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Ref. 71 moves closer to the ballot

Referendum 71 should go on the November ballot. So says Secretary of State Sam Reed. So says King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector.

Reed certified the voters’ opportunity to repeal the “everything but marriage” law Wednesday. That was pretty much a given because his office previously reported it had more than enough signatures to make the ballot. It was a close one, with only about 1,400 signatures to spare, and it made the cut by having one of the lowest rejection rates in history.

Spector rejected a request from opponents of the initiative to block it from the ballot because of questions about the way the petitions were turned in. Some of the petitions did not have the validation box filled out, which is to be signed by the person collecting the signatures. Some were turned in blank, then stamped by campaign manager Lawrence Stickney, others remained blank.

Reed accepted the petitions anyway, which is standard practice for petitions. Spector said Reed has the authority to accept the petitions for verification, and his decision can’t be challenged until after the measure is certified for the ballot. Opponents have five days to take their case to Thurston County Superior Court, which is where challenges of the petition process are handled, she said.

A delay for “everything but marriage” opponents, as the signature clock ticks…

Opponents of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law for same-sex domestic partners rushed to Olympia last week to file Referendum 71. The clock is ticking, and they only have until July 25th to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures. Assuming a cushion of about 25 percent for duplicate signatures, Mickey Mouses, people not registered to vote, etc., they’ll probably need about 150,000.

Today, however, Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office has said that the ballot title and summary won’t be issued until Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill into law. Since Gregoire doesn’t plan to sign the bill until Monday, that means another week lost before Referendum 71 filers can start printing up petitions.

(It also means, however, that the Refendum 71 folks won’t face the risk of spending thousands of dollars printing up petitions, only to see them all rendered moot if Gregoire vetoes some section of the bill.)

“We have begun our work in drafting a title and summary for this measure, but the bill in question has not yet been enacted, as it has not been approved by the Governor as required by the constitution,” deputy solicitor general Jim Pharris wrote today to Secretary of State Sam Reed, the state’s chief elections officer.

Gregoire can also veto parts of the bill. If she does that, Referendum 71 organizers would have to re-file the measure.

Opponents of the “everything but marriage” law for domestic partners seek a voter veto…

(Photo: people waiting to testify at a House hearing re: domestic partnerships in February.)

Foes of the state’s new “everything but marriage” law plan to file a referendum at noon today at the Secretary of State’s elections office in Olympia, according to Dave Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Sam Reed.

The measure’s apparently being filed by Larry Stickney, president of the Washington Values Alliance, and supporters.

The bill, expected to be signed into law soon by Gov. Chris Gregoire, expands the rights and responsibilities of same sex (and heterosexual senior citizen) domestic partners, granting them most of rights of spouses. It does not allow same-sex marriage. But foes of the legislation, including Stickney, argue that the changes set the stage for a court challenge that could lead to same-sex marriage.

Stickney and supporters would have until July 25th to gather 120,577 valid voter signatures, according to Ammons. If they get enough, the measure would appear on the Nov. 3 ballot for voters to decide.

The filing also means that the new law will be suspended until the referendum is decided.