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R-71 count surges to nearly 73k

by David Ammons | August 18th, 2009

The signature count for Referendum 71 surged to well over the half-way mark Tuesday, with 72,976 signatures now processed  and a cumulative error rate edging upward to 11.32 percent. 

State Elections Division checkers, working double shifts and hoping to wrap up the count by month’s end, added an additional 7,000-plus new signatures and are now reporting results from 328 of the 623 bound volumes (15 petition sheets, each with between 1 and 20 signatures). Thus far, they’ve accepted 64,713 signatures and rejected 8,263. The latter category includes 6,996 who were not found on the state voter database, 34 awaiting the voter’s electronic signature from their home county so it can be compared with the signature on file, 640 whose signature doesn’t match the one of file, and 593 duplicates.

r71more

Numbers for each batch of petitions are found in a cumulative spread sheet online.

Sponsors, a campaign group called Protect Washington Families, are seeking a statewide ballot spot for their effort to overturn a new “everything but marriage” expansion of state rights for state-registered domestic partners. The legislation, Senate Bill 5688, was passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor, and was one day away from taking effect when R-71 sponsors brought in 137,689 signatures, at least temporarily suspending the legislation.  If the referendum is qualified to the ballot, an affirmative vote would uphold the legislation as written and a vote to reject the referendum would serve as a citizen veto of the law.

Election workers have been checking the signatures all month.

25 Responses to “R-71 count surges to nearly 73k”

  1. I asked yesterday the petitions are mixed or are they being counted by county. Did you find the answer to that question?

  2. Nick Handy says:

    In answer to Randy who asked whether the petitions are mixed or being counted by county, the sheets are randomly assembled. The sheets are not organized or counted by county.

    Upon arrival in the Secretary of State’s Office, the sheets are sorted into stacks according to how many signatures are on each page. That is, all pages with 20 signatures go in one stack, all pages with 19 go in another, and so forth. This is done to assist in the process of determining how many signatures have been submitted.

    After the sheets have been sorted in this way, they are randomly bundled into volumes of 15 sheets per volume.

    Thanks for your question Randy. Sorry we did not get back to you yesterday.

    Nick Handy
    Director of Elections
    Office of Secretary of State

  3. What is going to happen to those where the signature doesn’t match the one on file? Are they going to be re-checked or just tossed?

  4. I am wondering if the petitions are in order by date. I noticed that the count started there were hardly any duplicate signatures. But later volumes show double digit numbers of duplicates. I am particularly concerned because two days before the petitions were due, they were reporting 75,000 signatures, and suddenly they had over 130,000. I am wondering how many of those last 50,000 might be invalid.

  5. Peter,
    The surge in duplicates is due to a mathematical phenomenon, not anything late, the petitions are pretty well randomized. For example, lets say you have 100 signatures and out of those there are 10 duplicates (20 actual signatures). If you count the first 10 signatures, you will most likely have 2 that are one of the duplicates, the likelihood of having both of those be the same signature is rougly 10%, if you count twenty signatures, you’d have on average 4 of the duplicates and the likelihood goes up to something like 30% and the percentages will keep climbing as you get closer to a full count. You won’t know for certain if you’ve caught 100% of the duplicates until you count the entire pool since it is entirely possible for the first signature you counted to have it’s duplicate be the last one checked.

  6. I realize that it is the goal to finish reviewing the signatures on Ref 71 by the end of August. Please continue to give each signature the needed time to be reviewed so that the final outcome is the true voice of those who signed.

  7. Sir:

    As a recent transplant to Washington State, I have been appalled at the lack of concern exhibited by elected officials regarding the integrity of the political process. Questionable outcomes, such as the result of the recent gubernatorial elections, would suggest that the very process itself has become a target for forces desiring to corrupt and control the outcome of the democratic process.

