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WA voters: Yes to gay marriage, Obama & Democrats … ?>

WA voters: Yes to gay marriage, Obama & Democrats …

But the governor’s race, the marquee state contest in the General Election, remains very close. 

Democrat Jay Inslee, who gave up a safe congressional seat to run for the office being vacated by two-term Gov. Chris Gregoire, led Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna 51.32 percent to 48.68 percent, or about 50,000 votes out of nearly 1.9 million counted.  Inslee told cheering supporters it looked like victory, but didn’t declare himself the winner in so many words.  McKenna, still seeing a path to victory as more votes come in, declined to concede.

Roughly 40 percent of the vote remains to be counted.  Inslee led in nine of the 39 counties. That included vote-rich King, where he was polling 63-37, for a plurality of 140k.

Another close statewide race was for Secretary of State.  Republican Kim Wyman had a lead of about 14,000 over Democrat Kathleen Drew.  Democrats led in all other contests for statewide office.

President Obama picked up Washington’s 12 electoral votes, as expected. He outpolled Mitt Romney 55-43.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, was returned to a third six-year term, polling 59-41 over Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.

Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene led in the open 10th, 6th and 1st U.S. House districts. Incumbents were easy winners in the other districts.

The Legislature again will have Democratic majorities to work with the new governor.

The state drew some national attention for its ballot measures:

–The state, along with Maryland and Maine, was apparently affirming same-sex marriage. R-74 was the text of the marriage equality bill passed by the Legislature last spring and placed on the ballot by opponents.  It was passing narrowly, 52-48, but proponents were already celebrating. The margin was about 68,000 with 1.9 million votes tallied, including a 65-35 affirmative vote in populous King County.

–By an even larger margin, 56-44 percent, the state was approving a plan, I-502, to authorize, regulate and tax recreational sales and use of marijuana by adults. The federal government said the vote does not change drug policies against marijuana growing, sales and use.

–Fourth time’s the charm? A plan to authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools, I-1240, was narrowly ahead.

–Tim Eyman’s perennial plan  to require a two-thirds supermajority to pass taxes in Olympia, I-1185, passed easily, with nearly two-thirds of the voters in favor — 65-35. The concept of a supermajority, however, is being challenged in the state Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the turnout was exceptionally strong, possibly higher than the 81 percent he initially forecast.

“There were so many significant decisions for voters to make, and so many interesting state and local ballot propositions. There was literally something for everyone, and I was so glad to see the Washington voters get so engaged in our elections.”

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases ?>

Doe v. Reed: Appeals Court upholds R-71 petition releases

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to Washington’s policy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions, specifically the Referendum 71 signatures submitted to force a public vote on the “everything but marriage” law three years ago.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said he was pleased with the decision and that it honors the state voters’ commitment to the Public Records Act and transparency in government.  Reed said he hopes the challengers will let the decision stand, now that the U.S. District Court and the Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in the state’s favor. Reed’s comment:

“We believe Washington residents expect open and accountable government, and it was the voters themselves who gave us our strong Public Records Act 40 years ago this year,” Reed said. “I am happy that disclosure of petitions has been without incident, and that the initiative and referendum process is alive and well, with no apparently ‘chilling’ of the process we hold dear.  I am glad that we are having civil debate this year over same-sex marriage and other difficult issues. We can disagree agreeably.”

This is the Centennial of the voters approving the initiative, referendum and recall process in Washington.

R-71 passed in 2009 with a 53 percent approval vote, upholding a new law the Legislature had passed for gay (more…)

Secretary Reed’s `robust’ turnout prediction? 81 percent ?>

Secretary Reed’s `robust’ turnout prediction? 81 percent

Secretary of State Sam Reed, Washington’s chief elections official, is predicting a robust voter turnout of 81 percent in the General Election that is currently underway.

Reed figures that Washington voters will be attracted by highly competitive races for president and governor, hot races for Legislature and Congress, and some of the most compelling ballot measures in the country.

Washington has nearly 3.9 million registered voters – an all-time high – and more are expected to be added, since new registrations are still being accepted in-person at county elections offices. About 150,000 new or reactivated registrations have been added since the August primary.

Washington’s historic average for presidential/gubernatorial year turnout since 1952 is 79.2 percent.

Reed, making his final turnout prediction before leaving office in January, said he expects a somewhat better-than-average participation due to the quality of the races and the ballot measures. Also, this is the first presidential/gubernatorial election conducted entirely by mail.

