The prospect of qualifying a referendum that seeks to repeal a gay-inclusive domestic partnership law in Washington State significantly improved Tuesday after officials altered their reporting methods.

The cumulative error rate for Referendum 71 was so high last week that one lawmaker said he believed the measure would not make the ballot.

Openly gay Washington State Senator Ed Murray, a Democrat from Seattle who sponsored the law in the Senate, wrote on his blog Thursday: “... the current rate of invalid signatures clearly suggests that R-71 won't make the ballot.”

Lurking behind the numbers, however, were “veteran master checkers,” who have been busy reviewing hundreds of previously invalidated – and publicly reported – signatures.

“... hundreds of signatures were not initially found on voter rolls by the checker, but a later check by the veteran master checkers did make a match,” Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's office, wrote in a blog post.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that officials altered how they calculate the cumulative percentage of rejected signatures last week.

The changes have given Referendum 71 a second chance at qualifying.

Totals reported on Tuesday gave the previously haggard petition a new rosy glow. The current error rate dropped to 10.42 percent, about 2 percent lower than the 12.4 percent it can withstand. Officials reported that 33,214 out of 137,689 signatures submitted have been checked (and “veteran master checked”) with 3,462 rejected.

If it qualifies and fails in November, the measure would only repeal rights approved by the Legislature this year, the second time the domestic partnership law has been extended. Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the original bill that created the domestic partnership law and the two extensions. The law's final extension was dubbed the “everything but marriage” law by the media.

State Elections Director Nick Handy called the count “too close to call,” and cautioned against drawing conclusions based on the sample made public.

Counting is expected to continue into next week.