Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I-735 Validated, Thurston County Contributed Nearly 16,000 Signatures

Above: The Washington Secretary of State's office validated I-735 and certified the initiative to the Legislature. Initiative 735 clarifies that corporations are not people, money is not speech, and all political donations should be made public.

By Janine Gates

“Woohoo! So happy! I am so pleased with what we in Thurston County were able to accomplish,” said Jennifer Sprague, in response to the news that the Washington Secretary of State's office validated I-735 and certified the initiative to the Legislature.

Sprague, a local organizer for the Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution (WAmend) in Thurston County, received the news Tuesday afternoon.

Initiative 735 urges Washington State’s Congressional delegation and all members of Congress to propose a federal Constitutional amendment clarifying that Constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations. It also says that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, the invalidation rate, including duplicates and signatures from people not found on the voter rolls, was 18 percent, about average for Washington ballot measures in recent decades.

Next, the Legislature may enact the initiative into law, or may send it to the General Election ballot for a vote of the people. Since it is unlikely the initiative will be enacted into law, organizers are urging people to vote yes on I-735 this coming November.

Sprague and other I-735 supporters held a rally on Thursday afternoon, the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United v. FEC decision, at the Washington State Capitol Building.

Voting yes will make Washington State the 17th state to urge Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision,” said Sprague.

WAmend organizers collected 333,040 signatures for I-735 and turned them in to the Washington State Secretary of State’s office on December 30 and 31, 2015.

Thurston County volunteers were responsible for gathering 15,920 signatures for the initiative. Sprague said that gathering almost 16,000 signatures was their goal, which is about 10 percent of the registered voters in the county.

Above: Several checkers strive to validate troublesome signatures for I-735 last week at the Washington Secretary of State's office in downtown Olympia.

The Secretary of State’s office started reviewing the I-735 ballots Wednesday evening and finished a few days earlier than expected. Anyone can observe the process during normal business hours.

Kay Ramsey, Secretary of State program coordinator, was busy checking signatures last week, along with about 15 paid, temporary staff who received training for their job from the Washington State Patrol. Staff cross checked signatures with the statewide voter registration database.

Asked what causes the most difficulties with petition signatures, Ramsey said that a lot of people aren’t actually registered to vote, bad handwriting, and very common names.

Checkers also have difficulties with very large and very small signatures, attempted scratch outs, lightly written signatures, those that only sign or only print their name, and other issues.

Little Hollywood observed the signature checking process last week and witnessed several illegible and light signatures that were not able to be confirmed by the checker.

Ramsey said that every effort is made to do a second round check to see if the proper signature can be found.

For more information about I-735 and the initiative process, go to: www.WAMEND.org. Previous articles about the initiative are at Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com. Use the search button to type in key words.

For more information about Thurston County’s I-735 efforts, contact Jennifer Sprague at I-735olympia@hotmail.com or Michael Savoca at Masavoca@fairpoint.net