“It is true that there have been an avalanche of TV and radio commercials for months, blanket news coverage for the past year, and heavy spending by the campaigns. But the thing that drives turnout is whether you have compelling races and ballot measures that people care about.  We have that this year, big time.

“The presidential race has been front and center, and our open governor’s race has been highly competitive from the very opening bell.  Unusually, we have four wide-open statewide offices (governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and (more…)

WA 2012 election is underway! ?>

WA 2012 election is underway!

Washington’s long-awaited General Election is underway.

Over 3.85 million registered voters are being mailed their ballots by their county elections office, starting Wednesday, and the official Voters’ Pamphlet already has arrived in most Washington homes.

Voters are free to mark and return the ballots just as soon as they wish, Secretary of State Sam Reed noted today.  Postmark deadline is Nov. 6, although Reed strongly recommended that voters get their ballots in the mail several days ahead of that so their ballots are definitely postmarked on time.  Another increasingly popular option are county ballot drop boxes. Each county also has at least one centralized voting center for voters with handicaps; other voters also may use the facility.

Since Washington switched to vote-by-mail, the state no longer has poll-site voting.  The state has some of the best voter participation in the country.

Reed said he’s expecting a strong turnout this year:

“The presidential/gubernatorial election year always has the best turnout, and this year really has something for everyone.  We have a presidential race that is essentially tied at the national level and an open governor’s race that is very close and hotly contested.

“Four of our eight partisan statewide offices are wide open, including governor, secretary of state, attorney general and auditor, and we’re having our first election ever for the new 10th Congressional District that we were awarded after the 2010 Census.  We’ll also elect new legislators, fill a U.S. Senate seat, elect our judges, and decide numerous local issues and races.

“And our ballot measures!  We have probably the most exciting assortment in the country this year — including everything from same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana to charter schools and supermajority for taxes.  I expect the initiatives to draw hordes of both supporters and opponents.”

Katie Blinn and Shane Hamlin, state elections co-directors, said there is a wealth of solid voter information available, in addition to the print and online voters’ guides from state and county governments. A great online voter  information vault, called MyVote, is also a great place to get customized voter information via the Elections Division site, or  State races also are featured on the Video Voters’ Guide from TVW and the state Elections Division.

Online registration is closed for this election, but new registrations may be obtained in-person at your county elections office by Oct. 29.  Blinn said people can try to avoid long lines by not waiting until Oct. 29.

Charter-school I-1240 qualifies for statewide ballot ?>

Charter-school I-1240 qualifies for statewide ballot

And then there were six.

Secretary of State Sam Reed has certified charter-school Initiative 1240 to the November statewide ballot. It will be the fourth time Washington voters have dealt with the issue in the past 16 years.

The measure earned a place on the ballot after submitting over 357,000 signatures that sponsors collected in a remarkably short 21-day signature-gathering drive financed by powerful backers, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

With I-1240 getting the green light, Washington voters now will decide six ballot measures: initiatives dealing with a supermajority for tax votes taken in Olympia, charter schools and decriminalization of marijuana; a referendum on a new law permitting civil marriage by same-sex couples; and two noncontroversial amendments to the state Constitution.  Voters may also cast an advisory ballot on removal of a tax preference for certain large banks; the attorney general is currently studying whether a vote is triggered by a previously adopted initiative on taxes.

Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, said the wide assortment of hot-button issues should boost voter interest and turnout in the November General Election. He said:

“There certainly is something to intrigue just about everyone. In this Centennial year of Washington voters approving the initiative and referendum process, we are seeing vigorous use of `direct democracy’ by sponsors from across the political spectrum. We are also seeing a lot of national interest in our issues – and some very large contributions.  My challenge to all campaigns is that they be conducted in a civil manner and that advertising be forthright, clear and honest. The voters deserve that.”

Shane Hamlin and Katie Blinn, state elections co-directors, said I-1240 easily qualified for the ballot, despite sponsors’ very late start in collecting signatures. Sponsors brought in 357,252 signatures, far more than the bare minimum of 241,153 needed.  Of the random sample of 10,915, inspectors found 9,337 were valid, with the rest either invalid or duplicates.  The error rate was 16.2 percent, a little “cleaner” than the average of 18 percent.

The charter school measure will be making its fourth appearance on the ballot. The concept was (more…)

Eyman tax crackdown measure qualifies for ballot ?>

Eyman tax crackdown measure qualifies for ballot

Initiative activist Tim Eyman has secured a spot on the statewide General Election ballot for Initiative 1185, a plan to re-establish a voter mandate for a two-thirds vote in both houses for any taxes passed in Olympia.

