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Posts for August, 2009

Court Decision on Referendum 71 on Wednesday

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2009

Seattle PI:

During a hearing Monday afternoon, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector heard arguments from lawyers representing the Secretary of State, proponents of R-71 and Washington Families Standing Together, the group opposed to the referendum.

Families Standing Together filed a lawsuit last week requesting an injunction that would keep the referendum off the fall ballot. Spector said she will issue a ruling by Wednesday on the matter.

Referendum 71 Qualifies

Timothy Kincaid

August 31st, 2009

From the Secretary of State’s website:

With the Referendum 71 signature-check now nearly complete, state election officials say they’ve now confirmed that sponsors turned in more than the bare minimum needed for a spot on the November statewide ballot. Signature-checkers passed the 121,000 mark on Monday, the 23rd day of an exhaustive hand check of all 137,000-plus signatures submitted on July 25 by foes of a new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law passed by the Legislature in April.

The numbers still are unofficial and not final, as checkers do one final check of hundreds of previously rejected signatures of people who weren’t initially found in the voter registration records. That should extend the margin a bit, but the final margin could be in the range of 1,000.

Unless the court rules against the Secretary’s procedure of accepting unsigned and fraudulently stamped petition sheets, refusing to double-check identified questionable signatures, and allowing signatures for not-yet-registered voters, then Washingtonians will be asked to validate or reject the legislature’s action.

Take a moment now to think about what you can do to impact the outcome of votes in Washington and Maine.

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.

Gay Group Sues Washington Secretary of State

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2009

Per the WA Secretary of State’s blogsite:

A lawsuit has been filed in King County Superior Court by Washington Families Standing Together requesting a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the Secretary of State from certifying Referendum 71 to the ballot.

The complaint:

5. The Secretary of State (“the Secretary”) is responsible for overseeing the determination of whether a referendum qualifies for the ballot. Striving toward the laudable goal of voter enfranchisement, the Secretary has made it a priority to accept signatures whenever possible. Unfortunately, in so doing, the Secretary did not comply with certain statutory requirements. In the course of the signature verification process for Referendum 71, it became apparent that the Secretary , relying on advice from the Attorney General, was ignoring the requirement directed by the Legislature that the anti-fraud declaration be signed by each signature-gatherer. Plaintiffs have received confirmation from the SOS that the Secretary has accepted thousands of petitions on which the signature-gatherer who circulated the petition did not sign the declaration.

6. Likewise the Plaintiffs received confirmation from the SOS that the Secretary was ignoring the requirement that only individuals who were duly registered voters could legally sign petitions. On August 17, the Secretary instructed his staff to disregard the date reflected in the voter files as the voter registration date and accept signatures from individuals who were not registered as o f the date they signed the petition or even by the date that the Referendum 71 petitions were filed. As a result, signatures by individuals not registered to vote at the time they signed a petition were counted toward the total number of signatures required to place Referendum71 on the ballot, in contravention of State law and in violation of the sworn oath every person signing a petition must make.

Specifically,

21. Protect Marriage Washington sorted and organized its petitions at the bottom of the Capitol stairs in Olympia before delivering the petitions to SOS staff. In the course of this final sort, PMW realized that many signature-gatherers had not filled out the required declaration on the back of the petition. SOS staff observed as PMW personel obtained a signature stamp from Larry Stickney, the campaign manager to PMW, and affixed Mr. Stickney’s stamp to many petitions whose signature-gatherer had not completed the declaration.

23. Persuant to a public disclosure request, Plaintiffs have learned that the Secretary accepted 33,966 signatures on 2,508 petitions (“Unverified Petitions”) where Mr. Stickney’s name had been stamped in the signature-gatherer declaration. It is a violation of State law to sign a petition circulated by another or to sign someone else’s name on the declaration.

37. As a result, Washington Families observers have witnessed SOS staff accepting signatures from voters who registered after the Referendum 71 petitions were files (and thus, who could not possibly have been registered at the time they signed the petition or even by the time the petitions were submitted to the Secretary).

