With the Referendum 71 signature-check now nearly complete, state election officials say they’ve now confirmed that sponsors turned in more than the bare minimum needed for a spot on the November statewide ballot. Signature-checkers passed the 121,000 mark on Monday, the 23rd day of an exhaustive hand check of all 137,000-plus signatures submitted on July 25 by foes of a new “everything but marriage” domestic partnership law passed by the Legislature in April.
It takes 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures to qualify a referendum to the state ballot. That is equal to 4 percent of the total vote for governor last fall. Voters will have a choice of accepting the new law or rejecting it.
The numbers still are unofficial and not final, as checkers do one final check of hundreds of previously rejected signatures of people who weren’t initially found in the voter registration records. That should extend the margin a bit, but the final margin could be in the range of 1,000.
The final margin is the closest in recent history and undoubtedly one of the closest in state history, said state Elections Director Nick Handy. Typically, initiative and referendum sponsors turn in plenty of extra signatures so that a random sampling can be done, rather than a full every-signature check such as the one required for R-71. The R-71 had very little margin for error, such as duplicates or unregistered voters, and they managed to keep their error rate below their maximum allowable rate of 12.4 percent. This was only the fourth out of 57 I&R signature checks that required a full check. The other three 100 percent checked failed to make the ballot.
The day’s recap will be posted late this afternoon. Final certification is scheduled for Wednesday morning by Secretary of State Sam Reed. Reed praised the Elections Division, including “30 hard-working signature-checkers who put in long hours with painstaking review of each and every signature, amid some of the most intensive scrutiny we have ever seen in this state. We have welcomed the scrutiny of citizens and provided unprecedented access to daily reports. We appreciated the role of the official observers. I think the citizens of Washington can be confident that great care was taken to get the process right. I know there has been litigation from both sides, but we can be sure that the process worked just as well as we could make it, without bias for or against either side.”