    With respect to the recently submitted R-71 petitions, it is acknowledged by both sides that the core issue, whether homosexuality will be permitted to be ‘mainstreamed’ in American society, is contentious. For that reason alone, prudence suggests that the utmost care should be taken by your office, and by any elected officials, to ensure that no suggestion of impropriety shall overshadow the process of moving from a citizen initiative to a ballet initiative. Such suspicions are rampant in the current political climate, and they serve only to further anger and divide an already polarized electorate. For that reason alone, I strongly urge your office to slowly and carefully check each and every signature submitted for the R-71 initiative, and to dismiss and any all external pressure for that process to be accelerated. The integrity of the process, and the subsequent immunity of your office from criticism, are of much greater import than any insubstantial fears of potential legal challenges.

    I thank you for your service, and trust that you will act to ensure that the accuracy of the final petition signature count will be unimpeachable and free from error and criticism.

  8. Mary Hubbard says:

    Please Please Please do not rush the verification process on the signatures for R-71. It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you are on, as an American living in our wondeful land of government by the people and for the people, we should all want the due process to be completed in the fairest most accurate way possible. Pressure from either side of the issue to “hurry” things along should be disregarded. Accuracey is the most important and fairest way to verify the signatures.

  9. Dear Mr. Sam Reed as a voter I strongly request that you and you signature checkers slow down and check the signatures accurate.
    A slow speed maintains the quality of the process and gives a truer reflection of the will of the people..
    You owe it to the voters and citizens of the state of WA and the future of America…

    Sincerely

    Shane Rossen

  10. According to Gary Randall’s blog, one observer went and reported to Larry Stickney that his relative had been deemed a non-voter. How does this mesh with the rule that observers cannot note names, only numbers?

  11. Dear Mr. Reed,

    This is an extremely important and polarized Referendum. Already there are allegations of impropriety swirling about. Speeding up the verification process will only add to the potential for legal challenges. The people of Washington—not out of state lobbyists–should be your first concern. The people of Washington deserve better from their elected officials and they are watching this carefully, even if the local media has better things to report on. Sir, you have a solemn duty to ensure that all R-71 signatures are carefully checked. Please slow down and do this right!

  12. Robert Struble says:

    Dear Sam Reed,
    The democratic process is worth time and effort. Please countermand the transition to a hasty mode of counting.

    Otherwise, the sudden increase in the invalidation rate will rank with the 2004 gubernatorial election, when ballots were conveniently discovered to change the result.

    Let the watchword be — no playing fast and loose with democracy!

  13. Please do not rush the verification process on signatures for R-71, Haist makes waist. Those counting maybe making undeserved, unintended mistakes in both directions lets make this count as accurate as possible.

  14. I note there seems to be a “standard complaint format” on here now by many people “urging things to slow down”. Again – they are a state agency following state agency rules and laws – thus everything will be as accurate as is required by law. Things are and obviously will always be “by the book” no more, no less. There are checkers of the checkers who are volunteers from both sides to ensure things are good for them if you have read past blogs on here with what’s going on.

  15. Susan Blakefield says:

    I am delighted that the R71 proponents have spontaneously decided to mass post here in support of a slow, deliberative check. (I assume that the last 7 posts are from different people and are not all from the same individual.) In any event, I agree. In that regard, I am sure Messrs. Stickney and Randall would agree that all of the signatures should be master checked, not only those rejected by the junior staff. Accuracy is key and any inaccuracy affecting the “accepted names” will be potentially large, since that group of names will be in excess of 100,000.

    I look forward to hearing from the Secretary about the results of the master check of the 200 signature sample. Mr. Ammons said we might hear a report about that today.

  16. Jon, the sponsors have posted blog entries and made an e-mail plea asking supporters of the petition to call the offices and post on the blog. Pretty standard for an election season.

    The base accusation is that the error rate rising is entirely the fault of the Secretary of State’s office and that it is due to some unnamed outside “influence” that they sped up their checks. From a quick eyeball check, the release and verification rate is about the same as it has been, and may in fact be slightly lower (probably due to having a shift change).

