State election officials have released the first of a new format of daily updates for the closely watched Referendum 71 signature checks. The late Tuesday recap, reflecting only the batches that have been fully vetted by checkers and reviewed and revised by master checkers, shows 33,214 signatures checked, with 3,462 rejected, for a current error rate of 10.42 percent.
The error rate is lower than the daily and cumulative numbers that had been previously reported, because the earlier numbers included many signatures that still were being reviewed by master checkers. A prime example is that hundreds of signatures were not initially found on voter rolls by the checker, but a later check by the veteran master checkers did make a match.
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.
The elections crew of about 30 are working double shifts, with six observers watching on behalf of the two camps. The count is expected to take through the next week, and possibly beyond.
The new method of reporting the signature-checking replaces the old daily reports that included many signatures that were mid-process. A number of signatures ended up moving from the “rejected” pile over to the “accepted” stack after counties responded to requests for the voter’s electronic signature, registrations not initially found by the initial checker were indeed found by the master checker, and signature matches in some cases were OKd by the master checker.
The new numbers, reflecting the first 140 bound volumes of 15 petitions apiece, showed that 29,752 were accepted and 3,462 rejected – 3,117 because they were not found in the official statewide voter registration database, 12 were pending signature images from the voter’s home county, 203 because the petition signature didn’t match the one on file, and 130 were duplicates.
R-71 was filed by Protect Marriage Washington to try to force a statewide vote on Senate Bill 5688, the “everything but marriage” law that passed the Legislature this year, extending the state’s legal marriage rights to those on the state domestic partnership registry. They need 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures to earn a ballot spot. Sponsors submitted over 137,000 signatures and because of the narrowness of their pad, the Elections Division is doing an every-signature check rather than a random sample.