Challengers 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.”