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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Immigration initiative fails by 37 signatures

Spokane voters won't consider immigration policy this year.

A ballot measure to repeal a city law that bars police officers from making arrests based solely on immigration status did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The petition, sponsored by the statewide group Respect Washington, fell 37 votes short of the threshold needed to put it on November's general election ballot.

According to the county elections department, 2,440 signatures were approved of the 3,620 handed in. Nearly 15 percent of the signatures were invalidated because they belonged to voters who live outside of Spokane. Another 9.5 percent were deemed invalid because the person who signed is not registered to vote.

These issues, as well as a few small others, left the petition just shy of what it needed to qualify.

The issue drew heated testimony at last week's Spokane City Council meeting, where Council President Ben Stuckart called the petition "racist" and voted against sending it to the county for signature verification. 

When it became clear that the petition would fail to reach the ballot, its supporters vowed to make sure the measure appeared before voters at some point in the future.

The number of signatures needed for a petition to qualify for a ballot is based on the number of votes cast in the last general municipal election. In November 2013, 49,536 people voted.

Under such rules, this petition's organizers need to gather five percent of that last vote count. In this case, they had to collect 2,477 signatures.

Even though they failed this go around, according to Spokane City Clerk Terri Pfister, petition organizers can add to the current batch of signatures. They’ve missed the deadline for this November’s ballot. But if they collect only enough to reach the five percent threshold, the measure would not appear on a ballot until November 2017.

If the petition organizers seek to appear on an earlier special election ballot, they will need to collect 15 percent of the last vote count, or 7,431 signatures.

To appear on the February special election ballot, petition organizers will need to collect more than three times as many signatures by Oct. 12, 2015.

The final deadline for collecting signatures for this particular petition is Jan. 27, which is a complete year after the petition was given the official approval to proceed with signature gathering.

Nicholas Deshais
Joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He is the urban issues reporter, covering transportation, housing, development and other issues affecting the city. He also writes the Getting There transportation column and The Dirt, a roundup of construction projects, new businesses and expansions. He previously covered Spokane City Hall.

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