OLYMPIA…State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, today introduced a bill that would protect the signature-gathering process for initiatives and referendums in Washington.
Roach’s measure, Senate Bill 6752, is called the “Valid Voter Signature Protection Act.” It has been referred to the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee.
“Washington’s initiative and referendum system is a cherished part of our state’s populist-based democratic process,” said Roach, ranking Republican on the Government Operations and Elections Committee. “We need to protect the people’s right to offer initiatives and referendums. That means ensuring that valid signatures count when petitions are turned in. It also means protecting the safety of people who gather signatures for these ballot measures.”
SB 6752 would require the secretary of state to accept a valid voter signature for an initiative or referendum petition if it matches the signature on the voter’s registration. Under the bill, initiative and referendum petitions shall not require signature gatherers to put their names and addresses on the petition.
“There have been incidents when signature gatherers have been harassed and threatened,” Roach said. “Their safety has been placed at risk. When this happens, gatherers are less likely to go out in public to get signatures. This in effect hinders political speech and the people’s right to initiatives and referendums. That’s why we should not require signature gatherers to list their names and addresses on petition sheets.”
The proposal also would increase the warning statement on signature-gathering petitions from four square inches on the front of the petition sheet to six square inches on the front.
The warning statement on a petition reads: “Every person who signs this petition with any other than his or her true name, knowingly signs more than one of these petitions, signs this petition when he or she is not a legal voter, or makes any false statement on this petition may be punished by fine or imprisonment or both.”
SB 6752 would add these words to that warning statement: “Every person who gathers signatures for this petition is warned that, under chapter 29A.84 RCW, forgery of signatures on this petition constitutes a class C felony, and that offering any consideration or gratuity to any person to induce them to sign a petition is a gross misdemeanor, such violations being punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Every person who interferes with the signature gathering process is warned that, under RCW 9A.46.020, any conduct constituting harassment against a petition signature gatherer is a gross misdemeanor, such violations being punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. This penalty does not preclude the victim from seeking any other remedy otherwise available under law.”