R-71 has signatures to make the ballot, pending latest court challenge

R-71 petitionsWashington state‘s Referendum 71, which will give voters a chance to overturn the new “everything but marriage” same-sex domestic partnership law, has moved a step closer to being on the November ballot.

The secretary of state’s office ruled Monday that the referendum had 121,486 valid voter signatures, nearly a thousand more than needed to make the ballot.

At the same time, the first court battle over R-71 was being played out in court.

During a hearing Monday afternoon, King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector heard arguments from attorneys representing the secretary of state, proponents of R-71 and Washington Families Standing Together, the group opposed to the referendum.

Last week, Families Standing Together filed a lawsuit requesting an injunction that would keep the referendum off the fall ballot, claiming the the secretary of state has not complied with the law in processing R-71.

Signature gatherers are supposed to sign declarations saying that signatures they’ve collected are valid to the best of their knowledge and that they personally circulated the petition, the lawsuit says. Attorney David Burman said there were petitions with 2,058 signatures in which there was no name and no signature from the person collecting them.

The plaintiffs also say the secretary of state ignored requirements that only registered voters can sign petitions.

According to the lawsuit, on August 17 Secretary of State Sam Reed told his staff to ignore the date in voter files as the voter registration date and accept signatures from people who were not cleared to vote when they signed.

“If the secretary of state had followed what we believe was the correct legal advice this referendum would not have qualified,” Burman told the judge.

Spector said she will issue a ruling Wednesday morning.

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