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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Judge Tosses Out 61 Signatures on SeaTac "Good Jobs" Initiative, Leaving $15 an Hour Ballot Measure in Legal Limbo

Posted by on Tue, Aug 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM

King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled yesterday that SeaTac Proposition 1, the "Good Jobs" Initiative seeking a $15 an hour minimum wage for Sea-Tac Airport workers, does not have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot after striking an additional 61 signatures from the petitions. It's a controversial ruling that leaves the ballot measure in legal limbo pending a further clarification of the court order.

Judge Darvas ruled ineligible the signatures of 61 registered voters who had signed the petitions more than once. Duplicate signatures had already been invalidated, but contrary to standard elections department practice, the judge ordered the first occurrence of these voters' signatures to be struck as well. This leaves the petitions 17 signatures short of the required threshold.

Furthermore, rather than simply ruling on the validity of these signatures, which would have triggered a statutory process giving the initiative sponsors 10 days to provide additional signatures, the judge ordered the City of SeaTac not to submit the proposition to King County Elections for inclusion on the November. Initiative sponsors immediately submitted another 250 signatures, but via email, SeaTac city attorney Mary E. Mirante Bartolo has responded that the court order blocks her from proceeding:

Just moments ago Working Washington delivered additional signatures to the City Clerks’ office. We acknowledge receipt. However, in strict accordance with Judge Darvas’s Order, the City is prohibited from sending the Initiative to King County for inclusion on the ballot. Additionally, the City is ordered and required to withdraw and remove the measure from processing by the King County Elections Department for inclusion on the November ballot.

Furthermore, as you will recall, you raised the issue in Court on Thursday as to whether you are entitled to a cure period. Judge Darvas did not rule on this issue. The SeaTac Municipal Code allows a 10 day cure period when the City Clerk issues a Certificate of Insufficiency prior to the Petition Review Board convening. The code does not provide for a cure period post writ. Based upon the Court’s Order and the city code, we do not believe we are authorized to process these signatures further absent an additional Court Order. Therefore, if you wish the City to process these signatures further, you may want to consider seeking a Court Order compelling us to do so.

Initiative sponsors are going back to the judge asking her to clarify her order so as to trigger the normal statutory process that would result in a Certificate of Insufficiency followed by the standard cure period.

But initiative spokesperson Heather Weiner says that they are also asking Judge Darvas to reconsider her ruling invalidating the 61 signatures. While the statute can be read to permit the invalidation of the original signature along with the duplicates, state and local election officials have long presumed such an action to be unconstitutional. Duplicate signatures are common, as voters sometimes forget which petitions they have signed. Since this is a "voter intent" state, elections officials have long erred on the side of the voter's intent, and absent the evidence fraud, counted duplicate signatures as one rather than zero. There is no rational legal reason to selectively stray from accepted practice on this one initiative.

But, you know, Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association are powerful foes, and judges are elected in Washington State, so while the law seems to be on the sponsors' side, who knows how this will ultimately end up?

 

Comments (17) RSS

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Joe Szilagyi 1
Judge Darvas ruled ineligible the signatures of 61 registered voters who had signed the petitions more than once. Duplicate signatures had already been invalidated, but contrary to standard elections department practice, the judge ordered the first occurrence of these voters' signatures to be struck as well. This leaves the petitions 17 signatures short of the required threshold.


Excuse me, what EXACT state law or code gives any judge or elected official the power to strike a VALID SIGNATURE from one of these things? This judge should be dragged off of her high handed chair in handcuffs if she tries to make this stand.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi http://www.zombo.com on August 27, 2013 at 10:27 AM · Report this
unknown_entity 2
This does not pass the smell test.
Posted by unknown_entity on August 27, 2013 at 10:37 AM · Report this
3
This is another example of conservative projectile politics. That is, whenever a judge rules in favor of justice or social infrastructure, conservative rail about "activist judges." But the real activist judges are the ones ruling against social justice and in favor of the wealthy or empowered. Bah.
Posted by LMcGuff http://holyoutlaw.livejournal.com/ on August 27, 2013 at 10:38 AM · Report this
4
Lady Justice?
...not blind, not just and not a lady.
Posted by You can have liberty, just not equality on August 27, 2013 at 10:40 AM · Report this
SPG 5
"But, you know, Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association are powerful foes, and judges are elected in Washington State..."

Do the judges not think that the actual voters might get a little pissed about this too? I know that this judge has lost any chance at getting my vote over this. Hopefully the SECB makes a good stink about this come election time.
Posted by SPG on August 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM · Report this
TomJohnsonJr 6
I'd like to know more about this.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on August 27, 2013 at 11:06 AM · Report this
Westlake, son! 7
I think it's perfectly reasonable to expect ballot signature collectors to be unreliable or make a mistake and lose/fail to submit a petition sheet.

