Mt. Clemens— While voters in Oakland and Wayne Counties chose to approve a millage renewal for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) through 2021 by wide margins, Macomb County voters approved the measure by just 23 votes. The final unofficial results showed the millage passed in Macomb 77,502 to 77,479.
The results were 75,230 to 27,351 in Wayne County and 121,425 to 36,101 in Oakland, according to the Detroit News.
Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet said a recount petition is “likely” if the vote tally holds.
Drolet is also the leader of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, which opposed the SMART millage.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel said the close vote resulted from an opposition campaign that combined the passage of the millage with a separate regional transit plan.
“They were so deceptive,” Hackel told the Detroit News. “One of their mailers had a picture of the QLine on it.”
Drolet said the voters were not misled into opposing SMART and added that August voters are usually the most educated about issues.
“SMART is not some mystery program,” he told the Detroit News. “To voters, this is really about SMART, not the RTA [Regional Transit Authority.] It’s a bus tax. If we lose this, we will have missed an opportunity to create the transit we really need in Macomb County.”
Drolet previously called for a voucher system to pay for ride services like Lyft and Uber to replace SMART’s buses.
Macomb is the only county in SMART’s service area that disallows communities to opt out. Hackel pointed out that in Wayne County, Detroit and many other large communities have opted out of SMART.
Hackel said he could tell from his conversations with voters that the vote would be close.
“You can tell people all day that this wasn’t a regional transit millage,” he said. “Some of them just wouldn’t listen.”
Michael Grix, an election specialist with the Macomb County Clerk’s office, said it would cost $25 for each of the 338 precincts in Macomb County to do a recount, which creates a base cost of $8,450, with an added $25 for every absentee precinct.
He added that there’s nothing in the law to trigger an automatic recount and that someone seeking a recount would need to submit a petition within six days of a certified vote.
Drolet said the cost is “daunting a little bit”, but asked, “Is there any price we can put on getting an election right?”
The county clerk’s office said results will be certified next week.
SMART officials did not comment on the possibility of a recount.
“SMART has never dealt with these circumstances and therefore it will require time to research and discuss any decisions,” SMART general manager John Hertel said.
The measure will modestly increase the millage in Macomb and Oakland counties to 1 mill, which is what Wayne Country residents already pay.
SMART is Southeast Michigan’s only regional public transportation provider. Critics of the current system say there are cheaper and more efficient ways to provide the service. If any of the three counties had voted the renewal down, the service would have ended in that county within a few months.
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