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Controversial tweet leads to questions about $1B ballot measure

SEATTLE -- Laura Dodson knows a thing or two about numbers.


Dodson, an accountant, was doing yard work at her boyfriend's Maple Leaf home earlier this month when workers for the Move Seattle levy came knocking. He expressed his disapproval for the ballot measure, which asks voters to allocate $930 million for walking, cycling, and transportation improvements in Seattle.

"Absolutely, he did not agree with this levy at all," Dodson said. "He disagreed a bit with the proposition and so (the worker) backed off and said, 'oh, okay.'"

For a woman who has a built a career on mathematics, calculations, and counting, Dodson was puzzled by a number she saw shortly after. The campaign tweeted that it visited more than 600 households in the neighborhood and that "0% oppose" the measure.

"It's inaccurate. I expect that all of their statements are vetted and that they've been verified and that there's a basis for what they say," she said. "It makes me question their ability to add up numbers."

Dodson called the campaign out on Twitter, and got the Maple Leaf blog involved. A campaign worker responded to Dodson, writing, "Never suggested it was a scientific poll, or even a poll. Just happy about a good day canvassing."

A campaign spokeswoman said Monday that the posted numbers reflected "targeted voters" who were surveyed that day.

"I want to clarify that tweet was not a scientific poll and by no means were we implying there is no opposition," said Shefali Ranganathan, deputy director of the Transportation Choices Coalition. "I think what got lost -- when you're looking at a few characters on Twitter -- is the context of it, and the context is really that we are reporting on what we heard from folks we're targeting."

Ranganathan said volunteers were reaching out to "likely supporters" in Maple Leaf the weekend the statistics were tweeted.

"We recognize there is opposition and we're happy to have that conversation in terms of what folks' concerns are," she continued, "I think it was a simple tweet from an overeager volunteer."

Dodson, who lives in Shoreline, said the whole experience made her question other numbers put out by the campaign, which would cost voters almost $1 billion over nine years.

"It can't be just going around deciding nobody disagrees with you," Dodson said. "It seems unlikely that there would be any levy or vote where 100 percent of the people would oppose or 100 percent agree."

"It made me feel that his vote or his opinion didn't matter," she said.

The organization deleted the tweet on Tuesday. A Move Seattle spokesman said, "As Shefali said yesterday, it wasn't possible to provide adequate context in a 140 character tweet. And it had become a distraction that was taking away from the substantive issues of the campaign, so we took it down."

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