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R-71 update: 103,000 signatures approved

by Brian Zylstra | August 26th, 2009

The latest signature update for Referendum 71 shows that signature checkers have approved more than 103,000 signatures.

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Nearly 7,000 signatures have been counted since Tuesday’s update, bringing the cumulative total to 117,069 checked signatures. Of this total, 103,198 have been accepted and 13,871 have been rejected for one reason or another. The overall error rate is now 11.85 percent, just a little up from the 11.81 percent reported Tuesday. In order to make the November statewide ballot, the referendum’s overall rejection rate must not go over 12.4 percent.

The R-71 sponsors, Protect Marriage Washington, need 120,577 valid Washington voter signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot.

And now, the breakdown of the rejections: 11,178 people whose registration were not found, 1,160 whose petition signature did not match the one on file, 1,477 duplicates and 56 cases where checkers have asked the voter’s home county for an electronic signature that can be compared with the signature on the petition.

As for the “third check,” another 152 previously “not founds” in Volumes 221 through 266 were moved to the “accepted” pile on Monday. There now have been 713 names moved to the “accepted” category after a review of Volumes 1-266. On this spreadsheet, Volume 266 is highlighted, which shows how far the third checkers have gone with this particular check. The third check process was started as a way to review the names of petition signers whose names did not appear on the snapshot of the voter registration database that checkers had been using from the start of the checking process. The live version of this database is being used to check those names in question.

The R-71 sponsors are trying to overturn the recently adopted “everything but marriage” law (SB 5688) that expands state rights and responsibilities to state-registered domestic partners so that they equal those granted to married couples.

13 Responses to “R-71 update: 103,000 signatures approved”

  1. Susan Blakefield says:

    Thank you for these updates.

    If I may repeat my earlier question: would you please report the number of signature shifts from reject to accept as the result of the general master check given to all initially rejected signatures (i.e., the second check, not the live-database “third check”)? If you could express that either as a percentage or as a total number of shifts, that would be much appreciated. If you don’t have a precise figure handy, I would greatly appreciate hearing your best good-faith estimate.

  2. Randy Sampson says:

    How many signatures have been checked in relation to the 713 figure. Again, volumes are not as telling because they contain differing signature counts.

  3. so they need 17,000 valid signatures out of the remaining 20,000 left to be checked…

  4. J Scooter says:

    PLEASE SUBSTITUTE THIS COMMENT FOR ONE THAT I SUBMITTED JUST A FEW MINUTES AGO BEFORE IT WAS COMPLETED:

    With all due respect to the hardworking, honest folks at SoS who are counting signatures, the more information that gets posted about the process, the more obvious it is that you are working with a flawed process that a judge needs to look at very closely. I won’t repeat the details of all of the posts about accepting signatures from non-registered voters (I have cited several court cases in several states that specifically prohibit this practice, and the SoS has not cited a single case anywhere that permits that practice).

    But as to the utter refusal to double-check a significant number of initially accepted signature, while double and triple checking initially-rejected signatures, the posts by SoS personnel in this blog demonstrate why that practice is unfair, skews the results, and will (hopefully) be found illegal. Please look at your following posts, which end up being completely self-contradictory and contrary to the facts already demonstrated here. Let’s look at 3 posts from the SoS — and then how these posts are contradicted by another SoS post and by the facts here.

    THE THREE POSTS FROM THE SoS
    On August 11, Dave Ammons from the SoS wrote:
    “once the signer is found on the voter database, the signature match is the heart of the checking process. checkers are trained to spot phony signatures submitted by someone other than the actual voter.”

    On August 13, Nick Handy from the SoS wrote:
    Question: Do master checkers double check approved signatures?
    Response: Master checkers only review rejected signatures. Master checkers do not review approved signatures.
    In the case of approved signatures, the signature checker has located the voter registration record and has compared the signature on the petition sheet with the signature on the voter registration record. These signatures either match or do not match. In close cases, the checker may request a supervisor or master checker to help with a close call. To recheck all approved signatures would nullify the vast majority of verification work already completed.

    On August 26, Christina S from the SoS wrote:
    Q) I still don’t get it. Why are there additional checks on “rejected” signatures and not additional checks” for “accepted” signatures?
    A) Case law supports the view that once a valid registration of a signer is identified, and the signature is a match, there is no reason to go back and attempt to reject that signature. To recheck all approved signatures would nullify the vast majority of verification work already completed.
    These practices are longstanding practices used by the Elections Division for decades and are not designed or intended to benefit one side or the other. All signatures that are rejected by the first checker go to a senior checker who acts as a “second set of eyes” and digs deeper to find the registration on file. Signatures not found at this step go to a final step: they are run against to the most up-to-date voter information available, to make sure we have not missed any recent registrations.

    THE BOTTOM LINE OF THE ABOVE THREE POSTS IS ESSENTIALLY THAT THE SIGNATURE CHECKING PROCESS IS BLACK-AND-WHITE: checkers are “trained to spot phony signatures”; “signatures either match or they do not match”; if the “signature is a match, there is no reason to go back and attempt to reject that signature”.

