Monday, August 10, 2009

Washington State's Election Officials Reversing Referendum 71's Error Rate Calculations

In the world of politics, things constantly change. But this is ridiculous.

First, it was reported that the petition signatures to get the anti-LGBT Referendum 71 on Washington State's November ballot had a low error rate.

Then, the Secretary of State's Office declared that the error rate had increased dramatically. The next day, election officials stated the error rate was 14.2%, well above the 12.42% failure threshold.

Don't celebrate just yet. The Slog reports that election officials have reversed their calculations on Referendum 71's error rate.
After days of posting the number of invalid signatures for anti-gay Referendum 71, elections officials are retracting their counts, declaring that hundreds of signatures previously disqualified are actually valid.

Last night, the secretary of state’s office office had reported that the cumulative error rate was over 13.5 percent. "The maximum error rate that they can withstand is 12.43 percent, so they are currently exceeding that," spokesman David Ammons said. So it looked like R-71 was on a trajectory to fail to make the ballot.

But now the secretary of state's office is reporting that 11.63 percent of the signatures are invalid. At this rate, it could make the November ballot. So what happened?

Shane Hanlin, an assistant director of election for the secretary of state’s office, says that so-called "master checkers" have been reviewing signatures over the past week. Even though daily counts have been announced (and widely reported by media), these checkers may not make a final decision on the validity of a signature until days later. They are authorized to consider the reason a signature was initially disqualified, check the state database, and move an "invalid" signature into the "valid" category. Hanlin says that the state's five master checkers have taken this action on least 409 signatures.

There are three reasons a signature can be initially disqualified: (1) No matching voter is found in the state database; (2) the signature is a duplicate; or (3) the signature on the petition doesn't match the one in the state's voter database.

It's unclear why the signatures are being reversed.


Election officials need to pull this act together—soon. While their aims for transparency are respectable, the numbers don't even add up anymore. They cite 409 signatures that have been reversed, but none of the figures on their website show how they reached that figure. The final count is slated to be complete by the end of next week; however, if this slapdash reporting continues, the dispute will be tied up in court far longer.
So hold on to your party hats. We may still have to wage a campaign to defeat the purpose behind this discriminatory ballot initiative. (Remember, in order to keep the domestic partnership law in place for same-sex couples, you have to vote to approve Referendum 71.)

Just imagine what the party will look like when we win . . .


  1. Election officials are rigging the election. Watch out everyone the election officials are trying their best to get this anti-gay initiative on the ballot so your rights are taken away. As soon as the signature vote wasn’t going the anti-gay bigots way the numbers got “readjusted” and now that the elections officials have been caught and called out on their suspicious activity they are hiding the process.

  2. I am concerned that the officials review the disqualified signatures, but not the ones that are qualified. This seems biased to me.