OLYMPIA -- State elections officials say they suspect some of the signatures turned in for Initiative 1098, the proposed state income tax proposal, may be phony.
Elections Director Nick Handy said the office suspects 20 petition sheets, with about 350 names, are being investigated. All the sheets were signed by the same signature gatherer, Handy said in a press release.
The office notified the state patrol, the state attorney general's office and local law enforcement authorities, and expects to have a thorough review of all the names completed in a few days. It would "vigorously pursue" any violation of the fraud laws, Secretary of State Sam Reed said.
Because the state is involved in several legal battles over the public release of initiative petitions, it can't make the sheets public. The people on the petitions will be contacted.
The questioned sheets are a small fraction of the 24,817 sheets turned in by I-1098 supporters. Not counting the sheets with questioned signatures, they have 385,061 signatures, and the required minimum is 241,153. Checkers are working at "heightened awareness" of possible fraud, Handy said.
"At this point, it looks like an isolated problem with one gatherer submitting 20 bad petition sheets, and this should not affect the underlying initiative check," Handy said.