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Eye On Olympia

Clock continues to tick for R-71 proponents…

I’ll be amazed if someone doesn’t file a court challenge to the proposed ballot language for Referendum 71, which asks voters to veto a new law giving same-sex domestic partners the same state rights and responsibilities as spouses.

Not that the language is that murky. But this is a battle in which words matter — the ballot title says the rights are “equivalent” to those of married spouses, but that the couple aren’t spouses — and both sides are watching closely.

Gary Randall, with the Faith and Freedom Network, said that supporters are reviewing the language now to see if they’ll challenge it. “We’ve got a lawyer looking at it,” he said. On the other side, I’ve got a call in to a spokesman for Equal Rights Washington; haven’t heard back yet.

Perhaps more importantly to opponents, a ballot-language challenge would push back signature-gathering by critical days or even weeks, leaving organizers with a frantic, very difficult task.

Consider the timeline:

-To get the measure on the ballot, proponents have until July 25 to come up with 120,577 valid voter signatures.
-But they can’t print petitions until a five-day window for potential court challenges is up. So a challenge could be filed as late as next Tuesday.
-According to Dave Ammons, at the secretary of state’s office, “Typically, the (Thurston County Superior) court handles such cases as part of their Friday motion calendar. So Friday the 29th would be the earliest that a hearing would be expected, but June 5 or June 12 would be more likely.”

As Ammons notes, that last date would leave backers 6 weeks to print and circulate petitions.

And that brings us to why you don’t see the ballot crowded with more initiatives and referenda. Because getting enough signatures is pretty damned hard.

If you do the math, a June 13 launch date for petitions hitting the streets would mean that organizers have to gather 117 signatures an hour, 24 hours a day, right up until the July 25th deadline. (Calculator handy? It’s 117 signatures x 24 hours x 43 days.)

In the best-case scenario for R-71 proponents — petitions hitting the streets next Wednesday morning — it’s still a lot of work. That would mean getting 85 signatures an hour, round the clock, until the deadline.

Stay tuned.


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

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