42. On August 18, Washington Families asked the SOS to review more that 1,000 possible errors spotted by observers with regard to signatures and addresses that did not appear to match an petitions where a single individual appeared to have signed on behalf of several other people. The SOS had previously reviewed 222 similarly noted errors from observers and had discovered that 13% had been accepted in error that should have been rejected. The SOS nonetheless rejected the request to review the next sample noted by the teams of observers and submitted by the lead observers.

August 25 Referendum 71 Update

Timothy Kincaid

August 25th, 2009

With 110,288 signatures reviewed (80.1%), a total of 97,261 have been approved (80.7% of those needed). The cumulative fail-rate is 11.77%.

No new “third check” signatures moved from “not registered” to “accepted” today. I don’t yet know why. I estimate that about another 800 signatures that have been reviewed will be moved for an adjusted fail-rate of 11.05%.

However, the daily rejection rate for missing signatures was far below the trend so I really don’t know what they did today.

UPDATE:

For those wondering what’s happening with the “third check,” the third checkers are still reviewing the outcome of, and compiling the stats for, the volumes past No. 220. By tomorrow night, we hope to have the final numbers for another 100 volumes.

Late Registrations Accepted by Washington Secretary of State

Timothy Kincaid

August 25th, 2009

The Elections Division of the Washington Secretary of State has clarified that it will count as “accepted” the signatures of persons not registered to vote at the time they signed so long as their registration has been processed by the time that their name is triple-checked with the live database.

In other words, the deadline to sign Referendum 71 was July 25th. But because most names have not yet been triple checked, if you were not registered at that time (or you just made up a bunch of names) you could probably still register today and get your signature added back into the accepted pile.

There is no deadline for registering to vote for purposes of qualifying an initiative or referendum; as a practical matter, the deadline is the date that the signature on the petition is checked. Checkers are instructed that a signature on a petition is valid if they find a person with the same name in the voter registration file, and the signature on the petition matches the signature in the voter registration file. The registration date has never been a limiting factor.

I recognize that the purpose of the petition process is to reflect the will of a sizable segment of the electorate. I also understand that elections officials want to increase voter registration and see the petition process as a tool for increasing participation in democracy. I further get that they don’t want to deny a legitimate citizen the right to be heard due to a technicality about when those who took their registration filed the forms.

But this policy appears to be both susceptible to abuse and possibly inconsistent with state law.

… when the person or organization demanding any referendum of an act or part of an act of the legislature has obtained a number of signatures of legal voters equal to or exceeding four percent of the votes cast for the office of governor at the last regular gubernatorial election prior to the submission of the signatures for verification, the petition containing the signatures may be submitted to the secretary of state for filing.

I see no language allowing provisional voters or future voters or unregistered-but-intending-to-register-some-day voters.

August 24th Washington Referendum 71 Update

Timothy Kincaid

August 24th, 2009

A total of 103,898 signatures have been reviewed, or 75.5%
A total of 91,716 have been accepted, or 76.1% of those required.

The current fail rate for non-deferred signatures is 11.69%. However, this is accurate for only the first 220 volumes; the rest is subject to revision for registrations not processed in the data base before it was downloaded. I project that there may be perhaps another 700 signatures that are considered rejected at the moment which will ultimately be accepted.

At this point we are working under assumptions and guesses, but the “real” fail-rate is probably around 11.0% of all inspected signatures. Unless there is a high fail-rates for the last quarter of signatures – perhaps 16.8%, then this referendum may qualify. Keep in mind that we do not know whether the petitions are homogeneous or if the last quarter is cleaner or less clean than the first three quarters.

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.

Washington Anti-Gays are Starting to Pray

Timothy Kincaid

August 19th, 2009

Every day the fail rate for Referendum 71 is edging closer to 12.4% at which point the effort will go down in flames. After today’s count, at 57.5% reviewed, the cumulative fail rate is 11.63%.

And anti-gays are starting to worry. And bitch. And pray.

