Signature of registered voter is a coveted commodity

The competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

OLYMPIA — The signature of a registered voter will be one of the most sought-after political commodities in Washington in the next few weeks.

Those seeking to gather thousands of them for initiatives are going to pay a handsome sum to acquire them.

And, in one instance, even send someone to Europe for a four-country “trip of a lifetime.”

A chance to win such an excursion is an incentive reportedly offered to those getting people to sign petitions for a referendum on Seattle’s new job tax. At least 17,632 signatures of valid Seattle voters must be turned in by June 17 to get it on the November ballot.

A communique reputedly sent around in recent days declares one can earn $6 per referendum signature. And a person who collects at least 75 signatures a day — and turns them in each day — will receive a ticket in the drawing for the European trip.

Too good to be true? Or legal? Maybe. Even if it does cross the line, it is revealing of the demanding and competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

As of Wednesday, petitions for four statewide initiatives were getting circulated.

Sponsors of three proposals —the ones to impose a new fee on carbon emissions, to ban local taxes on soda and to make collective bargaining negotiations public — have until July 6 to turn in roughly 260,000 signatures of registered voters to qualify. The Secretary of State’s Office recommends filing at least 350,000 signatures to account for invalid ones.

The fourth — a $30 car tab measure pushed by Tim Eyman of Mukilteo — doesn’t face an immediate deadline as it is aiming for the 2019 ballot.

For the campaigns behind the carbon tax and the ban on soda taxes, money is not much of a concern. Each has in excess of $1.5 million available, which puts them in a position to pay good money per signature in the coming weeks.

On Thursday, the situation gets a little more intense.

That’s when signature-gathering for another initiative is expected to begin. This one would impose new restrictions on firearm purchases and storage, including raising the legal age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21.

Backers will have just 30 days to get 350,000 voters to sign their petitions, or 11,666 per day.

“Together, we will make history by completing the shortest signature-gathering drive in Washington State history AND passing one of the most comprehensive statewide gun safety measures in the country,” sponsors of the initiative wrote in a June 4 email to supporters.

With $2.5 million contributed or pledged to the campaign, sponsors will be able to pay top dollar for each coveted signature.

You can only imagine how many professional signature-gatherers around the country are making plans to spend the next month in Washington — if they aren’t already here.

Depending on how many initiative petitions they carry at one time, they could make $10 to $20 for each signature of a registered voter they obtain in the coming weeks.

At that haul, they won’t need to win a European vacation because they can afford it on their own.

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This story was first published in the Everett Herald. Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos

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