Opinion

Sen. Pam Roch plans to introduce voter signature bill

The following is a press release.

State Sen. Pam Roach said Friday’s appellate-court ruling in favor of allowing a minimum-wage measure to go before SeaTac voters in November points up the importance of a change in state law she proposed earlier this year.

“It was vividly illustrated this past week that the citizens' initiative process would benefit enormously from the Valid Voter Signature Protection Act,” said Roach (R-Auburn). “A local initiative in SeaTac was almost derailed because perfectly valid voter signatures were not counted. Only after hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on lawyers and weeks of delay from multiple court challenges did voters who signed the petitions have their valid signatures counted.”

Roach, who is chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, first introduced the idea in 2010 as Senate Bill 6752 and brought it back for 2013 as Senate Bill 5505, working tirelessly to pass this important legislation.

"Even though it has broad bipartisan support the Valid Voter Signature Protection Act has not made it through the legislative process yet, despite my best efforts. It was passed unanimously by my committee this session but was not allowed a floor vote. And unfortunately, there has been no action taken on it by the House of Representatives.

"Whether a voter has signed a liberal initiative or a conservative initiative should not matter -- a valid voter signature is a valid voter signature and it deserves to count,” Roach said. “What happened in SeaTac also happened in Vancouver with a local initiative, when local officials threw out perfectly valid voter signatures and it took a costly, time-consuming court case to find justice.”

In both instances, Roach said, the voters' signatures were rejected not because the signers were not registered or because they lived outside the voting district -- it was because they inadvertently signed the petition more than once and had all their signatures thrown out.

Thanks to a 1977 Supreme Court ruling, she explained, state law requires that for state initiatives, the original voter signature must count and duplicate signatures be rejected.

“Absurdly, at the local initiative level, state law requires that all the signatures, including the original, from a voter be rejected. That ends up leaving these voters completely disenfranchised. The rules should be the same for both state initiatives and local initiatives.

"I will hold another hearing on my bill, the Valid Voter Signature Protection Act, in 2014 and will again ask my colleagues to approve it. This issue has reached critical mass and deserves unanimous support and the governor's signature,” Roach said, adding that she hopes newspaper editorial boards will apply pressure by weighing in on the issue.

Roach said SB 5505 will be the first bill to move forward from her committee during the 2014 session. "It is long past time for this common-sense reform to become law."

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