Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Eyman's Initiative 917 may be in limbo until the end of September

Washingtonians may not know whether Tim Eyman's Initiative 917 will be on the general election ballot until the end of September, NPI has learned.

The Secretary of State's office has told NPI that they will begin checking a random sample of signatures from I-917 petitions next week to determine if the initiative has enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Currently, 224,880 valid signatures are required for an initiative to make the ballot. Sponsors normally try to collect a cushion - a large number of extra signatures - because they know a certain percentage of their signatures will be duplicates or invalids.

I-917 is in potential jeopardy because Eyman turned in a small cushion. Eyman, an admitted liar and deceiver, says he turned in some 300,000 signatures. The Secretary of State's office, however, after counting and recounting Eyman's petitions, say they only have 266,006 signatures.

Eyman has been telling his supporters and the media that that number doesn't match his records - and the petitions containing the other signatures must have been "pilfered" - an idea that Secretary of State Sam Reed has laughed at and said is "ridiculous".

The Secretary of State tells NPI that they expect to be done with their random sample check around the beginning of next month. If the results of the sample show that I-917 has enough valid signatures, it will go on the ballot. If, however, the initiative fails the random sample, it will be set aside.

After the Secretary of State's office finishes a random sample of the other three initiatives, they will begin checking ALL of the signatures submitted for Initiative 917 - a process that could and probably will take weeks and months.

The Secretary of State's office estimated to us that it could take up until the end of September before a complete check is finished.

That's not only after the primary, but around the same time that absentee ballots will begin to go out.

There's another twist to this story which could possibly spell doom for I-917.

A new state law, which just took effect this year, mandates that every petition must contain this declaration:
I, . . . . . . . . . . . ., swear or affirm under penalty of law that I circulated this sheet of the foregoing petition, and that, to the best of my knowledge, every person who signed this sheet of the foregoing petition knowingly and without any compensation or promise of compensation willingly signed his or her true name and that the information provided therewith is true and correct. I further acknowledge that under chapter 29A.84 RCW, forgery of signatures on this petition constitutes a class C felony, and that offering any consideration or gratuity to any person to induce them to sign a petition is a gross misdemeanor, such violations being punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.
State Attorney General Rob McKenna, at the request of one of NPI's state representatives, Republican Toby Nixon, has issued a twisted advisory opinion saying these declarations do not need to be signed by the petitioner - meaning unsigned petitions can be counted.

The Secretary of State's office has confirmed to NPI that they are following McKenna's opinion. The office has stated previously that there are some 3,000 I-917 petitions with unsigned declarations. If a court found that those petitions were invalid because they didn't have the petitioner's signature, I-917 would be history.

Even if that doesn't happen, I-917 is still in limbo - and we may not know its fate until the end of this September. We cannot afford to wait and see what happens. We must assume it will qualify and continue preparations to fight the initiative so we will not be caught off guard if it does make the ballot after all.

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