BULLHEAD CITY — Proposition 415 is too close to call.
And it could remain that way until next week.
Both Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter and Shawn Bradford, EPCOR Water Arizona’s vice president of corporate services, were cautious about Tuesday night’s partial vote totals that currently puts the “Yes” total less than 3 percentage points ahead of the “No” total: 4,549 (51.2%) versus 4,335 (48.8%) — a difference of only 214 votes from a total vote count of 8,884, according to an online posting from the Mohave County Elections Department.
“For a city election, this has been a record-breaker because it’s an important issue,” Cotter said. “There are strong feelings on both sides.”
He said the small gap between supporters and opponents is remarkable because of the difference in campaign budgets between the two political action committees, H2O Committee and Taxpayers Against City Takeover.
H2O, a community group, raised a total of about $26,000 while TACT had deposits this year from EPCOR USA of roughly $400,000, according to campaign finance documents.
“This was a hard-fought campaign. Neither side left anything on the table,” said Bradford. “I think at this point no matter the outcome, it’s clear to us this is an important and emotional issue for the voters in Bullhead City.”
One of the H2O members was optimistic about the results.
“I don’t think there’s enough votes that came in today that would change the result,” said Royanne Ortiz. “I’m very, very positive we won this one. The community came together and secured the future.”
The department posted preliminary unofficial results of the mail-only election seconds after the 7 p.m. ballot deadline — even though ballots from the Bullhead City branch of the Mohave County Library hadn’t arrived at the elections office in Kingman.
That was according to plan; earlier in the week, elections officials indicated that the numbers posted on the county’s election website would reflect ballots already received by mail or in person in Kingman. Replacement ballots were available at the library and completed ballots were dropped off there, too. It was the only replacement center for the Bullhead City ballot.
Mohave County Elections Director Allen Tempert said that his department would be working on the ballots that were dropped off at the ballot replacement centers and he expects it all to be done by the beginning of next week.
Tempert said that he hoped to post final, unofficial election tallies by Nov. 12 or 13. Election results will not become official until they are canvassed by the Mohave County Board of Supervisors.
Proposition 415 asked voters to approve or reject authorization for the City of Bullhead City to pursue acquisition of the local water system from EPCOR Arizona Water. The bond question capped the amount to be financed at $130 million; EPCOR has reported its system is worth more than that while the city has countered that it is worth considerably less.
County officials said that 22,772 ballots were mailed to eligible Bullhead City voters; the 8,884 votes counted as of the 7 p.m. posting represented a 39% voter response.
In the only other election in Mohave County on Tuesday — also a mail-in question — Kingman Unified School District voters appear to have soundly defeated a bond issue. The measure, which would have authorized issuance of $35 million in bonds to fund repairs to district buildings, drew 7,806 “no” votes (63%) and 4,498 “yes’ votes (36%).