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Posts tagged: I-1098

Signature fraud case filed against I-1098 worker

OLYMPIA — King County will prosecute a state worker for signature fraud in a case involving at least 19 phony signatures on Initiative 1098, the income tax proposal.

Claudia McKinney, a member of Service Employees International Union who was paid by the union for the time she took off work to gather signatures, is  being charged with forging other people’s signatures on some of the petitions she turned in.

Elections workers doing random checks of petitions found several signatures that didn’t match and others for people who weren’t registered votes on petitions McKinney submitted. All the petitions she turned in were then pulled from the piles, and about 300 of the 349 signatures she submitted were questioned. A Washington State Patrol investigation contacted 19 of the people who said the signatures on the petitions weren’t theirs.

An attorney for SEIU told the patrol that McKinney was not paid by the signature but was among union members who were paid out of a union fund for the time they took off work to gather signatures. McKinney declined to talk to patrol investigators and referred them to her attorney.

McKinney, who lives in Burien, is being charged in King County with signature fraud, a Class C felony with a maximum penalities of five years in prison and $10,000 fine.

Elway Poll: Tax initiatives ahead, but not winning

Three initiatives that would change the state’s tax policies — instituting an income tax, dropping a series of consumer taxes or requiring supermajorities to pass new taxes — have more support than opposition among voters, a new poll by Elway Research Inc. indicates.

But none of the three has a majority of voters saying they’d vote yes if they were casting ballots right now.

One of the proposals, which would require any new tax imposed by the state to get a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature, seems to have lost support over the summer, pollster H. Stuart Elway said.

Three other initiative to change the way the state handles liquor sales or the compensation system for injured workers also have less than half the voters polled saying they will definitely or probably vote yes.

“I think the initiatives are in trouble,” Elway said. “You bette be well over 50 percent before the heavy campaign season starts, because support tends to erode” when the opposition starts its advertising push.

I-1053, which would require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to pass any tax increase, has lost support from a similar survey in June. The current poll has 48 percent of voters saying they would definitely or probably vote yes on that measure; in June, 65 percent said they would probably or definitely vote yes. The opposition stayed relatively the same in both polls, with about a fourth of voters in both surveys saying they’d probably or definitely vote no. The real shift was in undecided voters, which jumpted to about one in four voters now, up from about one in 10 voters in June.

Also of note: Many of the initiatives have significant numbers of voters who are undecided on those initiatives. That could be because some are confusing — for example, there are two separate proposals to end the state monopoly on liquor store sales, although in slightly different ways.

“One old adage is that confused voters tend to vote  no on ballot measures,” Elway said.

For details on the Elway Poll for initiatives, click here to go inside the blog.

What’s missing from this commercial?

Labor Day weekend is often the point when campaigns kick into high gear with television commercials, and seveal initiative campaigns did so this year.

Among them was a television spot in favor of Initiative 1098, which would make some significant changes in state tax law. That is to say it would impose an income tax on people making more than $200,000 a year, or couples making more than $400,000 a year.

Missing from the commercial, however, is any use of the phrase “income tax.” It talks about removing the business and occupation tax for some operations and lowering overall taxes for many people. But the I-T phrase doesn’t come up.

Opponents say that’s a significant omission. They have a new radio ad, which uses the phrase “income tax” at least six times.

So are the Yes on 1098 folks trying to hide the fact that? No, says spokesman Sandeep Kaushik. “We think that’s one of the things people know about 1098. What a lot of people don’t know about 1098 is the benefits. The point of the ad is to inform the people about the benefits.”

How one gets those benefits, however, is by placing an income tax on the so-called “high earners.”

To see the commercial and judge for yourself, go inside the blog.

Come to WA. There’s no income tax…yet

OLYMPIA –Washington state touts its lack of an income tax in a current magazine supplement designed to attract business to the state. Not mentioned in the special section in Fortune Magazine is the fact that could change in a few months.
In three different places in an “advertorial” in the current issue of Fortune, prospective businesses or new residents are told that along with a well-educated work force and access to the great outdoors, one reason to come to Washington is the state has no individual or corporate income tax.
It’s even a factoid graphic when the 8-page supplement lists advantages in Washington By the Numbers:

Signature fraud evidence goes to State Patrol

OLYMPIA —In a case that may involve the most careless or most blatant example of signature fraud in Washington political history, elections officials turned over petitions with as many as 349 bogus signatures to the State Patrol Forensics Lab. The volunteer who submitted them in could face felony fraud charges.

