WA Secretary of State Blogs
From Our Corner

Lawsuit filed against Secretary of State over R-71

by Brian Zylstra | August 27th, 2009

fyiA 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 Secretary of State is the defendant in the lawsuit.

The Attorney General’s Office and Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even will represent the Secretary of State in the lawsuit.

The attorneys are scheduling hearings for early next week in King County Superior Court.  The case has been assigned to King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector.

Copies of the plaintiffs’ litigation documents are available here .

The R-71 signature check is almost finished. State Elections Director Nick Handy announced Wednesday that the Elections Division expects to have the signature check completed by September 1 and to be in a position at that time to either certify or reject the petition based upon the results of the signature check.  The law requires 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures for the referendum to be placed on the November statewide ballot.

The lawsuit plaintiffs support Senate Bill 5688, the “everything but marriage” law that was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gregoire this year. The measure expands state rights and responsibilities to state-registered domestic partners so that they equal those granted to married couples.

28 Responses to “Lawsuit filed against Secretary of State over R-71”

  1. Jay Jonson says:

    Thank goodness. I hope that the courts throw out the petitions and force the Secretary of State to follow the law.

  2. At least someone is trying to get the SoS to follow the law.

  3. Thank you! Stop this CORRUPT counting now. If election officials didn’t rig the count by accepting UNregistered people this wouldn’t even make the ballot and I am not even counting the other ways election officials have RIGGED the counting like rechecking rejected signatures four and five times. The actual rejection rate is much higher than 11.81%.

  4. There certainly are some interesting claims made in this lawsuit: Fraudulent name-stamps instead of signatures on sworn statements, signatures accepted even though the party clearly wasn’t registered when they signed, refusal to review specifically noted errors presented by the observers.

    I’m curious as to the Secretary’s defense.

  5. Matthew N says:

    Up to this point, I thought the SoS was doing a fair job at counting signatures. After reading the filings by Washington Families Standing Together, I’m fairly upset at the slipshod work that has been done.

    The SoS seems to be completely flouting the law, especially by accepting petitions where the person collecting the signature did not sign (mandated by state law), and where someone else effectively forged Larry Stickney’s signature with a stamp on huge numbers of petitions. Does the SoS have any good explanation as to why they are contravening the law by accepting the signatures on these such petitions?

  6. J Scooter says:

    This lawsuit tells it like it is!

    Without accusing the SoS people of dishonesty, lack of integrity, etc., it makes it clear that the processes themselves that are being used are blatantly illegal and biased in favor of counting signatures that clearly should not be counted. Whether justice will prevail will now be in the hands of the state judge.

    IMPORTANT POINT: Maybe the SoS will do the same thing that it did when the pro-R71 forces sought a TRO from the federal judge — the SoS didnt even show up in federal court in the argument involving the TRO, it never objected to the federal judge issuing a TRO, and it never objected to a 35-day TRO even though the federal rules allow only 10 days (+ another 10 days, or 20 days total, and only if the judge gives good reasons for the extenstion). Can we assume that the SoS will — in fairness — not object to this TRO request in the state court??

  7. DL Shoreline says:

    Great News! Didnt realize the gatherers were required to sign statements about the petitions & the SOS apparently accepted ones that weren’t. Is this correct? Either way the ligitation is really interesting to read.

  8. Jay Jonson says:

    Not only should the petitions be thrown out and the Secretary of State be forced to follow the law, but Stickney needs to be prosecuted. He has violated the law. It is against the law to sign one’s name to petitions that one did not circulate. The people who signed the petitions more than once also need to be prosecuted.

  9. I am reading the fifth line of complaint here, ” 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.”
    First, if WhoSigned.org had been allowed to the public information, names, signatures, actual petition sheets, the public at large and our campaign would haveknow this weeks ago. But my question here is, this information in the complaint seems to be privileged “albeit not public” public information. We, WhoSigned.org, KnowThyNeighbor.org, and the general public is not privvy to this. We were invited by the SOS’s office to view the verification process but that invitation was then retracted. Why is it that this sort of information above was not released to us and the public at large, but only shared with observers, ie a political campaign?

