The Secretary of State’s Election Division is asking the Washington State Patrol to look into apparent fraud by a petition-gatherer for Initiative 1098.
The initiative, a plan for a high-wage earner income tax and lower other taxes, apparently is headed to the statewide ballot. Crews are mid-way through a random check of signatures. Sponsors submitted about 350,000 signatures on about 25,000 petition sheets, and a random sample of 11,545 signatures are being checked.
As part of the standard practice of doing an initial check of each and every petition sheet before the signature validation process begins, 20 petition sheets, all collected by the same gatherer, were identified as problematic. About 350 names, signatures and addresses are being investigated. The gatherer signed the back of each of the questioned petitions.
Elections Director Nick Handy said “the investigation is ongoing,” and that the Secretary of State’s Office was notifying the Washington State Patrol, the state attorney general and local authorities. Handy on Thursday formally requested the patrol to investigate and make the “proper referral to the appropriate law enforcement authorities” as warranted.
Initiative signature fraud is a Class C felony punishable by prison time.
Under terms of a state restraining order, the petition sheets in question cannot be released to the public at this point.
Secretary of State Sam Reed said:
“We intend to get to the bottom of this. We take our role of protecting the state’s initiative process very, very seriously. There are laws against fraud and we will vigorously pursue this situation.”