    Again, this is pretty standard stuff, and I’m sure the Secretary of State’s office can handle it pretty well; they seem to be incredibly Swiss-like in that regard.

  17. “I note there seems to be a “standard complaint format” on here now by many people “urging things to slow down”. -Jon

    I don’t know that it’s a “standard complaint format” but I do know that since things have speeded up the error rate has increased. Common sense tells you that’s likely to happen. Of course, if your main objective is to make sure R-71 never gets to a vote, than you’re not going to have much to complain about. But, if your goal is to see a fair counting and verification process, than you have a right to complain. Obviously, if a change in procedure introduces a change in outcome, then someone or something is working to drive a specific outcome. So, my question is–which methodology is the right or wrong one to follow? The slower, more careful approach which seemed to validate more signatures? Or the faster approach which apparently invalidates more signatures? If you claim the slower approach was less accurate, than you’re also claiming the state workers must have been cheating in some way–that’s the only reasonable explanation for more signatures being validated by adhering to a slower, more methodical process. You’d have a much harder time proving to anyone with half a brain that by going faster you’re getting more reliable results.

    What do Washingtonian’s deserve? A faster, less reliable process? Or , a slower, more reliable process? If you really don’t want R-71 to get on the ballot, of course you’re going to push for a faster process. No rocket science here, folks!

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  19. This is to correct the statement from Jon. The checkers are employed by the state. It is the observers who are volunteers from both sides. The problem most recently is that there used to be 4 master checkers allowed on the floor at one time with 3 observers from each side to watch. Now, there are 6 checkers on the floor and spread apart (even though it was promised that no more than 4 would be allowed on the floor at one time) with only 3 observers, making it impossible for the observers to thoroughly watch each of the checkers.

    Jon’s other statement is “they are a state agency following state agency rules” and that it is run “by the book no more no less”. You should know that that “book” is changing weekly and sometimes daily. The Secretary of State has changed the rules for checkers many times since starting the counting of R71 signatures.

  20. I’m not seeing proof anywhere of an increased pace of checking, nor am I seeing an explanation of why one observer was able to report back with a name of someone who was deemed invalid, according to a brief blog post of one of the sponsors, something that goes against the TRO.

  21. I don’t understand why everyone is talking about “SPEEDING UP” the only thing that I have seen is that they have added a swing shift to the count. As far as I am concerned I think that the SoS is doing the best they can. Keep up the good work. Also, the master checkers are then ones that need to take their time as they are verifing the rejected list. So if they all slow down, maybe they would end up finding more that should be rejected. Just thinking out loud. Again thanks to the SoS staff for doing just a great job.

  22. This a response to J Scooter and other’s comment on monday about the sample size being too small to provide any statistically significant information. He mentioned three specific bound volumes that showed no duplicates. He essentially cherry-picked these three volumes because they showed no duplicates, but that is not how a random sample is made. For your argument to be plausible, you would have to randomly draw 3 volumes from the entire population of volumes (328 so far) and then determine if the duplicate rate in the 3 volume sample is representative of the overall duplication rate, which it would not be because the margin of error on that sample would be more than +/- 56%.

    In contrast, if the Secretary of State takes a random sample of 200 signatures from the 64,713 already approved, the margin of error on that sample statistic would be +/- 6.92% (e.g. if they find a error rate of 2% in the sample, the true error rate would be somewhere between 1.86% & 2.14%).

    Just a little illustration of why 200 isn’t really a bad sample for them to double check.

  23. An orderly, careful count is imperative for the Democratic process to occur. Outside pressures should not influence elected officials to change the rules mid-stream.

  24. thanks to all for your comments/concerns on the process. i have more recently blogged on this question.

  25. Mr. Reed:

    The responsibility of government is to do justice for everyone. A hastened count for R-71 does not serve this duty, especially if signatures are invalidated- either way. Please do your duty to ensure that the will and interests of the people prevail. After all, this is our form of government- at least for now!

    Ashley Perry

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