The state Elections Division has requested the Washington State Patrol to investigate a number of Initiative 1163 petition signatures that appear to be fraudulent. None of the signatures were included in the estimated 340,000 signatures submitted to the Secretary of State on July 8, and the signature-gathering company self-reported the problem.
Initiative 1163 spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik told our office that I-1163’s signature-gathering firm, PCI, realized that it had a number of signatures that they suspected to be fraudulent. The California-based PCI sent the questionable signatures to our Elections Division, which has reviewed them, finding that most of the signatures did not match the signature on file, or were names of voters not found on the voter rolls.
The matter has been turned over to the Washington State Patrol, which has agreed to investigate. The actual number, reaching into the hundreds, will not be released during the investigation, nor will the name of the signature-gatherer or the questionable petitions themselves. This is standard practice during a law-enforcement investigation, which could lead to prosecution. The signatures were mostly collected in Snohomish, King and Island counties, according to the Elections Division.
Secretary of State Reed noted that the I-1163 campaign and their signature-gathering company self-reported the fraudulent signatures to our Elections Division and are acting in good faith. The questionable signatures were never submitted by the campaign as part of their July submission, he underscored.
"We appreciate their efforts," Reed said. "I know we all want our initiative process to be clean, and we rely on campaigns and their signature-gathering operation to take great care in submitting only valid petitions. The public values our initiative process and the voters want a system they can trust. We appreciate the patrol taking a good, hard look at this situation. This state has a zero tolerance policy for initiative fraud."
Initiative fraud is an unranked felony, with a standard range of zero to 12 months in jail, and a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Kaushik can be reached at (206) 355-9230 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I-1163, brought forward by the SEIU, deals with home care workers and services for elderly and people with disabilities. The text is here: http://tinyurl.com/3vd4za2
Elections Divisions officials said Friday that I-1163 will undergo a random sample signature check, possibly beginning next week. The check is expected to take two or three days. The campaign submitted more than the suggested 320,000 signatures – the bare minimum of 241,153 plus a pad that would cover the average error rate of 18 percent.