the issue.
Full Medicaid expansion in Utah, represented by Proposition 3, had garnered 53.63 percent support from 860,241 Utahns who have thus far had their vote counted.
The campaigns for both Proposition 2 and Proposition 3 had already declared victory this week, assured by initial election returns that they had a strong enough margin to avoid any late surprises.
Last month, Gov. Gary Herbert announced he would call a special legislative session, regardless of the vote outcome on Proposition 2, to pass a compromise bill major supporters and opponents of the ballot initiative had agreed to support. Herbert and legislative leaders expect the special session to occur Dec. 3, two days after Proposition 2 becomes law.
Following the release of Friday's additional totals, Proposition 4 sat at 50.27 percent in support and 49.73 percent opposed. Just 4,619 votes — out of 842,319 thus far counted — separate the issue.
The percentages represent a tightening in the reported vote since late on Election Day, when support for Proposition 4 was sitting roughly 1.3 percent higher.
The Proposition 4 campaign, Better Boundaries, told campaign staff in an email this week that the vote is "currently too close to call."
The email said "it may take several days (if not longer) to have a real sense of how our race will end."
Another email was sent by Better Boundaries to supporters on Friday, telling them "the race could come down to just a handful of votes." The second message asked those who submitted their vote by mail, or filled out an absentee or provisional ballot, to "take just a moment to go online and confirm that your ballot has been counted" by visiting www.vote.utah.gov.
Proposition 4 organizers put the measure on the ballot as a mechanism by which to push back against a practice called gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of political boundaries to favor one party or candidate over another.
If passed, the initiative would establish a seven-member independent redistricting commission, appointed by elected officials in both major parties, which would recommend political boundary adjustments to the Utah Legislature that reflect population shifts in Utah shown by the once-per-decade federal census. The boundaries affected would be those for congressional seats, state legislative districts, and state school board positions.
State lawmakers would be required to formally accept or reject the commission's recommendations.
Asked for comment on the newly tallied votes Friday, campaign co-chairmen Jeff Wright and Ralph Becker provided a statement saying they were "cautiously optimistic that when all the votes are counted, the people of Utah will have passed Proposition 4."
"In the meantime, we will continue to monitor progress as the counties process mail-in and provisional ballots," the statement said.
The Better Boundaries campaign declined to comment any further on the updated numbers.
The governor said of Proposition 4 that he is "a little surprised that the vote on it is so close."4 comments on this story
"I think everybody supports having the fairness and equity in how you draw congressional district lines," Herbert told the Deseret News. "Nobody complains about the (state) legislative lines that we've drawn, Democrat or Republican, and so I think the idea of having recommendations, of helping guide the decision of the Legislature, doesn't hurt anybody. They might have some things that they'll tweak here and there."
Tens of thousands of votes remained uncounted in the state as of Friday, including in Salt Lake and Utah counties, the former being strongly in favor of Proposition 4 and the latter being heavily against it out of the votes counted so far.