Ballots for Washington’s November 3rd general election get mailed to voters in 6 weeks. After reading the latest installment of the Referendum 71 saga, I think you’ll agree that we need to press full steam ahead preparing voters to APPROVE Referendum 71.
Thurston County Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee ruled Tuesday that signatures on referendum petitions were valid even if the person who signed was not a registered voter at the time of signing, and even if the petition circulator broke the law. He therefore refused to enjoin the certification of Referendum 71 for the ballot.
A transcript of the KOMO News video is at the bottom of the post.
The state constitution clearly requires referendum petition signers to be registered voters (Art 2 Sec 1A). Judge McPhee’s ruling is interesting, to put it mildly. And petition circulators can break the law without it affecting the validity of their petitions? Sounds like it’s a wild west free-for-all here in Washington state. With such a curious take on the referendum process, it’s no wonder Judge McPhee ruled against Washington Families Standing Together.
But the story doesn’t end there. Last week, the Secretary of State (SOS) rushed to certify the referendum before Judge Julie Spector of the King County Superior Court could post her ruling on the first round of this lawsuit. She had pre-announced when she would be issuing her ruling. The SOS preempted her by about 5 minutes, announcing that Referendum 71 had qualified for the ballot with 122,007 signatures, 1,430 more than required. Why the rush to beat Judge Spector to the punch?
And now, after saying that their signature checking process was so thorough and so above reproach that they refused to take a second look at signatures that WAFST volunteers observed to have been wrongfully accepted (the count is in the thousands), the SOS quietly revised their “certified” number of signatures. The following showed up on the SOS blog Tuesday, posted 5:53 pm:
The Elections Division released a final signature count that subtracted 227 signatures from the accepted pile. The new number is 121,780, about 1,200 more than the bare number needed to qualify for the ballot. The challengers had asked for a list of all the accepted signatures, and in compiling that for release, the Elections Division did a new hand count. The discrepancy was due to an accumulation of a number of small math errors.
So the SOS rushed to certify the referendum prior to Judge Spector’s ruling, then had to go back and fix their mistakes. Makes you wonder what other mistakes await fixing.
Tuesday’s fix was so stealthy that the SOS failed to mention it in court, leaving Judge McPhee to (mis)state in his findings of fact an outdated total of 122,007 signatures certified by the SOS. Hello, Transparency, are you out there?! As Joe Mirabella over at Examiner says, “The Secretary of State has yet to explain the adjustment or why it was done after the legally binding certification. The move will undoubtedly cast further suspicion on the process.”
Transcript of the KOMO News video
Dan Lewis: Another judge rejects efforts to block a statewide vote on the “everything but marriage” law.
Mary Nam: That means unless the Supreme Court steps in, the domestic partnership rights law will be on the November ballot. As KOMO 4′s Brian Johnson reports, today’s ruling sets the scene for a heated political battle.
Voice of Bryan Johnson: 122,000 signed Referendum 71 to force a vote on our state’s “everything but marriage” law. Now there are some convinced there weren’t enough signatures. They tried to convince a judge today. The argument: the back of this referendum, and anti-fraud declaration wasn’t signed. The judges ruled it doesn’t have to be. He also said even if collectors violated the law, voters must be protected.
Judge Thomas McPhee: When a legal voter has signed a referendum petition, his signature must be counted even though the person soliciting his signature has violated the law.
Voice of Bryan Johnson: Those fighting the “everything but marriage law” call this a victory.
Stephen Pidgeon: As John Paul Jones once said, we have not yet begun to fight. This is going – the beauty of this particular hearing today it it allows this case to be heard on the merits in front of the general public. This is a great celebration for democracy in the state of Washington.
Voice of Bryan Johnson: Supporters of the domestic partnership law say they’re ready to fight.
Anne Levinson: We are puzzled by behavior of those who want to overturn the law. We don’t understand why it is that they think that families that look different than theirs don’t deserve the same rights and protections their families deserve.
Voice of Bryan Johnson: Secretary of State Sam Reed is pleased his placing the measure on the ballot has been upheld. He knows the decision may not be final, but he’s made the decision.
Same Reed: …ah to go ahead and put it on the ballot, even if later on they decide it shouldn’t be, and then we just wouldn’t count it.
Bryan Johnson: The battle is not yet over. It’s possible today’s decision would be appealed to the Washington State Supreme Court. In Olympia, Bryan Johson, KOMO 4 News.
Mary Nam: Judge McPhee still has several issues to rule on. When he makes a final decision, the Washington Families group will have 5 day to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.