Elections officials said Monday that approximately 1,000 of the nearly 250,000 signatures submitted to qualify a referendum on gay marriage in Washington state appear to be fraudulent.
The secretary of state’s office is in the midst of verifying a 3 percent random sample of the 247,331 signatures turned in last week for Referendum 74. The referendum seeks to overturn the measure allowing same-sex marriage in the state. That law was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year. The law was supposed to take effect last Thursday but was put on hold once the signatures were turned in Wednesday. As long as 120,577 valid voter signatures are provided, the law will remain on hold until the November election.
David Ammons, a spokesman for Secretary of State Same Reed, said that over the weekend, signature verifiers found that the signatures in question did not match the names of legitimate registered voters on file. Ammons said the 50 petition sheets that the signatures were on were circulated by the same individual, apparently a paid signature solicitor.
Ammons said that sponsors estimated that about 25,000 of their signatures came from paid signature solicitors.
He said that after the check is completed this week, the Elections Division will conduct a full review of the questionable signatures, and then turn the results over to the Washington State Patrol for further investigation.
Joseph Backholm, with Preserve Marriage Washington, said that his group was working with the secretary of state’s office, but he called the paid signature gatherer in question “a rogue person.”
“We wish it hadn’t happened,” he said. “We don’t want it to detract from the significant effort of thousands of volunteers who complied with the law.”