by Christina Siderius | August 27th, 2009
Are you dreaming about signature checks yet? No?! Then get ready for our team to talk you through your R-71 signature check question in our daily “5 Questions” post. You’re scratching your head about the jumble of numbers and knowing what you’re voting for … but not for long …
Q) When is the check going to end? It seems like it has been going on for a long time …
A) The end is right around the corner! Our Elections Director just last night announced that the check is almost done and should be finished by Tuesday, Sept. 1, at the latest. This is based on the rate the checkers have reviewed signatures – there are only about 20,000 signatures left to be checked. We believe it’s still too close to predict whether R-71 will make it on the November ballot … but we will be able to announce whether it has made it or not when the check is completely finished and all signatures are carefully reviewed. Stay tuned.
Q) I’m confused about how I’m supposed to vote if R-71 makes it to the ballot. If it gets on the ballot, and I don’t support the referendum, I’m supposed to vote “approved”? And if it gets on the ballot, and I do support the referendum, I’m supposed to vote “rejected”? This seems backwards.
A) When a referendum makes it on the ballot, you are not voting on whether or not you favor the referendum! Instead, you are voting “approve” or “reject” on the actual BILL the Legislature passed this past session – the bill that this referendum is challenging.
If R-71 appears on the ballot, you will be making a choice as to whether you agree or disagree with the state’s adoption of Senate Bill 5688 – the “everything but marriage” law – that expands state rights and responsibilities to state-registered domestic partners. If you are for this law, you will vote “approve” for the state to keep it. If you are not for the law, you will vote “reject” for the state to get rid of it.
It can seem a bit strange, but this is why it is so important to be informed about what you are voting on. Be sure to read everything carefully, and do your research before you return your ballot!
(Moderator’s Note: This post has been corrected 8/28 to better reflect the exact ballot language you’ll see if this makes it in November. As one of our readers pointed out, the ballot actually requires to you to vote “approve” or “reject — not “yes” or “no”)
Q) You mentioned that only the master checkers can see the master live statewide database, and the master checkers only check the rejected sigs. So what database do the checkers use on the first round to accept and reject signatures?
A) Because of security, not everyone is given access to the live statewide database – which is fluid and changes each day as people tie the knot, change their names, move to a bigger house, move to a smaller house, and so on. Most checkers work off of a recent “snapshot” or copy of the live statewide database. If the signature is found and matched during this step, it has been identified and is counted. If a signature cannot be found on that copy by an additional checker, then we check the name against the live database to make sure this person hasn’t recently registered, moved, changed their name, etc. Read up about checkers and master checkers in our FAQs.
Q) Why report names as “rejected” on the spreadsheets when they have not yet gone through the third and final check? They aren’t definitively rejected even if they’re in the rejected pile? (My head hurts.)
A) There are multiple steps in this very painstaking signature check process – and understanding the daily numbers, which will shift slightly depending on what check they are going through, can leave some feeling a bit dizzy (sorry about your head!). Since the “rejected” signatures go through additional sleuthing to make sure those names really truly cannot be found in our database, there are instances where an initially rejected signature will move to the accepted pile. That is simply part of the process, and one we have talked a lot about here.
We are trying to release as much data as we can so that you can track the process. However, the most telling number really is the “approved” signature pile. This is the pile to watch. When it comes down to it, 120,577 is the magic number – this is how many approved signatures are required to get the referendum on the ballot. The other “piles” are simply listed for your information.
Q) The Secretary of State says it considers the names on the petitions to be public records, and wants them released – but what about the issue of using the records to harass individuals who signed? Shouldn’t you be preventing that?
A) The Elections Division has a consistent policy of granting public-records requests for initiative and referendum petition sheets. There is no statute that permits the state to deny the request or to black out any of the fields, such as the voter’s signature. Our office has been very vocal about cautioning against the use of legitimate public records to harass or intimidate voters for exercising their constitutionally protect right of initiative and referendum. We do not condone the use of a record to bully someone, but we do feel that it’s the public’s right to have access to these records and that the law is very clear about making them available.
Have a question about the R-71 checks? If you can’t find it in our comprehensive R-71 FAQs, then leave us a comment and our team will do our best to answer or clarify in our daily “5 Questions” posts. You may also want to watch our video of the check to give you a visual on the process.