Faith and Freedom Network president Gary Randall sent an email out to supporters to complain about the Secretary of State’s verification procedures.

“SURGE” is the operative word. Speed has replaced accuracy.
As the homosexual lobby has increased their pressure on the Secretary to “hurry up” on processing the signatures, the error rate has risen. We have consistently reported that as the speed of checking has been accelerated, the error rate has risen.

Now anyone familiar with the process of looking for error – in anything – knows that going too fast doesn’t result in more identified false discrepancies but rather in missing those that are overlooked. But Randall isn’t doing his best truth telling this week.

The hurry-up plan was put in place as the homosexual lobby discovered that the faster the checkers checked, the more names were discarded as not valid. They began to put pressure on the Secretary a couple of weeks ago. He and his staff have responded, by setting arbitrary deadlines toward which they could surge, increasing the number of checkers, increasing the number of hours of checking and putting new policies in place which would hurry the process and result in an increase in the error rate.

I suspect that Randall knows that his email list is unaware that every rejected signature is scrutinized by a master-checker resulting in many being reinstated, a process that confused and worried gay bloggers and commenters when the accepted totals went up. And “Blame the liberal Secretary of State” is a better cry than “We failed to get enough signatures.”

Much hangs in the balance today.
This is a call to Prayer and a call to Action.
1. Please pray that Secretary Sam Reed and the public servants he employs, will have the integrity to carry out their duties on the R-71 count in a fair and honest way, as they are duty bound to serve all the citizens of the state.
2. Action. Please call or email the Secretary’s office today. Tell him to, “Slow Down Sam.” Ask him to please allow enough time for all signatures to be checked carefully and correctly. He owes you that. Be respectful, but firm. He and his office will assure you they have done elections for many years and they have great systems in place, etc., etc. and are fair. Assure him you expect nothing less on this issue and you feel you are not getting that at this point.

Needless to say, accusations of bias and carelessness did not sit well with the Secretary’s office. They responded on their blog site:

Sponsors of Referendum 71, the effort to overturn Washington’s new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law, are accusing the state Elections Division of rushing the signature-verification process and being biased against their effort. Election officials at the Secretary of State’s office are pushing back, strongly defending their crew of signature-checkers as conducting the process with great care and diligence, not rushing through – and certainly not showing bias one way or the other about the legislation in question. [empasis in original]

They go on to present a point by point refutation of Randall’s accusations. It’s not difficult to see that they were not at all happy with his email.

Now, I’m not exactly sure what prayer Randall thinks his supporters should pray, but I guess it goes something like this:

Dear God,

I know that this referendum is designed to deny rights to some people that I hold dear for myself. And I know that we employed deceit in collecting signatures. And I also know that our entire purpose for doing this is out of our animus towards your gay children.

But please God, bless our efforts and make the signature inspectors confused so that they will consider as valid those signatures that are not eligible and we can go forward with a campaign of anti-gay lies and demonization.

Amen.

Hope for Referendum 71′s Failure in Washington

Timothy Kincaid

August 18th, 2009

Today the signature verification process crossed the half way point; now 53% of signatures have been inspected. With 72,976 reviewed, and 8,229 permanently rejected, the fail rate for the referendum now stands at 11.28%. *

Of the 64,713 remaining signatures, if less than 55,844 are valid – or a fail-rate of the remaining signatures of 13.74%, then the legislature’s domestic partnership enhancements become law without requiring a vote of the electorate.

And now the good news: today’s posted results were on 7,445 signatures and included 1,028 permanent rejections, a rate of 13.81%. If the remaining signatures do no better than today, the petition will fail. And while there is a chance that today is an anomoly, this is still a hopeful sign.

* my fail-rate differs from that of the Secretary of State because they include as “falure” those signatures that are waiting for a clean copy from the county and which will likely be reclassified as “accepted” when received.

Washington Fail-Rate Up Slightly

Timothy Kincaid

August 17th, 2009

With almost half of the signatures reviewed, the fail-rate of the petition is about 11%.