    NOW, LET’s LOOK AT THE MORE-REVEALING POST ON AUGUST 19, WHICH QUOTES FROM A REPORT FROM SHANE HAMLIN OF THE ELECTIONS DIVISION AFTER THE DOUBLE-CHECKING OF 222 ‘INITIALLY-ACCEPTED SIGNATURES’ FOUND 31 SIGNATURES THAT WERE EITHER REJECTED ON THE DOUBLE-CHECK OR SENT FOR FURTHER REVIEW. SHANE HAMLIN SAID:
    “That is, changes will occur if additional research or review is done, particularly in a process like signature checking that is, in and of itself, an imprecise and sometimes subjective process.”

    OK, THERE’S THE CONTRADICTION: Not only is the signature checking process not “black and white”, but the Election Division itself admits that “signature checking … is, in and of itself, an imprecise and sometimes subjective process”.

    AND WHAT FACTS HAVE RESULTED FROM THIS “IMPRECISE AND SOMEWHAT SUBJECTIVE PROCESS” ? The result was that almost 14% of 222 initially accepted signatures should have been rejected or reviewed further to see if the acceptance was appropriate.

    How can any fair and reasonable person read the above SoS posts and not conclude that this counting process is terribly skewed by counting incorrectly accepted and questionable signatures?

    Imagine if the National Football League had a rule that said that instant replay could be used only to overturn a referee’s initial call that a wide receiver caught a pass outside of the end zone and so there was no touchdown –but the replay could not be used to overturn a referee’s initial call that a wide receiver caught a pass in the end zone and the so there was a touchdown?? Wouldnt that be fair — use the replay to allow a decision go from no-touchdown to touchdown, but forbid the replay to allow a decision to go from touchdown to no-touchdown?

  5. The rejection rate would be over 12.30% right now if election officials did NOT accept UNregistered people’s signatures. And I am not even counting the other ways this process has been stacked in favor of getting this referendum on the ballot.

    On 8/20/09 the results according to election officials were:
    Rejected: 10,544 or 11.97% – Registration NOT Found: 8,822 or 10.00%

    The percent of registration not found signatures was going up prior to 8/20/09 then the next day, 8/21/09, election officials find “new” registration databases.

    On 8/26/09 the results according to election officials were:
    Rejected: 13,871 or 11.85% – Registration NOT Found: 11,178 or 9.55%

    If election officials didn’t CHANGE the procedures they did before 8/21/09 the registration not found percent would be higher than 10.00%. This is what the numbers would look like if election officials didn’t change the procedures to accept signatures from UNregistered people (I’ll use the percent of registration not found before they did change the procedures which was 10%).

    On 8/26/09 the results were:
    Rejected: 14,400 or 12.30% – Registration NOT Found: 11,707 or 10.00%

    Do you see how big a difference less than 600 signatures made and how changing the procedures to accept signatures from UNregistered people made?

  6. For the signatures coming in from new voter registrations, are the dates of registration being checked against the dates on the petition so that we know if those people had filled out a voter registration card at the time they signed, or do they only have to be registered by the time the signatures are counted? If they have to be registered at the time they sign, then is the registration effective when the registration card is dated by the voter, or when it is received by the county?

  7. This is true democracy at work here!

  8. A question.

    Since you are now doing a third check, why still report the “unchecked” names as rejected?

    It would seem more correct to re-compose the table at http://wei.secstate.wa.gov/osos/en/initiativesReferenda/Pages/R-71SignatureStats.aspx to properly reflect the reality of the third check, and not show names that have yet passed or failed it.

  9. Jay Jonson says:

    I note that there are 1477 duplicates. There is a law against signing your name twice. Will these names be turned over to a law enforcement agency for prosecution? Please answer this question.

  10. Randy Sampson says:

    Is it possible for you to provide the third check in a “counted signature/Total to count” format. Not volumes, signatures. Can we get the numbers of counted signatures to date?

  11. I want to add to Jscooter’s point about the subjectivity of counting signatures. Election officials have looked at the rejected signatures at least three times and have come up with massively different numbers in all cases. If this process was clean the rejected signatures would not have moved after the first look. There is an implicit bias to accept more signatures when they are rechecked.

  12. Janet Sailer says:

    The Secretary of State should not accept signatures for people who were not approved as officially registered to vote at the time they signed the petition, regardless of whether or not they signed up to vote a day or a week or two afterwards. Imagine if I drove my car without a license and got stopped for a ticket. I would still be in trouble even if I told the officer “Well, I was planning to get my driver’s license next week” because driving a vehicle without a license in our state is against the law. Is it ilegal to sign a petition if you are not a registered voter at the time of the signing? Is there not a precautionary note against signing a petition if you are not a registered voter on the referedum sheets that people sign? It is inconceivable that the SoS would even consider accepting these signatures since the individuals were not registered voters at the time of the signing. I would question the validity and legality of accepting such signatures.

  13. Jay Jonson says:

    No one has answered my repeated question about the prosecution of people who signed the petitions more than once. This is a serious violation of the referendum laws. I suppose they think that the odds are that they won’t be caught, or that if they are caught, they will not be prosecuted. But certainly they should be prosecuted and the Secretary of State should turn over the people who signed petitions more than once to the appropriate law enforcement officials. This is voter fraud.

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