As such, there should be no penalty for signing it twice. I'm just giving myself a little redundancy insurance to make sure my voice is actually heard.
Posted by Westlake, son! on August 27, 2013 at 12:07 PM · Report this
ballard dude 8
I thought that initiative sponsors usually submit 10-15% over the required number of signatures needed to make the ballot. Invalidating 60+ signatures caused this measure to not qualify for the ballot? And then the sponsors submitted an additional 250 signatures? Why didn't they submit them to start with, thus giving a reasonable margin to cover invalid signatures?
Posted by ballard dude on August 27, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 9
@7,

Frankly, I think a lot of people sign just because they're asked, without checking to see what they're signing.

I've also personally experienced some signature gatherers who were ridiculously aggressive,trying to not let me pass unless I signed, grabbing my shoulder to try to physically drag me to the table. I can see how people who are more passive and/or apathetic about politics would just sign to get signature gatherers to leave them the fuck alone.
Posted by keshmeshi on August 27, 2013 at 1:53 PM · Report this
10
State law mandates that all signatures, the original and the duplicates, be stricken if they're on a local initiative.

RCW 35.21.005(7) reads: Signatures, including the original, of any person who has signed a petition two or more times shall be stricken.

Senator Pam Roach introduced a bill this legislative session to change this so that the original signature would count (Substitute Senate Bill 5505:

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdoc…)

Does anyone here support her effort now?
Posted by ChronicKindness on August 27, 2013 at 2:09 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 11
Remember Andrea Vargas next time she is up for re-election. And they need to ask for an emergency appellate ruling instead of wasting time asking a fool judge for a fool clarification.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on August 27, 2013 at 2:45 PM · Report this
12
Adding to ChronicKindness: City of Seattle and King County have long assumed Washington Constitution, Article II, Section 1, and Sudduth v. Chapman, 88 Wn.2d 247 (1977) make RCW 35.21.005(7) unenforceable. This stupid or corrupt (or both) judge thinks not.

SB 5505 looks like an OK fix to me on first read.
Posted by TobyinFremont on August 27, 2013 at 2:50 PM · Report this
13
TobyinFremont- Interesting that we are slogging good stuff on Senator Pam Roach's bill here on Gold's page.

Cant fault the Judge - the language of the state statute is both clear and concise. Both signatures are thrown out.

Posted by ChronicKindness on August 27, 2013 at 4:06 PM · Report this
14
How can we sign the damn petition????
Posted by Duvall-ite on August 27, 2013 at 6:08 PM · Report this
15
I'm sure there are enough SLOG readers to get it over the top and satisfy the judge.
Posted by Duvall-ite on August 27, 2013 at 6:09 PM · Report this
16
Duvall-ite

I doubt there are more then three slog readers registered to vote within the city boundaries of SeaTac and .... who have not already signed.

This is done. It will NOT be on this years ballot. Next topic.
Posted by ChronicKindness on August 27, 2013 at 7:17 PM · Report this
17
13 ChronicKindness--I certainly can fault the judge. The supreme court has held that type of provision unconstitutional: "We consider first the constitutionality of RCW 29.79.200, insofar as it provides that, if the Secretary of State finds the same name signed to more than one petition, he shall reject the name as often as it appears. ...
"There is nothing to indicate that the purpose of this provision was to discourage duplication of signatures. It is significant that RCW 29.79.090, which directs that signers be warned of criminal sanctions, does not require that they be warned that duplicate signatures will not be counted.
"Were there some showing of facts upon which the legislature could reasonably have found that this provision was necessary to facilitate the initiative process and guard its integrity, we would, of course, be obliged to defer to the legislative judgment; but since no state of facts which would justify it has been proposed, in order to protect the right of the people which was reserved by them in their constitution, we must hold this portion of RCW 29.79.200 to be in excess of the legislative authority granted."

Unless there is some compelling counter argument in the briefs (which I do not have time to dig up and spend time reviewing to give an opinion on a blog), this is a pretty clear holding.

And you're apparently wrong about the lack of potential signers: http://crosscut.com/2013/08/27/thedailyt… ("Heather Weiner, a spokesperson for Yes! for SeaTac, said her organization turned in an additional 250 signatures, something the measure's supporters say is allowed under law in such cases.") We'll see whether the measure is actually going to be on the ballot soon enough.
More...
Posted by TobyinFremont on August 27, 2013 at 9:19 PM · Report this

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