Emailed to Honorable Kim Wyman, Washington Secretary of State
PO Box 40229 Olympia, WA 98504-0229
Dear Secretary Wyman,
I am Carolyn Riley-Payne, President of the NAACP, Seattle-King County Branch. We write you today on behalf of the nearly 1 million people of color in Martin Luther King County with an urgent request that your office please cease the voter confusion you are currently generating regarding online handwritten signatures on 2020 initiatives during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Your failure to inform the public with a definitive statement of the law on the subject of acceptable initiative signatures during COVID-19 forces millions of Washington voters to choose between exercising our constitutional rights to petition our government, or risk being infected with the deadly coronavirus disease. In the attached July 1st Crosscut article, you are quoted saying the following about the Washington AntiDiscrimination Act (WADA) signatures: “It is really hard to say what we are or aren’t going to accept when we haven’t seen what they are going to turn in yet.”
Madam Secretary, Washington law does not give you the arbitrary authority to deem what is an acceptable petition signature. Our attorneys have informed us that the Washington State Supreme Court in Ball vs. Wyman (2018) reaffirmed that RCW 29A.72.170 restricts you to accepting and rejecting petitions based on only three (3) requirements: 1) Are the petitions on time?; 2) Do the petitions contain the required content?; and 3) Do the petition sheets have the required number of signatures? NO WET SIGNATURE REQUIREMENT The July 1st Crosscut article also revealed three (3) other critical facts: 1) There is not now, nor has there ever been a “wet signature” requirement anywhere in Washington law; 2) Washington law does not now, nor has it ever prohibited online handwritten signatures; and 3) Massachusetts and New Jersey have issued COVID-19 orders permitting electronic signatures for all 2020 ballot measures. More recently, neighboring Idaho has also approved online signatures for the “Reclaim Idaho” ballot initiative. 65% of COVID-19 CASES ARE PEOPLE OF COLOR On your website, you recommend initiative sponsors submit at least 325,000 signatures by December 31st . However, the Department of Health (DOH) recently reported that COVID-19 is increasing in Puget Sound and across the state. DOH also reports that people of color are 65% of the racially identifiable Washingtonians infected with the deadly coronavirus. The sad irony is that many of these infected African-Americans, AsianAmericans, Hispanic-Latinx Americans, Native Americans and multi-racial Americans are the same people who want to sign WADA to end racial discrimination against their communities.
However, every time petitioners interact face to face with your recommended 325,000 people during this pandemic, we risk lives by increasing the spread of the deadly COVID-19 to others. MADAM SECRETARY, PLEASE OBEY THE LAW! Given these new revelations, we are demanding the Secretary of State immediately inform the public she will obey the following safe Washington laws as they pertain to all 2020 initiatives during COVID-19: 1. Washington State Constitution: Article I, Section 4, which states: “The right of petition and of the people peaceably to assemble for the common good shall never be abridged.” (emphasis added) 2. WAC 434-379-012 3(a) which states: “If the signature on the petition: (a) Is handwritten and matches the signature in the voter registration record according to the standards in WAC 434-379-020, the signature must be accepted.” 3. WAC 434-379-020 (1): “The following characteristics must be utilized to evaluate signatures to determine whether they are by the same writer: (1) The signature is handwritten.” Compliance with WAC 434-379-012 3(a), means applying the same two-prong standard of approval to online handwritten signatures as are currently applied to person-to-person signatures: 1) The voter’s signature must be handwritten; and 2) the voter’s signature must be matchable to the voter’s signature in their voter registration records.
Under WAC 434-379-012 3(a), if the voter’s signature is matchable to their signature on file in their voter registration records, the signature must be accepted. SAME STANDARD FOR ALL SIGNATURES! Holding online handwritten signatures to the same standard as on-paper handwritten signatures during COVID19, 1) protects every citizens’ constitutional rights to petition their government; and 2) prevents the spread of COVID-19 by temporarily eliminating the need for face-to-face, person-to-person signature gathering in Washington state until COVID-19 ends. Please confirm receipt of this letter and contact us at (206) 321-0382 with any questions. If we have not received a response from your office by close of business on Tuesday, July 17, 2020, we will have no choice but to take alternative actions due to your deafening silence during this public health emergency.
Ms. Carolyn Riley-Payne
President, Seattle-King County NAACP
Attachment: Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 News Release (June 26, 2020)