by David Ammons | August 31st, 2009
King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector has heard arguments in a court case challenging the state Election Division’s signature-checking for Referendum 71, the attempt by foes of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law to force a public vote on the legislation in November.
The judge took the case under advisement and said she will rule on Wednesday morning.
That is the same time frame as Secretary of State Sam Reed’s for certifying R-71 to the ballot. The Elections Division announced Monday afternoon that sponsors had exceeded by about 900 signatures the 120,577 minimum needed to qualify for the ballot. Final numbers were expected to broaden that margin a bit as formerly rejected signatures are found on the lists of newly registered voters.
Arguments by supporters of the new law centered around the acceptance of over 35,000 signatures without a full declaration on the petitions signed by the signature-gatherer, and whether it is valid to accept signatures of people who signed up to become voters at the same time they signed petitions. The Elections Division has accept signers who are found on current lists of registered voters, and has not rejected voter signatures on petitions without the full declaration by the solicitor.
Secretary of State Sam Reed and the elections office are represented by Jeff Even, senior deputy solicitor general with the attorney general’s office. The challengers’ attorney is David Burman and the R-71 sponsors’ lawyer is Stephen Pidgeon.
Challengers also have five days after Reed certifies the measure to the ballot to file suit in Thurston County Superior Court. R-71 sponsors also are suing the state in federal court to block the planned release of R-71 petitions to those who file a public records request. That case will be heard in Judge Benjamin Settle’s court in Tacoma on Thursday.
State Elections Director Nick Handy says the state and county elections offices need to know definitively by Sept. 10 whether R-71 is on the ballot. The state has to print 3 million Voters’ Pamphlets — with or without the text of the 120-page “everything but marriage” bill, and counties have to have their ballots printed, with or without R-71. By law, ballots have to be in the mail for military and overseas voters by Oct. 3.