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.
In 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.