Results Of Tight Vote On Spaceport Tax Might Not Be Known Until Friday


Thursday, April 5th 2007, 6:03 pm
By: News On 6


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) _ The official outcome of a vote on a tax to pay for a tourism spaceport in southern New Mexico probably won't be known until Friday, but supporters of the project were already claiming victory.

Residents of Dona Ana County voted Tuesday on whether to approve a sales tax to raise an estimated $49 million toward the state-supported Spaceport America, which backers say could be an economic boon. Provisional ballots were still being counted Thursday, election officials said.

However, supporters of the project claimed victory, citing unofficial tallies.

``Based on unofficial results, the spaceport ballot initiative has passed,'' Gov. Bill Richardson said in a news release late Thursday.

Unofficial results showed the tax leading by several dozen votes out of more than 17,000 cast, but 571 provisional ballots were still being counted. If voters reject the tax, the project could falter.

The count will probably end Friday, said county election supervisor Lynn Ellins.

Provisional ballots are cast by people whose names don't appear on the voting roster or who cannot meet identification requirements. The clerk's office must check each ballot to make sure the person is registered and hadn't already voted.

The planned $198 million complex would cover 27 square miles near White Sands Missile Range, where the U.S. launched its first rocket after World War II. Its anchor tenant would be British millionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Branson envisions starting suborbital rocket flights, at about $200,000 a person, in 2009. Eventually, the spaceport could offer trips into orbit and beyond.