65,531 inspected (47.6%)
7,201 permanently rejected
10.99% fail-rate*

However, the cumulative fail rate by the end of the process must be above 12.4% or the domestic partner enhancements will be subject to the whim of the voters.

One area where there is hope is in the category of those rejected because they are duplicates. This rate is increasing daily. For example, the percentage of signatures found to be duplicate on the third day of inspection was 0.37%, those rejected last Wednesday were 0.74% of votes inspected, and those posted today as duplicates were 1.66%. This is expected to continue to increase.

* my fail-rate differs from that reported by the WA Secretary of State due to my excluding temporary rejections.

Washington Count Reaches 50,493

Timothy Kincaid

August 13th, 2009

Currently:

50,496 signatures reviewed (36.7%)
5,375 permanantly rejected
10.65% fail rate

Washington Signatures “Too Close to Call”

Timothy Kincaid

August 12th, 2009

After the confusion on validating signatures, many watching (myself included) were discouraged that the fail rate had dropped significantly below that needed to avoid a ballot referendum. But as more signatures are reviewed, that rate is slooooowly starting to increase. And it is reasonable to expect it to continue to rise.

From the Washington Secretary of State blog:

The error rate is expected to rise as the count continues, largely because the number of duplicate signatures will rise as the number of checked signatures rises. In order to qualify for the November ballot, sponsors of R-71 would have to stay below an error rate of 12.4 percent by the time the last signature is checked. State Elections Director Nick Handy said it remains “too close to call” whether R-71 will make the ballot, and cautioned against making assumptions based on the current error rate.

Currently 48,299 (35%) of signatures have been checked. Of those, 5,121 have been permanently invalidated for a cumulative fail rate of 10.60%. This is up from 10.39% fail rate at 25% completed.

But we have no way of knowing whether the signatures reviewed to date are representative of the selection as a whole.

they were bound in volumes of 15 petitions, with no particular order, either geographically or date in which they were gathered initially. Each bound volume was assigned a number and are being assigned to checkers in no particular order– luck of the draw.

Referendum 71 Supporters Seek to Keep Donors Private

Timothy Kincaid

August 11th, 2009

The organization seeking to stop the implementation of Washington State’s legislative enhancement of domestic partnership is seeking to do so outside the glare of public scrutiny. They successfully delayed the release of the names of signatories to the petition until a hearing in September, but that isn’t enough.

Now they are seeking to keep its donors private. (Seattle PI)

Protect Marriage Washington last week asked the PDC to hold an emergency hearing because it said there had been violent threats against churches, property and supporters of the campaign. The group said such threats had been forwarded to the FBI.

I’ve not seen these, and they may be real. But in the past, such “threats” have generally turned out to not actually be violent threats at all once reviewed but rather a “threat” of a boycott or simply hate mail of the “I hope you die and rot in hell” variety.

And the request for anonymity does not sound promising at the moment.

Doug Ellis, assistant PDC director, said the agency would not hold an emergency hearing but rather listen to R-71 backers at its next regular meeting, which is Aug. 27. Ellis said transparency is expected in election financing.

“It’s a hurdle that they are going to have to jump to be able to say that the public doesn’t have a right to know who is financing their campaigns,” Ellis said Tuesday

Washington’s New Reporting

Timothy Kincaid

August 11th, 2009

The Washington Secretary of State has a new reporting method by which they will wait until supervisors have reviewed and corrected the rejections made by checkers of signatures before they post the results. Based on the finalized review so far, 33,214 have been checked and 3,450 rejected for a fail rate of 10.39%.

Unless the remaining three quarters of signatures are very different from the first quarter, this referendum will qualify for the ballot. And it may set a new record for cleanest petition ever submitted in the state.

At present there is no way to determine if the signatures are being reviewed in any particular order. If they are in collection order, then there is a possibility that they will be less clean as time goes on.

