Washington’s gay marriage law will be put to a public vote in November after opponents managed to gather enough valid signatures to trigger a ballot campaign.
R-74 qualified after the signature-verification check was completed early Tuesday afternoon and then certified, clearing its way onto the ballot. Since the 247,331 signatures turned in by the sponsors were far more than the minimum of 120,577 valid signatures from registered Washington voters needed to make the ballot, a 3 percent sample check was conducted. Of the 7,561 signatures that were sampled during the check, 6,877 were accepted and the rest were rejected because the signer is not registered to vote, the signature on the petition did not match the signature on the voter registration record, or the voter signed the petition more than once.
The referendum will ask voters whether they wish to “approve” or “reject” the state’s new marriage equality law that was signed into law by Governor Gregoire in February.
The Secretary of State blog also notes the following with regards to potentially fraudulent signatures:
Now that the R-74 signature check is completed, the Elections Division will conduct a full review of about 1,000 questionable signatures that were discovered last weekend. Before starting their 3 percent random sample test on Sunday, Election Division crews found about 50 petition sheets that they suspect may be fraudulent. The signatures were mostly names of legitimate registered voters, but the signatures on the petitions did not match the signatures in the voter registration records.
The questionable petition sheets were set aside and did not affect the R-74 signature-check.
Equality activists were always mindful that the referendum could and probably would happen, especially since opposition forces began trying to block the law even before it had passed.
There is a modest reason to be hopeful that the law might triumph, though. Washington remains one of the few states where the voting public has chosen to affirm gay partnership rights at the ballot. This was during the 2009 “Referendum 71″ where a majority of voters decided to uphold the state’s so-called “everything but marriage” law, despite predictions that it would fail.
Recent polls suggest that the voting public is in favor of allowing gay couples to marry (around 54%), but there has been a marked disconnect between how people poll prior to the vote and how they actually vote come referendum day.
Equality foes, however, have not channeled as much money into the Washington campaign as yet, preferring instead to concentrate their efforts on Maryland and, above all, Minnesota, where the state’s gay marriage ban could be codified at the ballot come November.