As the prospect of qualifying a referendum that seeks to repeal a gay-inclusive domestic partnership law in Washington State began to dim Thursday, supporters of the measure cried foul.

Opponents of the domestic partnership law – dubbed the “everything but marriage” law by the media – submitted 137,689 signatures on July 25 to qualify Referendum 71, which would force a vote on the domestic partnership law. But that was much lower than the 150,000 signatures suggested by state officials who say error rates run about 18 percent on average.

The cumulative error rate for Referendum 71 was initially very high, prompting one lawmaker to say 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 : “... the current rate of invalid signatures clearly suggests that R-71 won't make the ballot.”

But just days later, state officials said the numbers publicly reported had not been finalized and the error rate suddenly dropped last week to 10.42 percent, about 2 percent lower than the 12.4 percent it can withstand.

New totals reported this week, however, have turned once-cheering supporters to suggest foul play.

On Thursday, the state Elections Division reported the error rate had climbed perilously close to toppling Referendum 71 at 12 percent.

“Over 77,000 signatures have been accepted and more than 10,000 rejected on various grounds, bringing the error rate to just under 12 percent,” David Ammons, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said on the department's blog.

Gary Randall of the Faith and Freedom Network, a coalition member of Protect Marriage Washington, blamed the surge in the error rate to pressure being mounted by the “homosexual lobby.”

“As the homosexual lobby has increased their pressure on the Secretary [of State Sam Reed] to 'hurry up' on processing the signatures, the error rate has risen,” Randall wrote on the group's blog.

“The hurry-up plan was put in place as the homosexual lobby discovered that the faster the checkers checked, the more names were discarded as not valid. They began to put pressure on the Secretary a couple of weeks ago. He and his staff have responded, by setting arbitrary deadlines toward which they could surge, increasing the number of checkers, increasing the number of hours of checking and putting new policies in place which would hurry the process and result in an increase in the error rate.”

“Please slow down Sam,” Randall adds.

Reed has reportedly declined to comment but called the criticism ill-founded. Ammons called the increase in the invalid rate a “mathematically provable” trend not unique to Referendum 71.

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.

Randall suggested supporters pray for integrity in the count.