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
“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
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
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.