In a real squeaker, a few thousand voters put the half-cent sales tax over the 66.67 percent line, as Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters' employees toiled in the predawn hours trying to gather up and count a few wayward voting precincts.

Los Angeles County will now have the highest sales tax in California, tied with much more upscale Alameda County, now that voters appear to have approved Proposition R.

But some precincts weren't counted for hours and hours, leaving the Los Angeles County vote total incomplete until about 3 a.m. Then, suddenly, at about 3:35 a.m., a few final totals from screwed-up precincts located inside the Los Angeles city limits (what a surprise), came rolling in.

While the new sales tax apparently passed, those final votes showed the problem with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spending so much of his time flying out of state and raising money for his mayoral bid in the spring of 2009 instead of tending to city business.

Villaraigosa's gang tax, which he never really explained in serious detail to the public, and perhaps did not really understand himself, did not get the required 66.67 percent needed for a new tax. (It was intended to be a tax on each parcel of land in the city.)

He needed only a few thousand additional Angelenos to believe in his anti-gang plan and hand him $36 per piece of land. But they didn't believe.

Here are the final Measure A (some say Proposition A) Gang Tax numbers from L.A. County officials: YES: 567,560 or 66.12 percent. NO: 290,799 or 33.88 percent.

Meanwhile, propelled by huge numbers of Latino and black voters, L.A. County shifted into the Yes on Proposition 8 column early and stayed there, helping the effort to ban gay marriage, whose proponents claimed victory at a party in Orange County (although no official victory was announced during the long night by Secretary of State Debra Bowen).

Prop. 8's success in L.A. was a big surprise for many poll-watchers, because L.A. County is liberal on social issues. But when you woo all kinds of new people into the election process who don't normally vote, you never know what — or who — you're going to end up with.

The urban coalition of “hardly ever participate” voters who turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama included many thousands of black and Latino voters who also used that opportunity to mark the “yes” box for 8.

That will be grist for debate for weeks if Prop. 8 is officially declared a winner later this morning.

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