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R-71: Thursday error rate nudges to 15 percent

by David Ammons | August 6th, 2009

Referendum checkers, beefing up their efforts to determine whether R-71 gets a place on the statewide ballot, have processed another 3,831 signatures, bringing the total to over 27,000 checked so far. The latest daily count reflected an rejection rate approaching 15 percent. 

The state Election Division crew rejected 573 signatures, mostly because the signers weren’t registered Washington voters, for a daily error rate of 14.96 percent. That was the highest daily error rate recorded in the first five days of signature-verification, and brought the cumulative error rate to 13.54 percent. That is somewhat above the 12.42 percent rate the sponsors will be able to absorb, once all signatures are counted. The Secretary of State’s Office has also used a 14.2 percent number to express the excess number of signatures, 17,112, that sponsors submitted, but the lower error rate number is the one to watch.  And this number: 120,577. That’s the number of valid Washington voter signatures that are required to get on the ballot.   

The referendum represents the effort by the socially conservative campaign group called Protect Marriage Washington to gain a November ballot spot for a public vote on Senate Bill 5688, the newly adopted “everything but marriage” law that expands the rights and responsibilities of couples who are registered with the Secretary of State’s domestic partnership registry. That law is on hold while the referendum question is being decided.

The Elections Division on Thursday beefed up their signature-checking process by adding a second shift of workers. Updated numbers covering the 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. checks will be posted Friday morning.  Friday numbers will be posted here and on the R-71 homepage Friday evening and updated Monday morning.

A recap: As of late Thursday afternoon, the day’s count stood at 3,831 new signatures processed, with 3,258 of them accepted and 573 rejected — 462 because they aren’t on the state list of voters, 22 because the signature appears on petitions more than once, 74 because the signature doesn’t match the sginature on file, and 15 pending county confirmation with a signature that can be matched with the petition signature. The latter category probably will be shifted to the “accepted” pile once the counties respond.

Grand totals so far: 27,288 checked, with 23,593 and 3,695 rejected — 3,226 for being a nonvoter, 90 duplicates, 295 for signature not matching and 84 pending county confirmation.

13 Responses to “R-71: Thursday error rate nudges to 15 percent”

  1. Count me in with the masses praising this website, blog and the updates.
    One question though, on the new statistics page, the signatures pending county verification are said to ” neither rejected nor accepted.” Why then are they being included in the “rejected” total in table 1? Also, note 3 suggests “From experience, we know that many of the signatures in this category are usually accepted.” Why not just excluded them from the totals for the time being?

  2. One more note, there is an incorrect figure posted in table 1 of the stats page. The number rejected on 8/4 should 835 (or 823 if pending signatures are excluded) instead of 832 as it currently reads. Small point, but with everyone on pins and needles, thought I’d point it out. Thanks again for all your work!

  3. That’s not a bad idea. We have a “signatures checked” number and a “signatures accepted” number — and I guess the logic is that you subtract the second from the first and get the number of those that have not been accepted. It’s true that most or all of pending ones will move over to the approved stack, so the “rejected” number or error rate is temporarily skewed a bit. At the same time, the duplicates number will grow in importance in the other direction.

    A further factor I haven’t even gotten into is that I’m told a small number of signatures that were rejected by the checker can be accepted by a super-checker who reviews all of the work. This all means there is a little bit of moving around of the numbers that is inherent in the process. Sorry it’s a tad messy to be releasing unofficial numbers, but we decided to be totally transparent in sharing the whole vetting process … and both sides have observers on site. I’m not aware that the daily numbers have ever been made public before R-71. More typical in the past was that a random sample is tested and the results are announced once they’re certified.

  4. Brian, your second post demonstrates what I just said about the minor moving of numbers. Nothing major, and definitely no hanky-panky or manipulation by anyone, but adjustments that are made … Again, the alternative to daily temperature-taking and the possibility of confusing the reader is to not release the daily data as it happens. I think we all favor transparency as a general proposition.

  5. Thank you for the reply David. I only made my second post because the total rejected number for that day was reduced but the total of the rejected reasons for that day still adds up to 835. Any ideas where the 3 moved from?
    And yes, we all favor your team’s transparency! Don’t let little stuff like this discourage your work at all! I think everyone is enjoying the visibility of this democratic process – visibility that wouldn’t exist without your work! A very real opportunity for everyone to learn a little about the process.

  6. David, regarding Brian’s second post. If 835 rejected became 832 because of adjustments, one of your numbers in the second table in the row for 8/4 needs to be adjusted, too. 732+22+69+12=835.

    I know it’s a little bit of a hassle for you to post these numbers and to keep them accurrate, but I cannot tell you how much we all appreciate it — just to be a little redundant here. There are a lot of families out here who would be negatively impacted by this referendum. Thank you for keeping us up to date on your progress.

  7. Brian and Tony– I have no idea specifically which signatures shifted or for what reason, only that they have moved a bit here and there, and will continue to do so as the 137,689 signatures are eyeballed. (I’m in no way involved in the processing, which is being done in the Election Division building about a mile from my office in the Capitol). The final, firm and certified numbers will be cast in concrete once the process is complete in a couple of weeks.

  8. Just a brief note to congratulate everyone on creating the transparency that all agencies should strive for. You have made it remarkably easy for us to keep our readers up to date.

    David Hart

  9. No matter where you are on this issue, the way it is being handled by this office is a breath of fresh air – it’s nice to see our state government being transparent and prompt. thanks for all of the frank dialogue, Dave!

  10. thanks to you, Paul and David Hart re “transparent and prompt”. you make us purr.

  11. David, on the referendum 71 tally page, the update from 9 this morning shows an unusually low error rate and the numbers above and below don’t add up. What’s the story?

  12. Tony– the daily numbers are accurate for that day, but the numbers move around somewhat as counties respond to request for electronic voter signatures and as master checkers review the previous checkers’ decisions to reject some of the signatures as not matching the one on file. The lower cumulative error takes this into account. The overall signature-verification is likely to be very close, and the only number that really counts is whether the checkers verify 120,577 signatures when all is said and done.

  13. Sorry, we don’t have any recommendations!

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