Judge Hands Win to BART Backers

Quick ruling

The folks who want to bring BART to the South Bay are smiling today.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch today denied a  temporary restraining order requested by opponents of a measure to extend Bay  Area Rapid Transit to Santa Clara County.

Opponents of Measure B filed a lawsuit to prevent Santa Clara  County elections officials from certifying results from the Nov. 4 election.

The opponents were seeking a manual recount of 10 percent of  precincts for the measure, which barely garnered the two-thirds support it  needed to pass, winning 66.78 percent of the vote.

Despite today's scheduled court hearing, Santa Clara County  officials went ahead and certified the election results early this morning.

The lawsuit seeking the manual recount was filed just yesterday.

Measure B authorizes a one-eighth-cent sales tax to fund a 16-mile  Bay Area Rapid Transit extension to the South Bay.

The environmental non-profit group Transportation Solutions  Defense and Education Fund, known as TRANSDEF, filed suit against Santa Clara  County Registrar of Voters Jesse Durazo and California Secretary of State  Debra Bowen, TRANSDEF president David Schonbrunn said.

The Secretary of State's Emergency Regulations on Post Election  Manual Tallies "requires that in election contests where the margin of  victory is less than half of one percent a manual tally of 10 percent of the  precincts of the contested race be conducted in addition to that already  required by Elections Code section 15360," according to a memo from the  Secretary of State's Office.

The Secretary of State's Office would not comment on the  regulation's applications to races that require a two-third vote.

Schonbrunn said the problem is the regulations do not specify.

"They only thought of ballot measures that required a majority  vote," he said. "We think it's completely an oversight on their part, but  instead of helping us resolve it they've put up procedural roadblocks."

Schonbrunn said equal protection under the law should require a  recount for Measure B, even though the regulations are unclear.

"What we know for sure is that the margin of victory is less than  one vote per precinct, and that's close enough that you have to look at it  manually," he said.

The cost of a post-election manual tally for Measure B had not been determined.

The BART expansion would run from Fremont  through Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara, adding six stops to the line.

The $6.1 billion project would also connect BART with Caltrain,  the Altamont Commuter Express, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority  lines, Amtrak and the future high-speed rail line.

Funding for the project will come from 2000 Measure A and the  state of California, Guardino said. Measure B will provide the operating and  maintenance costs for the system, which now allows project leaders to go back  to the federal government to secure the last portion of construction funding,  he said.

The one-eighth sales tax will only be collected if state and  federal funding is also in place. The tax would be in effect for 30 years and  construction would begin in 2013, according to the county.

The project is projected for completion as early as 2017,  proponents said.

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