Spin Control

Signature gatherers could need to register

OLYMPIA -- Paid signature-gatherers for statewide ballot measures would need to register with the Secretary of State and their employers would need to conduct background checks before hiring them under a bill approved Thursday by a House panel.

They would have to sign a statement saying they understand election laws, list what initiatives or referenda they are being paid to collect signatures, and couldn't collect signatures on other petitions for free at the same time. Companies that hire unregistered signature gatherers, or allow their employees to be paid for one ballot measure while collecting names on another for free could be fined $500 

The bill is the latest attempt to address concerns some legislators have expressed about the growth of paid-signature gathering for the statewide initiatives, which now rarely qualify for the ballot solely with volunteer staff. Several campaigns in recent years have had paid gatherers who turned in forged signatures.

Katie Blinn of the Secretary of State's elections office said the agency had opposed previous proposals but was supporting this measure because it does not require the signatures to be rejected if the person gathering names violates the law. A House appropriations subcommittee passed the bill on a 7-1 vote.


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