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 –
“... 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