2014 Initiatives to the Legislature
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an initiative to the Legislature?
An initiative is a way for the people, rather than the Legislature, to enact new laws. The Legislature may enact the initiative into law, or may send it to the General Election ballot for a vote of the people.
How many signatures are required to place an initiative to the Legislature on the ballot?
Based upon the 2012 General Election, 246,372 valid signatures of Washington registered voters must be filed with the Secretary of State at least ten days before the Legislature convenes. In 2014, the deadline for filing initiative petitions was January 3. In 2015, the deadline for filing initiative petitions will be January 2. It is the Washington State Constitution that requires enough signatures equal to at least 8% of the votes cast for Governor in the most recent gubernatorial election.
What is an initiative to the people?
An initiative is a way for the people, rather than the Legislature, to enact new laws. The law is initiated by the people, the voters of Washington, by collecting enough signatures to place the measure on the General Election ballot.
How many signatures are required to place an initiative to the people on the ballot?
246,372 valid signatures of Washington registered voters must be filed with the Secretary of State at least four months before the General Election. In 2014, the deadline for filing initiative petitions is July 3. It is the Washington State Constitution that requires enough signatures equal to at least 8% of the votes cast for Governor in the most recent gubernatorial election.
What happens after the petitions are filed?
The petitions are sent out to be imaged. This task is for safekeeping, in case something happens to the petitions during the signature check. Imaging 20,000 – 25,000 petitions takes approximately 3 days for each initiative.
When the petitions return from imaging, each petition sheet is individually reviewed.
- The petitions are examined for suspicious patterns and forgeries.
- Each signature line is examined to eliminate those considered invalid, such as obscenities, an out-of-state address, text that is not a name, lines that are crossed out and not readable, lines that include both a name and address that are fictitious, and lines left blank.
- Once the invalid signatures lines are eliminated, a count is conducted of the number of signatures filed. This becomes the official number of signatures filed.
The process of checking each individual petition sheet and making an official count of the signatures filed takes approximately two days.
Is the Secretary of State authorized to perform random checks of signatures or must every signature be checked?
The Legislature has authorized the Secretary of State to establish, by rule, a random sample formula for checking signatures on initiative and referendum petitions. WAC 434-379-010 contains the formula for conducting a random sample signature check. This formula is based upon a mathematical algorithm developed by a mathematics professor at the University of Washington.
The decision whether to conduct a full check or a random sample check is based on the official number of signatures filed. Generally, the random sample method can be used when a ballot measure sponsor files a total number of signatures that far exceeds the required minimum, such as 25% more than the minimum required. Most initiative and referendum signature checks are conducted using the random sample method rather than a full check.
Can an initiative or referendum petition be rejected on a random check?
No. An initiative or referendum petition may be approved on a random check but may not be rejected on a random check. Thus, if a petition fails the random check, a 100% check must be conducted before the petition may be rejected.
What are the reasons for rejecting a signature?
Signatures are rejected based on one of four reasons:
- The signer is not registered to vote in Washington. This is the most common reason a signature is rejected. Based on the information provided on the petition, a registration for the person was not found in the statewide list of registered voters. These signatures will be rejected because a signer must be registered to vote in Washington in order for the signature to be valid. An initial checker may be unable to find the signer’s registration among the over 3.6 million people registered to vote. No date of birth is provided on the petition, some people do not print legibly, and some people provide a different address on the petition than the address in their voter registration record. During a subsequent search, conducted by a more experienced checker, a signer’s registration file may be found.
- The signature on the petition sheet does not match the signature in the person’s voter registration file. A signature that does not appear to match the signature on file must be reviewed by at least two checkers before it is rejected.
- The same person signed more than once. Only one signature from each registered voter may be accepted. Once a voter’s signature is accepted, any duplicate signatures on a petition for the same initiative or referendum must be rejected.
- The State voter registration database has a poor quality signature image for that voter, or the digital image was not transmitted properly from the county voter registration system to the State database. This is rare, but does happen. In these cases, the Secretary of State works with the county where the signer is registered to vote to obtain a better image of the voter registration signature. Once a better signature image is obtained, it will be reviewed. Experience indicates that many of the signatures in this category are accepted. This category of signatures will remain fluid until the end of the verification process because the Secretary of State’s Office will continue to obtain the images from county election offices until that time.
What is the role of second checkers?
Under policies established by the Office of Secretary of State, a signature may not be rejected by just one checker. Any signature that has been rejected by an initial signature checker is then referred to a second checker. Second checkers are experienced checkers who have worked in the initiative and referendum checking process in previous years. They are more experienced at searching the voter registration rolls to find registered voters.
The vast majority of situations in which a second checker would change the decision of an initial signature checker would be where the second checker is able to locate a signer’s voter registration record in the State database, after the initial signature checker could not find the record. Difficult-to-find registrations might include, for example, a common name like John Smith, with a difficult-to-read address. Another may be a situation where a voter has moved and did not update his or her voter registration information. A third situation might be where the handwriting of the name is difficult to read; an initial checker might think the last name is Anderson and the second checker reads the name as Andersen. A fourth example is a voter who has changed his or her name as a result of marriage or divorce. The petition requests the signer’s name, signature, and address; it does not request a date of birth or other identifying information that would assist in locating the signer’s registration. For example, there are over 32,000 people registered with the last name of Smith, and over 32,000 people registered with the last name of Johnson.
Do second checkers double check approved signatures?
Second checkers only review rejected signatures; they do not review approved signatures. In the case of approved signatures, the initial signature checker has located the voter registration record and has compared the signature on the petition sheet with the signature on the voter registration record. These signatures either match or do not match. In close cases, the checker may request a supervisor or second checker to help with a close call. To recheck all approved signatures would nullify the vast majority of verification work already completed.