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Washington GMO Labeling Initiative Losing, but Not Done

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Washington state's GMO labeling measure appears to be going down in defeat, early results show.

With slightly less than a million votes counted, the current tally on Ballot Initiative 522, which would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms, show those opposed leading by about 536,000 (54.8 percent) to 442,000 (45.2 percent). The figures represent about a quarter of the state's 3.9 million registered voters, so more votes are on the way.

The delay in the final vote total is due to the fact that Washington is a mail-in ballot state, and it will count any ballots postmarked by Nov. 5, even if those ballots arrive at the end of the week. As a result, the tally on election night often only reflects about 60 percent of the votes that ultimately will be received, according to Brian Zylstra, a spokesman for Washington's Office of the Secretary of State.

If that holds true in this election, with 997,566 ballots counted on election night, another 665,044 could be in the mail.

Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the "Yes on I-522" campaign tells POLITICO that given the spread out returns, the campaign remains optimistic that the final results will support the measure.

"Usually with Washington State campaigns, it tends to be that the more conservative vote tends to come in earlier   so we knew going into tonight that we would either be down or it would be very close," Larter said. Voters in King County - the state's most populous and home to Seattle - who have supported the measure in polling, tend to mail their ballots at the last minute, and so election results often "take a couple of days to catch up."

The Associated Press, in its coverage of the measure, has described I-522 as "failing in early returns," but has yet to predict a winner. Predictions on the percentage of registered voters who would participate in the election has ranged from 30 percent to more than 50 percent, so the vote count could nearly double. Most importantly, only about 22.4 percent of the registered voters in King County have been collected, and among those the measure is leading 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent.

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