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Eye On Olympia

Ballot measure — and the labor union paying for it — dodges a very expensive bullet…

It turns out that there’s an errror on the thousands of petitions being signed to put Initiative 1029 on the ballot in November. In language presumably carried over from an earlier draft of the measure, the form says that it’s actually a petition to the state Legislature, rather than straight to the fall ballot.

That technical mistake could have been a very expensive one, potentially torpedoing the measure and the hundreds of the thousands of dollars spent gathering signatures. So far, campaign-finance reports have shown that the vast majority of the money has been put up by the Service Employees International Union. (The measure would require more training and better background checks of some health-care workers.)

“It’s a big thing,” said Eddie Agazarm, co-owner of the Olympia-based signature-gathering firm Citizen Solutions. (The company’s not working on I-1029.) The error was discovered by one of his workers. Agazarm notified state election officials about the problem this morning.

“I don’t see how it could be” allowed on the ballot, he said this morning. “Right on the front of the petition, it says it’s going to the Legislature.”

But the Secretary of State’s office says the mistake’s not a show-stopper.

“Our office determined that it was not a fatal flaw or that would-be signers were misled,” said Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the office. He sent out a statement from assistant elections director Shane Hamlin, who said:

“Our office is authorized to reject petitions, but not required to do so. This error does not rise to a level that suggests voters were misinformed as a result of the error or that a signer would have acted otherwise if the petition correctly stated that it is an initiative to the people.”

Agazarm was surprised by the decision. He cited an e-mail he got earlier this year from Adam Glickman, a spokesman for SEIU 775NW, which was lobbying for more technical requirements for ballot measures. In it, Glickman pointed out that petition rules must be followed if signatures are to count:

There are plenty of existing reasons voter’s valid signatures are excluded. If the sponsor prints petitions on the wrong size paper, otherwise valid signatures don’t count. If the sponsor fails to print the correct warning on the petition otherwise valid signatures don’t count. If the sponsor fails to accurately print the title or summary or initiative text on the petition otherwise valid signatures don’t count.

Glickman wrote at the time.

“It’s worse than ignoring it,” Agazarm said of the Secretary of State’s decision about the error. “They’re going to acknowledge it and accept the signatures. I guess we can just ignore all these election laws.”

Print story’s here.


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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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