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A New Wrench in the Washington Count

Timothy Kincaid

August 21st, 2009

There is good news and bad news in the Washington Secretary of State’s verification of signatures for Referendum 71, the effort to stop enhancements to domestic partnerships from taking effect.

Good news: the fail rate seems to be inching closer to 12.4% every day. With 64.1% inspected, the permanant rejection rate is now 11.92%. But…. not exactly.

Bad news: there is another level of inspection which has previously not been included in my calculations. The position of the Secretary of State is that if 120,737 registered voters signed the petition, it goes on the ballot. In our reviews of the rejected signature rates, we have not been accounting for some valid signatures that are currently considered rejected.

The SoS is comparing signatures to a copy of the registration as of a specific date. But if a voter both registered and signed the petition on the same day (a not-uncommon occurance) then they would be a valid signature but their registration would not show up on the copy. So a final inspection is made of those signatures that have not been found on the rolls to see if their voter registration was processed after the database was secured.

Our checkers are finding in the live database about 12 percent of the names that were originally “not found” on the late June database copy. That is, of course, because the referendum organizers were encouraging people to sign the petition and register to vote at the same time, so many people actually registered to vote in July for the specific purpose of signing this petition. It is common practice for signature gatherers to register voters while circulating initiative and referendum petitions. In the past, signature gatherers have submitted voter registrations during the signature collection effort.

So even if there is a 12.4% fail rate, some of those “permanantly rejected signatures” will find themselves back in the accepted pile. About 84% of rejected signatures are from the “not registered” category and of those about 12% will later be deemed to be good.

Assuming that these will be added back, the “real” rejected signature rate is about 10.72%. So while the rate edges up daily, yet again our assumptions that this will fail have to be adjusted and it is – as the SoS has said all along – too close to call.

Comments

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Cole
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

Yes, there is a conspiracy to get this anti-gay referendum on the ballot. I am now saying that. Husband and wife fixers, Roger and Valerie have been giving names to the anti-gay observers to check if certain people signed the petition. Now, we have election officials once again changing the rules just as it looks like this anti-gay measure is going to fail. They did it on day five when all of a sudden master fixers came in and only looked at the already rejected signatures and changed the results by a massive 19% putting the referendum back in play. Now as this anti-gay referendum looks to be failing AGAIN they are looking at the registration AFTER the petition deadline.

Dan
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

Tim:

I believe you have assumed that the re-re-check is something that will continue to impact 12% of all signatures in the no-match category. As I understand it, once the problem was discovered, they started using the live database. So the modifications will only affect a fixed group of signatures – about 7,800. Take 12% of that, deduct it from the current rejects, and you have the real error rate.

As of yesterday, that was 11.01% by my calculation. Today, they have included about 1/2 of the shifts and we have error rate of 11.68%. However, that means we will get one more “adjustment” for the remainder of the live-database shifts on Monday. That means that the error rate will probably drop again on Monday before it rises again on Tuesday.

At the same time, the new signatures checked today yielded fewer errors. If today’s trend continues, R71 will qualify. However, if the average error rate increase prevails next week, it will fail. It is that close.

The big story is that a sample of 226 of the accepted signatures were master checked and 7-15% were revealed to be accepted in error. That is shocking. It is explained, I think, by the fact that the junior checkers are temps and really aren’t very good at what they are doing. But for accepted names, a temp worker check is all the scrutiny that is given. The rejected names get lavish attention. A skewed process produces a skewed result.

scotte
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

As someone who has done a lot of work with ballot access petitions, I find this really questionable. To include people who were in the database at the time they signed but the database initially checked from wasn’t current is one thing (and quite reasonable).

To include people who registered after they signed is something I have never heard of. I respect the idea of doing one’s best to determine the intent of voters (the double check on fails vs successes) but this seems to slide over into “gotta make this work whatever it takes” territory. Disturbing.

Burr
August 21st, 2009 | LINK

What bugs me is people who couldn’t be bothered to vote in a presidential election all of a sudden get all motivated for the chance to take a piss on someone else.

Real classy.

Timothy Kincaid
August 24th, 2009 | LINK

Cole,

You are mistaken. No rules have been changed. This was reported early on but I simply didn’t know it would be as large of an impact.

Scotte,

As best I can tell, they did not register after signing. Rather, their registration form was not turned it in time to be processed and included in the preliminary data base.

Don,

As I understand it, once the problem was discovered, they started using the live database.

Are you sure? I had the impression that they would continue to use the old data base copy and will advise us as to which volumes have been triple-checked (1 – 160, so far)

Can you please give me a link to the source for the 226 spot checked “accepted” that were in error? Thanks

Dan
August 24th, 2009 | LINK

Tim:

Here is the report from the SoS. Scroll down to David Ammons’ post at 3:44 pm; it contains a lengthy copy of a report from Mr. Shane Hamlin of the Elections Division.

http://blogs.secstate.wa.gov/FromOurCorner/index.php/2009/08/initiative-error-rates-vary-from-year-to-year/

“Of the 226 accepted signatures submitted for the special review, four could not be found, likely due to incorrect volume, sheet and line references. The special review was conducted on 222 signatures.
Of the 222 accepted signatures reviewed, 14 were changed from Accept to No Match, 6.3%. Two were changed from Accept to Signature Pending. Fifteen were designated as reject because a registration record could not be found for the signer. These 15 will be investigated further; the status of these signatures may or may not change depending on further research.”

Cole
August 24th, 2009 | LINK

How is looking at already rejected signatures again for the fourth or fifth time not a change in the rules? How is looking at new registration databases that include registered voters after the July 25th deadline not a change in rules? How is accepting signatures from people who were not registered at the time they signed the petitions let alone people who weren’t even registered before the July 25th deadline not a change in rules? Election officials are purposefully blending or breaking the rules to allow more signatures to be accepted than are actually on the petition so this anti-gay referendum makes it on the ballot.

Timothy Kincaid
August 24th, 2009 | LINK

Cole,

If a citizen who is registered to vote has signed this petition, their signature goes towards the total number needed to bring the referendum to a vote.

It doesn’t matter how many times a signature is reviewed. If they aren’t on the voter roles (the live data-base, not the older copy being used) then it won’t count and there is no one who can change that, election official or otherwise.

It is perfectly legal to register and sign a petition at the same time. Whether it is processed before July 25th does not invalidate that citizen’s voice and rights.

There are a few areas of concern – as Dan has indicated – but there are no new rules being applied to this referendum.

Cole
August 24th, 2009 | LINK

Yes, it does matter how many times signatures are reviewed. On day five of counting 33,000+ signatures were looked at and the rejection rate was well over 12.43% needed to stay off the ballot. The next day master fixers came in and only looked at the rejected signatures. Their count changes the rejection rate a massive 19% and put this anti-gay referendum back in play. After calls of concern about the UNFAIR procedures of giving rejected signatures a second look while accepted signatures only get one the election officials decide to look at the rejected signatures another two more times. Guess what? There numbers were once again different from the previous two with the rejection rate falling two more times in those counts. Election officials gave those rejected signatures in the first 33,000+ batch four looks and came up with four very different numbers. And you are telling me looking at signatures multiple times doesn’t matter? If this process was just and honest those numbers would not have moved much. Obviously something is up when numbers move dramatically on signatures you’ve looked at multiple times.

Election officials pulled that same stunt once the rejection rate was getting too close to 12.43% just this last week. All of a sudden they have to go back and review ALL the already rejected signatures. Remember I told you a week ago not to be surprised when the rejection rate goes down because they are nearing the 12.43% mark?

Let us not forget that election officials are also accepting petitions that had more than the allowed 20 signatures on them.

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