State election officials are revising and upgrading the reporting process for Referendum 71, hoping to provide a clearer picture of how the signature-checking process is unfolding. The first report with the new approach will debut Tuesday afternoon.
The plan is for a daily late-afternoon update that shows signature-checking results for each batch of petitions that have been completely checked, and then re-checked by a supervisor. Each batch has 15 petition sheets, with varying numbers of signatures.
The fluid nature of the signature-checking has made it difficult to make sense of daily “snapshots” and the daily rejection rates that were published previously. As of Friday night, for instance, hundreds of initially rejected signatures have been reversed by the master checker and added to the accepted stack, often because the signer wasn’t initially found on the statewide voter data base, but was found upon closer check.
The new approach will provide information on signatures checked, signatures accepted, and signatures rejected or still pending an electronic signature from the person’s home county. An updated website, also will give totals, an error rate, and reasons for rejecting signatures. Rather than reflecting signatures that are in mid-point of being processed, the new report will mostly be an end-of-process view, and not the raw data along the way.
“We hope viewers will find this clear and accountable and provide greater confidence as we update our website,” says state Elections Director Nick Handy. “We have a time-tested system we have used for years to check our initiatives and referenda, including master checkers and permitting observers from both sides to watch everything we do. We didn’t alter our process for R-71. We are using great care.”
The Elections Division hopes to complete the signature-verification process before the end of the month. Sponsors seek a statewide vote on Senate Bill 5688, the “everything but marriage” law that expands rights for couples registered with the Secretary of State’s domestic partnership registry. The law is on hold pending the referendum outcome. Sponsors need 120,577 valid signatures to get on the ballot. They submitted over 137,000 signatures on July 25.