  10. I have faith that the Secretary of State and the sponsors of this measure will do whatever they can to ensure that they investigate the allegations of fraud. It’s important that we not soil the initiative and referendum process.

    The anti-fraud declaration was not just a reminder, it was a means of making sure we’re all clear on what exactly we as citizens are doing when we ask someone to sign something like this. Saying the intent was a reminder begs the question “why”. If there are no criminal charges against anyone who does not sign it, then what is the purpose of requiring a signature if not to create a public confidence in the process?

  11. The lawsuit also raises a question about biases. The Secretary of State has repeatedly assured us that they honor the requests from observers on both sides, but if allegations within this suit are true, then that is nowhere near the truth.

    On what basis did the SoS decide to refuse action on requests made by WAFST? On what basis did the SoS decide to excuse action contrary to the TRO from PMW?

    This is troubling.

  12. The arguments as to the timing of voter registrations are tenuous at best. I don’t see a judge disenfranchising voters over an issue of timing. *However*, the fact that petitions were accepted even though they were not signed by the signature collector is deeply troubling. This goes directly against anti-fraud law (that PMW was clearly aware of). The responsibility of the SOS is not to make value judgments on improperly submitted petition sheets. The SOS had no business accepting these as they are clearly not valid under Washington law. It is not a grey area like voter registration timing. This is black and white. PMW knowingly failed to provide proper (simple!) documentation as to who collected the signatures. Why were these even accepted by the SOS in the first place?

    I have been a supporter of the SOS in this process and have often sung their praises on this very blog, but now while I still applaud the transparency given during the count, I have to strongly question their judgment.

  13. I spoke with Nick Handy earlier today. He says that no referendum sheets have ever been rejected because the collector did not sign the back–meaning in other ballot iniatives. So how would this effect past referendums if the judge allowed those collected this time to be thrown out?

    I am personally glad that Washington State may now be seeking to review and tighten up its referendum laws, that it will be reviewing its public disclosure laws, and addressing instructions of the process by the AG. THIS is exactly what transparency is all about. I am thankful WhoSigned.org initiated the public interest, that WAFST stepped up to the plate and sponsored a legal challenge, that the SOS tried very hard to present the process of sig checking to us and that the public got so involved in this process.

  14. J Scooter says:

    Could you please answer the question of whether the SoS will not object to the granting of a TRO — which is exactly what the SoS did when the federal judge was asked to (and did) grant a TRO? In that federal case, the SoS failed to appear in court to argue against the TRO, failed to object to the TRO, and failed to object to the duration of the TRO (35 days, instead of the maximum 20 days allowed by the federal rules unless the parties actually agree to more than 20 days). Can we expect the SoS not to object to the TRO in the state case? Thank you.

  15. And I have a question also. I am hoping that WAFST’s TRO will not effect the public disclosure law. After the Federal Court Case, if the public disclosure laws are upheld, will I them be able to have access to the Ref 71 sheets and WAFST’s TRO will not disallow public access?

  16. Tom Lang, since the SoS probably can’t advocate this position or really comment to this effect, I’ll take a crack: the Secretary of State is bound to honor the basics of the R&I process, but that does not mean they are complicit in any kind of fraud, nor does it mean they are deliberately attempting in any case to game the system.

    The simplest answer is of course often the most correct. Since the R&I system should evolve with our state, but hasn’t, the SoS has often found itself in positions where, for lack of a challenge, they must make a move toward the maximum enfranchisement possible. They don’t want to reject petitions outright without a court judgment, even if the RCW says that’s how it should be. The AGO’s opinion in 2006 concurred with that premise, that absent a binding court assessment, one would have to assume that all petitions are valid unless they are not adhering to the literal interpretation of the rule.

    In gathering signatures, most R&I sponsors have made absolute certain to tell all circulators that they MUST sign the form. This is because any proposed ballot measure is subject to challenge on these grounds. Of course, as we’ve seen, most proposed ballot measures skate by with thousands more signatures than required. In this case, however, the margin is thin enough that it really stands against conscience to not challenge it, and I’m sure the defense from the SoS would likely be on the grounds of “absent an assessment by the courts, we acted on the ambiguity in favor of the sponsors”, and the judge would then decide the proper way to address the declaration.