Even as Secretary of State Sam Reed was signing the certification for I-1185, state Election Division workers were already at work on checking signatures for I-1240, a plan to authorize a limited number of publicly financed charter schools in Washington. That measure, also widely expected to make the ballot, could be ready by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.

The division’s website tracks the signature checks.

Eyman and his initiative team brought in 320,003 signatures and a full check of a random sample of 9,774 showed that to be sufficient to earn a place on the ballot.  The signature check turned up 8,446 valid signatures, 1,310 invalid signatures and 18 pairs of duplicates.  That was an error rate of 19.4, slightly higher than the historic average of 18 percent.

This will be the fifth time the tax supermajority issue has been on the ballot, three times with Eyman as the sponsor.  Eyman has won the issue twice and before that, voters approved the (more…)

Charter school fans, Eyman submit initiative sigs ?>

Charter school fans, Eyman submit initiative sigs

State Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle, a charter schools supporter, talks with the media after I-1240 signatures were submitted Friday morning.

Sponsors of two citizen initiatives have submitted signatures far in excess of the 241,000 bare minimum needed to qualify, and appear to be in good position to make the November statewide ballot. That would bring to six the number of state ballot propositions facing the voters, including gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization.

Friday — four months before Election Day — was the deadline to submit initiative petitions.  Out of the dozens that have been filed in 2012, two well-financed campaigns brought in large numbers of signatures. Backers of Initiative 1240, the proposal to authorize charter schools in Washington, submitted an estimated 350,000-plus signatures to the Secretary of State’s Elections Division. Then 90 minutes later, Tim Eyman and other tax rebels submitted an estimated 318,000 signatures for I-1185, to restate the two-thirds vote requirement for taxes passed in Olympia. Fee increases would require a legislative vote, but not supermajority passage.

I-1185 sponsor Tim Eyman displays the number of signatures he said were turned in Friday morning.

Both are widely expected to make the fall ballot, but the Elections Division will do a careful random sample to assure that over 241,000 valid signatures were turned in by Friday’s deadline. The Elections Division has recommended all initiative sponsors to bring in about 320,000 to cover the usual duplicates and invalid signatures. Both would appear to have met that test.

If both indeed qualify, that would make six ballot propositions for voters to consider.

Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, said the six ballot measures are “the high end of average” for a state election.

“This year’s crop, including marijuana and marriage, tax limits and charter schools, should make for a lively ballot and help turnout,” Reed said. “One hundred years after the voters approved the initiative and referendum, the process is alive and well in Washington.”

Neither charter schools nor two-thirds-for-taxes is a new issue for voters. This is the fourth attempt by charter school backers to gain voter approval. They came close in 2000 (48.2 percent yes, 51.8 percent no), and lost by large margins in 1996 and 2004.  Charter schools are (more…)

WA gay-marriage foes virtually assured of making fall ballot ?>

WA gay-marriage foes virtually assured of making fall ballot

UPDATE with additional signatures submitted:

Preserve Marriage Washington, opponents of Washington’s new law authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples, have submitted an estimated 242,000 petition signatures, virtually assuring a public vote this fall on whether to uphold or overturn the marriage measure, Senate Bill 6239. The action blocked the law from taking effect on Thursday.

Sponsors submitted about 232,000 signatures Wednesday morning, the final day to submit petitions for a referendum. They brought in roughly 10,000 more later in the day. The total is twice the bare number of voter signatures needed to make the ballot, and apparently a record for a referendum.  (R-48, a land-use measure rejected in 1995, qualified for the ballot with 231k signatures.)

Sponsors estimated that all but about 25,000 signatures were gathered by volunteers and churches; the last increment were gathered by paid crews.

The sponsors of R-74 now will be campaigning for voters to turn down the recently passed marriage law. Supporters of “marriage equality” will be campaigning for an affirmative vote. The question for voters will be whether to approve the same-sex marriage legislation or to reject it.

Absent the R-74 challenge, the marriage law would have gone into effect on Thursday. Assuming the signature verification check turns up at least 120,577 valid voter signatures, R-74 will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, and the law will be on hold until the voters speak, and until the election is certified on Dec. 6.

After sponsor Joseph Backholm (above) held a news conference, he submitted boxloads of signatures and crews (below) at the state Elections Division counted and numbered 16,723 (more…)

Here’s how signature check for R-74 works … ?>

Here’s how signature check for R-74 works …

How does the signature check for a referendum work, and what is the impact of a referendum challenge on the effective date of the recently enacted legislation (SB6239) authorizing civil marriage for same-sex couples?

