Petitioners say duplicated signatures should count once

In the ongoing fight by light-rail petitioners to revive their failed effort, they have zeroed in on a state law governing the city petition process that says if a person signs a petition multiple times, all of the signatures are invalid.

Here’s an email exchange from today between Vancouver City Councilor Bill Turlay and Cathie Garber, Clark County’s assistant election supervisor (scroll down to read Turlay’s initial email).

A different state law, governing the state petition process, was ruled unconstitutional a few decades ago. On state petitions, if a person signs multiple times, the first signature is valid and the other ones are tossed.

So what could petitioners possibly do with this information?

  1. File a lawsuit against the county, challenging the state law governing the city petition process.
  2. Lobby state legislators to change the state law.
  3. Lobby the Vancouver City Council to direct Auditor Greg Kimsey to disregard the state law and order him to count the first valid signature.

From: Garber, Cathie
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 10:30 AM
To: Gathe, Ted; Zeider, Judy; Lewellen, Carrie; Bill Turlay; Likness, Tim; Kimsey, Greg
Subject: FW: Light Rail Petition


If the ruling is changed from invalidating all duplicate signatures, to counting the first valid signature, it would add 603 valid signers to the petition. There would be a total of 6,043 valid signatures.

Cathie Garber

From: Dixon, Kay
Sent: Friday, January 11, 2013 8:27 AM
To: Kimsey, Greg
Cc: Likness, Tim; Garber, Cathie
Subject: FW: Light Rail Petition

I am forwarding this request from the general delivery mailbox.

Kay Dixon
Administrative Assistant
Auditor’s Office
1300 Franklin St., room 591
Voice:360.397.2241 x 4886
Fax: 360.397.6007

From: Bill Turlay []
Posted At: Friday, January 11, 2013 12:59 AM
Posted To: General Delivery – Auditor
Conversation: Light Rail Petition
Subject: Light Rail Petition

The City of Vancouver Light Rail Initiative Petition was initiated by seven Vancouver citizens opposed to use of city funds for the extension of Portland’s light rail system into Vancouver, which is proposed as an integral part of the CRC (Columbia River Crossing) project. This effort has been the subject of extensive correspondence between committee petitioners, Vancouver city officials, and the county auditor’s office.

The culmination of this petition effort was received in a Vancouver City Clerk correspondence, dated 1/7/13, which was the notification of insufficiency of valid petition signers. This correspondence refers to City Charter Section 10.05. Examination of Section 10, including Section 10.05, does not indicate any requirement for disqualifying signatures due to duplication or multiple petition signings.

Research finds that a Washington Supreme Court precedence is found in Sudduth vs Chapman (1977) wherein the court found disqualifying all signatures in cases of multiple signings was unconstitutional. Current state election law (RCW 29A.72.230) now provides that the first such signature on state petitions shall be counted.

The Committee of Petitioners (Patella, Peabody, Stemper, Peterson, Turlay, Herman, and Yingling) contend that in the absence of the city charter striking all multiple petition signatures that the state law should be the standard. Furthermore, we contend that it is highly likely our position would be the decision in a court of law.

Therefore, the Committee of Petitioners requests your office determine, without counting multiple signatures from the same person more than once, how many valid signatures would be added if you did not invalidate all duplicate signatures? The Petition Statistics contained in your letter dated 1/4/13 indicates that this petition effort was lacking some 32 valid signatures (5472 less 5440). The total number of disqualified signatures was 1213. Assuming at least 33 valid signatures are found within the 1213 disqualified signatures, our initiative petition does in fact have sufficient signatures to be placed on the November 2013 ballot.

Further, assuming more than 33 valid signatures are found, please advise the Vancouver City Clerk, so they will be able to revise their sufficiency finding.

W. E, Turlay, Vancouver Citizen
In Behalf of the Committee of Petitioners

So how serious is the issue of a person signing a petition more than once? In an email exchange earlier this year between Lori Volkman, a deputy Clark County prosecutor, and Judy Zeider, an assistant city attorney, they debated the issue of multiple signatures and included this warning, which was on every sheet in the petition.


Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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