    In terms of past R&I measures, it would probably not be a retroactive judgment since the vast majority of qualifying measures did not have thousands of petition sheets that were not signed, and the declaration requirement was not in effect until this decade.

  17. Matthew N says:

    It seems that the SoS excuse for everything is “it’s the way we’ve always done it” even thought it contravene’s the laws passed by the legislature. Hopefully a judge will let them know that they can’t just do whatever they want and that laws are there for a reason!

    The referendum process is important, and the SoS should be following the letter of the law, as passed by our elected legislature, rather than doing things in whatever way they want and ignoring the law.

    In any case, hopefully a judge clears this up and throws out at least a thousand names.

  18. Stephen, “The arguments as to the timing of voter registrations are tenuous at best. I don’t see a judge disenfranchising voters over an issue of timing.”
    —–
    There is a problem. The petition signer is stating that they are indeed a “registered voter.” Therefore under the penalty of perjury, they should be a) not counted, b) prosecuted, or c) both.

  19. Good analysis AJ. You are probably dead on.

  20. J Scooter says:

    Stephen, AJ and others: Please see my comment posted under the August 27, 5:30PM blog, which cites a Washington State Supreme court decision (followed in many other states) as to whether UNregistered voters can sign a petition. There is no doubt whatsoever that if someone signed at a time he/she was not a registered voter, the signature cannot be counted …. period.

  21. Dave: R&I petition signature gatherers have always been allowed to register voters at the same time that they sign the petition. This is because it increases voter registration and civic participation in general. These 700 or so signers are now in fact registered voters (where aren’t talking about fraudulent registrations or anything) and it can be argued that there is no way for the SoS to reasonably determine when the voter registration was signed versus when the petition is signed.

    I do think that a judge needs to clarify the the law as to when a person becomes eligible to sign a petition as there is too much ambiguity on the issue. Consequently, I certainly it think it is reasonable for WaFST to challenge on these grounds. I just doubt that a judge agree with them on this argument.

  22. Concerning the law suite. The law was included for PAID signature gatherers only. Since R-71 did not have any signature gatherers this lawsuite is null and void.

  23. Didn’t have any PAID signature gatherers the lawsuite is null and void. I did gather signatures and I did include my name etc on the back of all of the Referendums which I gathered.

  24. J Scooter: I read your post on the other thread. Excellent research. Very interesting. The precedence appears to show that I am mistaken.

    This case continues to be riveting.

  25. Keith, what are you talking about. There were more than 137,000 signatures. Who do you suppose gathered all those signatures if not for “signature gatherers?”

  26. tripleaaa says:

    Any news conference after the hearing today? Did anyone get any news at all?

  27. No money exchanged hands. I talked with Larry Stickney prior to the referendum process and he and his group did not have the funds to distribute any money for the signature gathering process. Besides that on the Friday prior to the Saturday of bringing them down to Olympia. Well, there were between 800 and 1000 just on that day and only a few people gathered the signatures. On Saturday there were three guys gathering signatures downtown, I being one, and two other friends. There were three ladies gathering signatures at the Women of Faith Conference. So 1000 in less than 24 hours by a small handful of people. It is extremely possible to gather all of the signatures without any paid gatherers. Check out the PDC report as well. This could be showing on the PDC report. See http://www.pdc.gov.

  28. I do not know what the law says about signatures or the requirements for signature gatherers, but I think any citizen of the state should be allowed to sign a petition if he/she chooses to do so..

Leave a Reply

 

About this Blog

The Washington Office of the Secretary of State’s blog provides from-the-source information about important state news and public services. This space acts as a bridge between the public and Secretary Kim Wyman and her staff, and we invite you to contribute often to the conversation here.

On the Web

Comments Disclaimer

The comments and opinions expressed by users of this blog are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Secretary of State’s Office or its employees. The agency screens all comments in accordance with the Secretary of State’s blog use policy, and only those that comply with that policy will be approved and posted. Outside comments will not be edited by the agency.

Your Corner of Washington

Older Posts

Blogroll

Blog Contributors

Recent Topics