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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

I-1033: counting sigs

Don't know if this is going to generate any controversy or not, but a funny thing happened on the way to Initiative 1033's ballot placement Wednesday.

Initiative entrepeneur and chief sponsor Tim Eyman sent out an embargoed e-mail saying that the petitions turned in were "the cleanest ever" and had a rejection rate of less than 10 percent.

About 30 minutes later, the Secretary of State's office announced that I-1033 was cleared for the ballot with "an unusually high" validation rate. But it was about 12 percent. No superlatives reported.

In truth, all of this is an estimate, because the Secretary of State's office does not check every signature on every petition unless it absolutely has to. The requirement right now is 241,153 valid signatures from individual registered voters (that is, you gotta be registered, and if you sign more than once, it don't count.)

If a group turns in 241,152, or less, the office doesn't count, period.

If it turns 241,154 or a few thousand more, it starts counting, and keeping track of rejections. When it passes the number in the cushion -- the difference between the total needed and the total submitted -- it stops counting and the initiative doesn't make it.

If a group turns in about 20 percent or more than the total needed, the office does a random sample, determines how many of the random sample were valid, then applies a formula to determine whether the total number is likely to be above the threshhold.

It's a complicated formula, and those interested in math can read the formula used and applied to I-1033 here. Warning: for math-o-phobes, this could result in nightmares where you square a root, carry the one, move a decimal and have your integer lopped off

The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.