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Referendum 71 Hinges on Lawsuit

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2009

The Washington Secretary of State’s Election Division has now observed 125,631 (91.2%) of the signatures submitted for validation. Of these, 110,797 have been accepted and approximately another 500 will be accepted by the “third check” process.

This means that of the remaining 12,058 signatures to review, the opponents of domestic partnership enhancements need only get 9,260 signatures, or 76.7% deemed valid. This is, at this time, a foregone conclusion.

However, Washington Families has sued to stop the Secretary of State from certifying the signatures. They raise a number of issues encompassing several irregularities.

Procedural: The SoS is accepting petitions that are not signed by the circulater or which are known to be fraudulently signature-stamped by the campaign manager. While this may seem a matter of technicality, the fraudulent signature-stamps is a criminal act and in addition to those petitions being rejected, Larry Stickney should be prosecuted.

Fraudulent: Signatures are being accepted as valid even when it is known that the signer was not registered to vote at the time they signed.

Dismissive: The Elections Division is refusing to reinspect over 1,000 specific instances where observers believe they have detected error. I’m confused as to the purpose of observers if the Secretary refuses to listen to their observations.

Should Washington Families prevail in having the 36,154 signatures on unsigned or stamped petitions be removed then the referendum is invalid. If the unregistered signers or the specific errors be considered, then the referendum again becomes to close to call.

Addendum: For those following the peculiar “third check”, had this step not been incorporated, today the fail-rate would have for the first time exceeded 12.4% and the failure of this referendum would have been predictable.

Comments

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Dan
August 27th, 2009 | LINK

It is a good lawsuit, well presented, by an excellent firm.

The AGO opinion on which the SoS will defend itself (for accepting petitions with unsigned declarations of authenticity) is transparently in error, since the opinion itself admits that it is rendering statutory language superfluous, a no-no statutory construction.

There is another interesting issue. Apparently, on the steps of the WA capitol, the R71 supporters stamped Larry Stickney’s name on the declarations for a large number of the petitions. The declaration states in part:

” I, . . . . . . . . . . . ., swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition, and that, to the best of my knowledge, every person who signed this sheet of the foregoing petition knowingly and without any compensation or promise of compensation willingly signed his or her true name and that the information provided therewith is true and correct. ”

To stamp Larry Stickney’s name on this declaration is false as to any petition sheets that he did not personally circulate. I have no doubt that Larry Stickney did not circulate the vast majority of the sheets that were frantically stamped with his name. And Larry Stickney has no personal knowledge of the circumstances under which the signatories agreed to sign. So even if one accepted the AGO opinion that the declaration properly could be left blank (which I think is ridiculous), the proponents here deprived themselves of the protection of that opinion by executing false declarations.

It really is sort of shocking that the R71 people would do this, knowing that every aspect of this matter would be hotly contested.

Anyway, although I think WAFST has a great case, I wouldn’t predict that they will win, since I could see a court being reluctant to invalidate a referendum on the basis of what the SoS and Stickney will call a technicality.

Elise
August 27th, 2009 | LINK

This whole thing makes me anxious. We’re rapidly running out of time until November, and this not knowing if Ref 71 is going to the ballot or not is making it hard to organize any kind of plan. Nobody wants to invest time or money until we know for sure this is a battle we’ll have to fight; our opponents, meanwhile, are building up an offensive already.

I’m really curious as to how long the deliberation on this lawsuit is going to take– what happens if it runs through November? Will the Referendum end up on the ballot next year if the court rules against Washington Families?

Dan
August 28th, 2009 | LINK

What makes you think that the anti-gays are not suffering from the same uncertainty?

Anyway, I am not an expert on WA procedure, but I believe that:

- WAFST’s motion for temporary injunctive relief will be heard tomorrow at 1:30 pm PST. After that, there should be more briefing and possibly an evidentiary hearing. All of this will go very quickly. After that will be appeals, but they will be super-expedited. It might go directly from the trial court to the WA Supreme Court, with the intermediate appellate court cut out. I think all of this would be done before November, but it could go late September or even October.

- Finally, if the case comes down to the “master check” issue, and if WAFST won on that issue, that would require a complete recheck of 120,000 signatures. That would take weeks and that could get you past November. I honestly don’t know if it gets to be too late whether R71 just punts over to next November, or whether there is a special election, assuming that it qualifies.

Cole
August 28th, 2009 | LINK

VOTE YES on Referendum 71

Don’t be lulled by this lawsuit. Go out and tell people to vote YES on referendum 71 because gay couples deserve the exact rights heterosexual couples have. Washington Families Standing Together has phonebanks you can use to contact Washington voters. Use it. Write in the comment section of articles relating to R-71 online. Or write to Washington newspapers urging voters to vote YES. Do everything you can.

Dan, election officials also started to accept signatures from unregistered people on 8/21/09 and that changed the results. If election officials didn’t accept those signatures from unregistered people the rejection rate would be over 12.43% right now.

Elise
August 28th, 2009 | LINK

“What makes you think that the anti-gays are not suffering from the same uncertainty?”

Well, my admittedly brief perusal of the Google seems to show more anti-Ref71 websites, higher up on the hit list, than pro-Ref71 ones, and the websites themselves and their get-out-the-vote strategies (targeted at churches, natch) seem more pulled together than Washington Family’s somewhat directionless approach.

There’s also the fact that this is simply going to be an uphill battle for us no matter what. This isn’t going to your typical vote where the question is whether to take away or stop the extension of gay rights– this is a vote to actively extend gay rights, which I think means we have an even bigger struggle ahead of us than we’re used to.

Thanks for the info on the hearing, BTW. It’s good to know we could have a decision soon.

Richard W. Fitch
August 28th, 2009 | LINK

It appears one glimmer of sanity has prevailed here.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009759353_webpdc27m.html
At least we will know who makes up the rank and file of this attempt at discrimination.

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