The deadline for turning in Referendum 74 petitions to the State Elections Division is Wednesday, June 6.  Ordinarily, the marriage bill would be taking effect Thursday, June 7, but if opponents bring in signatures, the law doesn’t go into effect on schedule.  If a signature check shows the sponsors didn’t bring in enough valid signatures, the marriage law would go into effect. However, if the R-74 challenge is certified for a public vote in November, the law stays on hold until the voters have their say.  If R-74 is approved by voters, it will take effect 30 days after Election Day, Dec. 6. If rejected, the law will not take effect, of course.

Katie Blinn, state co-director of elections, gives this helpful rundown on how it all works:

•    If the sponsors believe that they do not have enough signatures, they will likely not submit the petitions at all because once the petitions are submitted to our office, they are public record and we will receive public records requests for them.
•    For a referendum, the sponsors need to submit at least 120,577 valid signatures of Washington registered voters.  Since many signatures will be invalid, because the signer is not registered to vote, the signer signed more than once, or the signature on the petition does not match the signature in the person’s voter registration record, we recommend that sponsors submit about 150,000 signatures.  The most common reason a signature is rejected is because the signer is not registered to vote.
•    On June 6, we will count the number of petition pages that the sponsors have submitted.  For a referendum, this will be in the ballpark of 10,000 pages.  We will likely finish the process of accepting the petitions and counting the petition pages in the late afternoon or early evening of Wednesday, June 6.
•    On Thursday, June 7, we will send the petitions to be imaged.  This is for safekeeping, in case something happens to the petitions during the signature check.
•    When the petitions return from imaging a few days later, we will go through the petitions page by page to count the gross number of signatures submitted.  This is actually more than just counting them because we eliminate signature lines that are clearly not real people, such as Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, so those lines are not included in the gross signature count.
•    If the gross signature count indicates that the sponsors have submitted less than 120,577 signatures, then our office could determine at that point that the measure does not qualify for the ballot and the suspension is lifted.  But this is highly unlikely since the sponsors themselves will also be counting the number of signatures submitted.
•    Assuming that the sponsors submit at least 120,577 signatures, we will then decide whether we can check a random sample of the signatures submitted, or must check all of the signatures submitted.  This decision is fairly critical because, for a referendum, it is the difference between checking 3,600 – 4,500 signatures in a random sample versus checking perhaps 130,000 signatures in a full check.  A random sample check could likely be finished in a few days.  A full check would likely take a few weeks.

The Secretary of State’s Office will not accept the R-74 petitions if it appears that there are not enough signatures.  If the sponsors appear to have filed the minimum number of signatures on June 6, the legislation is suspended until our office makes a final, official determination whether the measure qualifies for the ballot. If our office determines that the referendum does qualify for the 2012 General Election ballot, the legislation remains suspended until after the General Election.
•   It is difficult at this point to give a date on when that official determination on whether the measure qualifies for the ballot will occur.  It will depend on whether there are enough signatures to do a random sample check, or we must proceed with a full check.  If the sponsors do not bring in a large quantity of signatures over the minimum, then we will proceed with a full check.
•    If the voters “approve” the legislation at the General Election, then the legislation can go into effect 30 days after the day of the General Election, December 6, 2012.


New number (R-74), same challenge (of gay-marriage law) ?>

New number (R-74), same challenge (of gay-marriage law)

Referendum 74 is the new number for Washington’s gay marriage challenge filed by opponents of the new marriage law signed by the governor on Monday.  It turns out that R-73 was assigned last spring to a campaign challenging last year’s medical marijuana law; nothing came of that effort.

The marriage referendum has been transmitted to the state Attorney General’s Office for preparation of a ballot title, 30-word concise description, a 75-word-limit ballot summary, and a question that clearly defines the intent of the voter. The attorneys will have five days to produce these.  After that, anyone dissatisfied with the ballot title/summary has five days to seek review by the Thurston County Superior Court, which is required to “expeditiously” handle the challenge(s) and render a decision within five days.  The decision of the court is final.

It’s likely to be early March before R-74 sponsors can print and circulate petitions.  Their deadline for turning in at least 120,577 valid signatures is June 6. That is one day before the new law, SB6239, ordinarily would have taken effect.  The submission of signatures suspends the law from taking effect until after signature verification and, if qualified with enough valid signatures, until the election is conducted this fall and certified by Dec. 6.

The text of R-74 will be the text of the law.

If it makes the ballot, voters will decide whether to affirm or reject the new law.