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Thurston R-71 hearing set for Tuesday

by David Ammons | September 4th, 2009

r71updateChallengers who hope to block a statewide vote on the state’s new “everything but marriage” law have been given a court date in Thurston County Superior Court for the day after Labor Day. The hearing of the lawsuit brought by Washington Families Standing Together will be before Judge Tom McPhee at 1:30 p.m. in the county courthouse in Olympia.

A King County judge dismissed a challenge brought by Washington Families earlier this week, seeming to concur with their views but saying she was unable to block the Nov. 3 vote.  Challengers quickly shifted to Thurston County, where lawsuits against the state are brought. They are challenging the acceptance of over 35,000 voter signatures by the state Elections Divisions and Secretary of State Sam Reed’s certificati0n of Referendum, 71 to the statewide ballot.

In papers filed with the court Friday, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even asked the judge to dismiss the challenge and allow state and county election officials to push ahead with preparations for the November elections. Reed says officials need to know by Sept. 10 whether R-71 is definitely on the ballot.

R-71 asks voters whether they approve or reject Senate Bill 5688, which gives state-registered domestic partners state rights and responsibilities equal to those of married couples.

In his argument to the court, Even said the state courts have strongly rejected attempts to curb citizens’ ability to use the referendum and initative process. The demand to throw out the signatures of 36,000 registered voters on various grounds is disrespectful and flat-out wrong, he said.  No law requires the Secretary to reject signatures on petitions not signed by the person who circulatated it, nor is there a deadline for a petition-signer to registser to vote, other than to be on the voter rolls at the time signatures are checked, he said.

“To put the matter bluntly, this is no way to treat a voter trying to exercise a constitutional right,” Even said of the challenge.

As for the request to throw out signatures if the person wasn’t already registered, he said “…Voters who sign a petition and simultaneously register to vote exercise a constitutional right when doing so. In addition, because petition sheets are not dated, there is no evidence that signers were NOT already registered before signing and their signatures are accordingly persumed to be valid … Only 43 voters signed the petition and have dates of registration after July 25 (when petitions were turned in), a number that makes no difference to the certification of RM-71 to the ballot.”

6 Responses to “Thurston R-71 hearing set for Tuesday”

  1. Is it just me, or does the response of Even seem snooty in tone? Using term in the official response such as “the demands…is disrespectful and flat-out wrong..” and “To put the matter bluntly, this is no way to treat a voter” and “No law requires the Secretary to reject…”.

    BTW bad typos in the this posting. July 265? registgeresd?

  2. WAFST is comprised of voters who are within their statutory rights to contest things that saw no resolution. The Secretary of State’s answer that “this is how we’ve always done it” and “there are no rules against it” are the primary reason for challenges of this sort, barring any complicity in fraud, which I doubt has happened in any petition process in any state in recent history.

    It’s a reasonable argument to make that an unsigned jurat with examples of fraudulent signatures and dishonest petition gatherers is troubling and worth consideration, but no such consideration was made by the Secretary of State. Saying it’s disrespectful and flat-out wrong is also disrespectful and flat-out wrong because it deliberately misrepresents the position of WAFST, who are, again, voters.

    And the rhetoric is staggering to me as a voter, too– after speaking to the Secretary of State’s understanding that both sides would be primed to litigate, there’s a feigned shock that it happened? There’s allegations of disrespect of the voters?

    All this time I trusted that the Secretary of State and the sponsors were interested in ensuring a clean and honest petition, but at this juncture, that’s been completely left behind to expedite the process and fluff the voter registration rolls.

  3. AJ — the pressures of the pending deadlines are real. the signature-check took about a month, with both sides pleading for us to “go slow” and both sides accusing us of being the tool of the other side. The Constitution requires publication of the Voters’ Pamphlet for every household (printing deadline is late this week, with or without the 37 pages of R-71), and state and federal law requires us to mail a ballot to overseas and military voters by Oct. 3, with or without the R-71 material, and to all other vote-by-mail folks two weeks after that. The deadlines are what they are. Litigation continues, from both camps, and that’s the American way.

    Despite whatever you may read into our process and into our legal briefs, we indeed respect the voters of Washington — to propose initiatives and referendum, as is their constitutional right, and to use the court system along the way — and the Legislature for new legislation, and elections to pick the folks you want in office. What I DON’T see here at OSOS, after my fairly brief time here, are cynicism and bias.

  4. Jay Jonson says:

    Please remember the tone of Even’s arguments and the bias shown by the Secretary of State’s office the next time the Attorney General and the Secretary of State face election.

  5. Steven Wright says:

    David Ammons:

    I don’t understand how you can plausibly deny bias, since you have posted numerous times over the past few weeks that the SoS intentionally biases the review process to “facilitate access” to the referenda ballot. You and he may not be biased on the specific issues raised by R71, but you clearly oversee a process that is biased in favor of qualifying proposed referenda.

    You do this because you see the public referendum as a constitutional right. But there *is* no constitutional right to have a referendum unless and until the requisite number of signatures is gathered. First the condition must be satisfied and only then does the right come into existence. So your office is legally and ethically wrong to skew the process to favor qualification.

    You qualified R71 by the most narrow margin in WA history, even though you know that some unknown number of signatures were improperly accepted by the temporary workers. Every batch of temp-reviewed signatures has had a sizable mistake rate, uncovered through a master check. But you steadfastly refuse to master check these signatures.

    Whatever happens with R71 in court or at the ballot, I can’t see how this deliberately skewed and consciously inaccurate result is anything but disrespect for WA voters.

  6. Instead of dubiously defending the biased practices of the Secretary of State, the Attorney General should be prosecuting Stickney for illegally signing (or stamping his signature) on petitions that he did not personally circulate and can have no way of knowing that they were gathered without fraud and deception. He should also be prosecuting those who signed the petitions more than once in an effort to commit fraud. The law is meaningless if it is not enforced.

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