In a strange turnaround, Washington state election officials have reversed their error rates on the signature validation process for Referendum 71 petitions, the ballot drive that would repeal the state’s new domestic partners law. Dominic Holden at Slog:
After days of posting the number of invalid signatures for anti-gay Referendum 71, elections officials are retracting their counts, declaring that hundreds of signatures previously disqualified are actually valid. Last night, the secretary of state’s office office had reported that the cumulative error rate was over 13.5 percent. “The maximum error rate that they can withstand is 12.43 percent, so they are currently exceeding that,” spokesman David Ammons said. So it looked like R-71 was on a trajectory to fail to make the ballot. But now the secretary of state’s office is reporting that 11.63 percent of the signatures are invalid. At this rate, it could make the November ballot. So what happened?
Shane Hanlin, an assistant director of election for the secretary of state’s office, says that so-called “master checkers” have been reviewing signatures over the past week. Even though daily counts have been announced (and widely reported by media), these checkers may not make a final decision on the validity of a signature until days later. They are authorized to consider the reason a signature was initially disqualified, check the state database, and move an “invalid” signature into the “valid” category. Hanlin says that the state’s five master checkers have taken this action on least 409 signatures.
The final count is expected to be finished next week.