Despite narrow loss, CCC toll opponents aren't done yet

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 13, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 13 at 6:41 PM

NEW ORLEANS - A legal challenge may be in the wings as the final votes are counted in the Crescent City Connection bridge toll referendum.

Tuesday, the Orleans Board of Election Supervisors counted the final military mail in and overseas ballots of the November 6 election.

Of the 20 additional votes cast on the toll issue, 14 supported the continuation of the CCC tolls and 6 were against.

"It appears that the tolls are going to be maintained for another 20 years," said election board president Jay Batt.

The final votes doubled the margin of victory for the toll referendum from 8 to 16 votes.

"We think it should have went the other way," said Mark Zimmer who heads the group Citizens Against The Tolls. "310,000 people voted and we lose by 16 votes. So, we put up a really hard fought fight."

I think it's the democratic process at its finest," said Lee Giorgio, Chairman of the Jefferson Business Alliance. "I think our community is a big winner today. I think those who put faith in the state that they were going to provide the services are just kidding themselves."

Pro-toll advocates say the $21 million in toll money a year is needed to make sure the CCC is lit, maintained and secured at its current level.

No tollers call it an unfair tax and are expected to challenge the final vote.

"We still have 30 days," said Zimmer. "We may file an appeal. 16 votes, that's close. It probably does warrant an investigation and a recount to make sure that those votes stand."

Chris Kane, an attorney representing business groups supporting the tolls says there is no need for a legal challenge.

"There's been no indication of any incorrect counting or any issues regarding the counting of the election," said Kane. "If something comes to light, we certainly would love to know about it. But, again we haven't heard anything."

State Representative Pat Connick, R-Marerro, an outspoken critic of the tolls has launched an official inquiry into the CCC vote.

He is asking Orleans Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell for the total number of walk-in ballots, mail in ballots, early voting mail in ballots and provisional ballots.

Connick is also seeking the total number of early voting, mail in ballots disqualified in the parish. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu supported the continuation of the CCC tolls.

Tuesday, he said more work needs to be done to make sure the toll money is spent wisely. "I think the public has opined about it and I think it's just the first step," said Landrieu. "The second step is to create that organizational structure that will not engage in waste, fraud or abuse and make sure that money is spent in the best interest of the people who pay the tolls and use the bridge."

Orleans election officials are expected to officially certify the vote by Wednesday at noon.

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