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Reed certifies R-71 to fall ballot

by David Ammons | September 2nd, 2009

Secretary of State Sam Reed has certified Referendum 71 to the Nov. 3 statewide ballot in Washington state.  Barring a successful 11th-hour court challenge, voters will decide the fate of a newly adopted state law that gives state-registered domestic partners the full array of rights and responsibilities that married couples have.

IMG_5430In brief ceremonies at the state Elections Division headquarters near the state Capitol, Reed signed paperwork certifying that sponsors had submitted the requisite number of valid Washington voter signatures to secure a ballot spot. The final tally showed that checkers accepted 122,007 signatures, 1,430 more than the bare minimum required, 120,577. It went right down to the wire: the sponsors passed the bare minimum only on Monday, when the check and double-checks were nearly complete.  It is described by state Elections Director Nick Handy as possibly the narrowest margin ever for a measure winning a ballot spot.

Reed thanked the crew of about 30 checkers, calling the month-long signature check “a huge, huge job, particularly tough” with such intense daily scrutiny.

The Secretary’s action sets in motion the printing of a Voters’ Pamphlet and county ballots that include R-71, unless the courts should intervene. The Voters’ Pamphlet is required to carry every single word of the lengthy legislation; it will run to 37 pages of text.

Challengers on Wednesday failed to persuade King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector to block the public vote.  She said supporters of the domestic partnership law raised some good questions about how the signature-check was conducted, but concluded that the court has no legal authority to reject the signatures in question.  She noted that after Reed’s certification of the measure, a challenge can be brought in Thurston County Superior Court within five days.

The final daily report  by the Elections Division showed that checkers studied 137,881 signatures, accepted 122,007 and rejected 15,874 — 12,316 because the person wasn’t found in the voter rolls, 58 whose voter registration didn’t include an electronic version of their signature that could be compared with the petition, 1,396 where the signature didn’t match the one on file, and 2,104 duplicates.

The final error rate was 11.51 percent, the third lowest in the past 20 years. With the small pad the sponsors submitted, they could withstand no more than a 12.4 percent invalidation rate.

7 Responses to “Reed certifies R-71 to fall ballot”

  1. Rejection rates always go up as the counting continues yet with R-71 the rejection rate went down. Hmmm…..

  2. Speaking of ‘technicalities’, it’s interesting that the SoS ‘won’ the case in the state court on a ‘technicality’ — Judge Spector said she didnt have jurisdiction over the case and that it must be brought in Thurston County. However, it’s even more interesting what the judge found regarding the illegality of the SoS actions (these are quotes from the judge’s opinion):

    1) “The Secretary of State concedes that that he instructed his staff to accept signatures of voters who were not registered when they signed the petition. The court notes that the plain language of the Washington State Constitution and the Revised Code of Washington requires voters to be registered BEFORE signing. While it may be common practice for individuals to register simultaneously with signing referendum petitions, and it may even be good policy, that does not mean that the practice is in accordance with Washington law. No Washington court has ever considered this issue, but the state supreme courts in other jurisdictions have decided resoundingly against the Secretary of State’s position.”

    2) “Project Marriage Washington/Intervenor also admits that their members stamped the declaration of thousands of petitions with Mr. Stickney’s signature before filing the referendum petitions with the Secretary of State. Likewise, the Secretary of State concedes that he has accepted more than 35,000 signatures where the signature-gatherer’s declaration was either left blank or stamped en masse with Mr. Stickney’s signature. In making this determination, the Secretary of State has relied on an opinion by the Attorney General issued in 2006. That opinion states that RCW 29A.72.130 requires not that the signature-gatherer actually sign the declaration, but only that the declaration be printed on the back of each petition. Based on the statute’s plain language and the legislative history, this essentially renders the declaration meaningless…. Washington courts have yet to interpret the full requirements of this statute.”

    3) “Further, neither the Secretary of State nor PMW/Intervenor has addressed the plaintiff’s allegations of fraud whereby individuals were allegedly deceived into signing the petitions. Specifically, there are allegations that signature-gatherers told some individuals that the referendum could protect domestic partnerships when in fact just the opposite was true…. In addition, the highlights at the top of the petitions contain apparent falsehoods, hyperbole, and unsubstantiated claims.”

    4) “The required signature-gatherer’s declaration swears that the individuals who signed the petition did so ‘knowingly’. It is unclear whether a signature-gatherer can swear that an individual signer has signed the petition ‘knowingly’ when the signature-gatherer has allegedly misrepresented the contents of the petition. Neither the Secretary of State nor PMW/Intervenor has answered this question.”

    5) “It is conceded that the number of signatures represented by these inadequate petitions is significant. Without them, the Secretary of State could not certify Referendum 71 for the ballot.”

    6) “This court has no authority to prevent the Secretary of State for accepting these petitions in light of their questionable validity….[A]ny challenge … must be brought in the Superior Court in Thurston County within five days.”

    OKAY, let’s wait for the other shoe to drop in Thurston County, or on appeal of Judge Spector’s ruling.

  3. Neil, the observers from both sides were present while checkers were doing their job. Do you then suppose it is possible that the opponents of the bill actually did their job by collecting enough valid signatures? I think it is possible. What if the bill was passed to do opposite of what it is trying to accomplish and those who are now proponents of it happened to be on the opposite side of the fence and had to collect signatures? Would you still then question their credibility also?

  4. Elena,
    Why don’t you read Judge Spector’s decision that was issued today, and please answer your own question — Assume that R71 was proposed to stop a law that had been passed by the legislature to ban same-sex marriage, and then the petition submitters and the SoS acted the way that the R71 submitters and the SoS acted as to R71: Would you be happy if the SoS approved a petition with the major legal problems that Judge Spector referred to?? Somehow I think you would have a different viewpoint, but please read the Judge’s decision and then consider your own question.

  5. John Colgan says:

    Does Secretary Reed hold a public signing ceremony for every Referendum and Initiative?
    Or only those that his party he expressed support for?

    I don’t recall seeing any pictures on this blog of the signing ceremony for I-1033.

  6. This court has no authority to prevent the Secretary of State for accepting these petitions in light of their questionable validity….[A]ny challenge … must be brought in the Superior Court in Thurston County within five days.

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