Although they haven't yet confirmed an appointment with election workers, the organizers of a campaign trying to overturn a marriage-equality law passed by Washington State lawmakers earlier this year are ready to turn in petitions on Wednesday morning. If the campaign has enough signatures, which it apparently does, voters will decide in November to approve or reject the law. For now, the law is on hold.
No state has ever upheld marriage equality at the ballot, but Washington State—to its credit—was the first state to uphold same-sex domestic partnership rights in 2009 when it approved Referendum 71. But that was a close vote, squeaking by with only 53 percent of the vote.
A poll last week shows marriage-equality has a narrow majority of support, too. Only 54 percent of voters in the state thought it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, according to Strategies 360. Thirty-three percent of respondents thought gay marriage should be illegal, and 12 percent were undecided or refused to answer.
Preserve Marriage Washington has raised a scant $43,459 (and claims to have spent most of it on the petition drive), but the big money for the campaign is likely to come from the group's partners: the National Organization for Marriage and Focus on the Family. The group claims to have collected 198,171 signatures. That appears to be enough to qualify Referendum 74 for the state ballot, which requires 120,577 valid signatures.
The Secretary of State's office expects to receive 15,000 petition sheets, which must first be scanned for archival purposes, before beginning a validation process. Election workers will begin checking a sample of signatures on Sunday and will have that sample completed by the middle of next week. If it shows enough valid signatures, the measure is qualified for the ballot. If the sample shows that there aren't enough valid signatures, workers will begin the protracted process of checking the signatures one by one.