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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

How McKenzie made the ballot for assessor

Gina McKenzie, an independent candidate for assessor, has a whole campaign season to prove to voters she can do the job of running the office that figures out what property is worth.

But she's already proved adept at getting voters to sign a petition to get her on the ballot.

McKenzie was a late addition to the assessor's race -- so late, in fact, that she didn't show up in the 5:30 p.m. Friday check of candidates the newspaper made to compile its list for Saturday morning's paper. We figured we just missed a name on the list, but County Auditor Vicky Dalton explained it was because McKenzie's petition of candidacy was still being processed at that point.

McKenzie, it turns out, filed for office as an indigent, which means she submitted signatures rather than a filing fee....

...Under state law, a candidate who claims indigency needs one valid signature from a registered voter for every dollar of filing fee, or in this case 884 valid signatures from Spokane County voters.

She turned in 929 signatures at about 1 p.m. Friday, and county elections staff warned that wasn't much of a cushion. She went out and returned with 56 more by 3:30 p.m.

That's still only a cushion of about 11 percent, and signatures normally bounce at a rate of 15 to 25 percent for most initiative petitions.

When 4 p.m. rolled around, elections office staff had a dilemma. Filing was closed, and McKenzie's didn't have enough valid signatures approved, but they hadn't all been checked, either. A candidate paying a filing fee wouldn't be able to show up late with the cash, so should a candidate using signatures have the deadline extended? The Secretary of State's office said yes, keep checking.

At the end of the first check, she had 872 signatures approved and 112 rejected, or 12 shy of the mark. But elections staff reviewed the rejected signatures and concluded another 23 were in fact good. She had passed the minimum requirement with 11 signatures to spare, or a 10 percent rejection rate.

Dalton said checking McKenzie's signatures delayed the "candidate draw" in which the order of candidates on the ballot is determined. But it was an impressive effort to round up valid signatures on a tight time frame, Dalton said

How that translates into the crowded assessor's race -- two Republicans, two Democrats and two independents -- remains to be seen.

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