The suspect’s name is being withheld, but elections officials have confirmed this much about her: She is a member of the Service Employees International Union, which is backing Initiative 1098, but wasn’t being paid for her efforts.

(The I-1098 campaign paid for signatures, too, but there’s no apparent problems with those petitions, nor on any of the other petitions that have been checked so far for proposals that paid for sigs. That tends to support the contention of Eddie “Spaghetti” Agazarm, signature gathering professional, who insists his checkers can spot a forgery across the room and it’s the true believers, not the paid workers, who have the motivation to cheat the system.)

The suspect may have misunderstood the verification process, which is often referred to as a “spot check” when initiative drives pass a certain milepost. Before the spot check of 3 percent of the signatures is conducted, however, all the sheets are examined for names that are illegible, have missing signatures or addresses or other obvious errors.

It was during that process that elections workers noticed six sheets that stood out because they were all in the same ink, and seemed to be in the same handwriting, David Ammons, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, said: “There was no real effort to have the look and feel of a petition sheet, which is normally quite varied.”

Think about it, folks. Twenty different people sign a standard petition sheet, often with different pens, at diferent times and in different places. They usually look a bit ragged by the time they get to the elections office.

Elections workers noticed that the same gatherer’s name was on the back of each sheet. They pulled all of  her sheets, and found more that seemed to be in the same handwriting. Some appear to be actual voters, but the signatures are bogus, others have bad addresses, Ammons said. In the end, 89 percent of the signatures that gatherer submitted were bad; the average failure rate is about 18 percent.

Forensics experts will look at the sheets before the case is turned over to the King County prosecuting attorney, who would have the first call on filing criminal charges because that’s where the signature gatherer lives.

The questioned signatures represent about one-tenth of 1 percent of the total submitted and the remaining petitions for I-1098 checked out, Ammons said. They had a failure rate that was on track with the average for ballot measures.

“There seems to be no systematic effort to stuff the ballot box,” he said.

Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the campaign, said the motive behind the alleged fraud “is still a mystery at this point.”

As far as he knows, the SEIU wasn’t offering any prizes or bonuses for signature gathering, so he doesn’t know of any financial motive for turning in phony signatures, if that’s in fact what happened, Kaushik said.

“We had more than 1,000 volunteers across the state,” he said. “I don’t want this to cast a cloud over that effort.”

I-1098 got about a third of its signatures, around 120,000, from volunteers and the remainder from paid collectors.

And then there were 3…initiatives for sure on the ballot.

OLYMPIA — Initiative 1098, which would place an income tax on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year, and couples who make more than $400,000, has enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

This despite having about 350 signatures pulled out because the person who gathered them is suspected of fraud.

The state Elections Office said it checked 11,876 signatures and 10,090 were good. The rest were people who weren’t registered, or the signature on the sheet didn’t match the one on file, or they were duplicates. That’s a validation rate that’s fairly normal for petition drives.

The campaign turned in about 385,000 signatures, and needed less than 242,000 good ones.

So I-1098 becomes the third of six initiatives that to go from  almost certain to for sure. I-1100, the first of two proposals to get the state out of the liquor business, qualified first. I-1082, which would add private insurance to the mix for workers compensation coverage in Washington, qualified on Tuesday.

Signature fraud suspected on I-1098

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.

Income tax may be ballot-bound

OLYMPIA — Supporters of an initiative to put an income tax on people who make more than $200,000 may have the signatures to make the Nov. 2 ballot.

The Initiative 1098 folks have informed the Secretary of State’s office they’ll be bringing in an estimated 325,000 signatures on July 1, the day before the deadline for turning in petitions.

I-1098 is the latest attempt to put an income tax in Washington state. It calls for a tax on a person making more than $200,000 per year or a couple earning more than $400,000. In exchange, it lowers some of the existing state taxes, such as the sales tax.

An initiative proposal needs about 242,000 valid signatures from registered voters to make the ballot, and elections officials suggest having at least 300,000 to get the cushion needed for rejected signatures.

Income tax proposals on the ballot have generally failed, the exception being the first such proposal during the Great Depression, which was overturned by the state Supreme Court. There’s a debate among lawyers whether an  income tax by initiative is even possible without a change in the state constitution, but that’s a discussion for Nov. 3, if the initiative passes.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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