Referendum 71 could be close

Social conservatives who organized the Referendum 71 challenge to domestic-partnership rights for same-sex couples turned in fewer signatures than initially thought.

David Ammons of the Office of the Secretary of State said the actual number is 137,689, about 800 fewer than the 138,500 estimated at Saturday’s turn-in of signatures by the Protect Marriage Washington campaign, which is led by Christian faith groups.

The signature total is 14 percent more than the 120,577 valid signatures needed for the issue to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot. That is below the typical 18 percent invalidation rate, raising questions about the measure’s viability.

Signature checking begins today and could take several days.

Larry Stickney, leader of the Washington Values Coalition and the Protect Marriage Washington campaign, said Saturday during the turn-in of signatures that he was hopeful of a lower invalidation rate.

Stickney said he was involved in another church-backed initiative in the late 1990s that had a much lower than average number of invalid signatures.

Some supporters of the domestic-partnership law have said they want to post the names and addresses of petition signers online. Opponents say that would violate the voters’ First Amendment rights.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688