Posts Tagged As: Referendum 71

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.


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.


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.

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