Confusion in Washington – Anti-Gay Petition May be Valid

Timothy Kincaid

August 10th, 2009

We were tracking and reporting on the Washington Secretary of State’s efforts to verify signatures presented for Referendum 71, a response to the legislature’s extension of benefits to domestic partners. And we were reporting that the petitions did not appear to have an adequate validation rate to make it to the ballot.

But we were under the mistaken assumption that the Washington Secretary of State was reporting the final determination of each signature. It turns out that they were reporting tentative rejections and not those who had been validated at the supervisor level. And the supervisors have reinstated enough signatures to significantly reduce the rejection rate.

As of the Friday day shift, the state has reviewed 35,296 signatures and rejected 4,063, a rejection rate of 11.51%. If correct, this would be a rejection rate low enough to allow the referendum to reach the ballot. If what I have read is correct, it would also set a record for the cleanest petition ever.

However, I’m not puting too much faith in this calculation. Currently the state is reporting a total number of signatures checked that is lower than the sum of those checked on a daily basis. This suggests to me that the reporting process is ruled by confusion.

Mid Friday Washington Count Update

Timothy Kincaid

August 7th, 2009

As we go into our weekend, it will be on a positive note. The verification of signatures collected to stop the legislature’s enhancement of domestic partnerships is not going well for Washington’s anti-gays. As of 10 pm last night, the signatures were yielding a 13.25% fail rate.

I am going to be reporting the numbers slightly differently than most. This is due to the way in which I will be considering those which are currently considered invalid due to a missing signature in the state’s database. Currently 89 signatures have been rejected for that purpose. However, the state will consult with counties regarding these signatures and, according to the Secretary of State’s website, most of these will be considered valid when the signature is recovered from the county. We already know that they are not duplicate on un-registered; the only way they could remain invalid is if the signature does not match the one on the voter registration card once the state recovers that comparison signature.

After yesterday’s swing-shift, the fail rate for the day was 14.11%. The state now has inspected 21.7% of the signatures submitted with a cumulative fail rate of 13.41%. To be a successful petition, the remaining signatures would have to have a fail rate lower than 12.21%.

UPDATE:

There appears to be confusion over the invalidated signatures. It appears that some of them (perhaps 409) were later determined to be valid by supervisors.

Unfortunately this is not at all clear. And unless un-registered voters were later found to be registered, then this seems to be mathematically impossible.

If this new declaration is correct, then the fail rate is currently at about 11.64% and this is not at all good news for those who are in domestic partnerships in Washington.

Sad Day for Washington Anti-Gays

Timothy Kincaid

August 6th, 2009

The Washington Secretary of State is now using two shifts to validate signatures for Referendum 71, the petition drive to halt the expansion of domestic partnership rights and place them on the ballot.

The Washington Secretary of State has compiled the results for the first shift for today (ending at 3:00 pm). Of the 3,831 signatures reviewed, 573 were rejected, a rate of 14.96%. This brings the total rejection rate up to 13.54%. Unless there is a drastic change in results, this petition is on its way to failure.

Washington Count – Day Four

Timothy Kincaid

August 6th, 2009

The Washinton Secretary of State has now counted 17% of the signatures submitted to block the legislature’s enhancement of domestic partnership rights.

Yesterday, an additional 6,140 signatures were reviewed with 14.2% rejected.

As it stands, of the 23,457 signatures reviewed, 20,335 were verified and 3,122 invalidated, a 13.31% fail rate. The remaining signatures will only result in a valid petition should they have a fail rate of 12.26% or lower.

After Third Day of Counting, Washington Signature Fail Rate is 13%

Timothy Kincaid

August 4th, 2009

Todays validation of signatures submitted to halt a bill that enhanced domestic partnerships proved to be bad news for anti-gays. Today there was a fail rate of 14.4%, bringing the average fail rate over three days to 13.0%. Although it is difficult to establish a trend over just three days, this does seem to validate the assumptions that as time goes on more errors will be revealed – especially duplicate signatures.

The petition will be valid if it keeps its cumulative error rate below 12.4%.

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