OLYMPIA – Some 1,000 signatures submitted to put the same-sex marriage law on the November ballot are suspected forgeries, state officials said Monday.
State elections workers checking petitions for Referendum 74 flagged a total of 51 sheets where the signatures looked similar. Checking the signatures on the petitions with the signatures the state has on file for all voters produced 1,001 signatures that don’t match the official records.
The suspected forgeries were pulled from the rest of the petitions before counting started and aren’t expected to derail the efforts of opponents of same-sex marriage to put the law on the ballot for voters. Sponsors of R-74 submitted almost twice as many signatures as needed, and of the 1,248 signatures checked Sunday, 1,130 – or 90 percent – were good.
The petitions, which were submitted by a single signature-gatherer who was paid for the work, were turned over to the Washington State Patrol for further investigation, said Katie Blinn, state elections co-director.
The name of the signature gatherer was not released because the case is still being investigated, Blinn said. The majority of suspect signatures are for people registered to vote, and some petitions had a wide mix of voters from eastern and western counties on a single sheet, which is unusual for most signature drives.
The case will eventually be turned over to a county prosecutor. Forging signatures on an initiative or referendum is a felony in Washington, with a possible penalty of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both.
It would be the third time in as many years that a signature gatherer has been charged with forgery.