State completes I-1098 fraud review

The Washington State Elections Division has completed a review of apparent fraud by a signature-gatherer who submitted 349 names on 20 petition sheets in support of Initiative 1098. The review showed that most of the names – 89.1 percent – were invalid, either because the person was not found on voter registration rolls or the signature and address did not match those on file.

All of the 349 names had been set aside and were none was included as part of the I-1098 signature-check this week. The random sample showed that over 10,000 of the nearly 11,800 voter signatures were valid, and that the measure has earned a place on the November ballot. The error rate was about 18 percent, the historic average for Washington initiatives. Because of a pending criminal investigation and a restraining order previously obtained by opponents of disclosure, the Office of Secretary of State is unable to release the petition sheets in question or divulge the gatherer’s identity.

Secretary of State Sam Reed announced that Washington State Patrol John Batiste on Friday agreed to his request to investigate, and then to refer the case to appropriate authorities, as warranted. Initiative signature fraud is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

“The people of Washington demand and deserve an initiative and referendum process that is free of signature fraud, and we and law enforcement and prosecutors are taking this case very seriously,” Reed said. “This is the worst case of attempted signature fraud we have seen in modern times. It may be only a tiny percentage of the total signatures, but it does represent an attack on the process, which relies greatly on the integrity of the people who circulate the petitions. For that reason, we are bringing the full force of the law to bear."

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