By Erin Shannon
State Rep. Sam Hunt’s justification for his bill targeting paid signature-gatherers in initiative campaigns is flimsy. He claims his bill (HB 2601) is for the “safety and security” and “peace of mind” for unsuspecting initiative signers.
But requiring initiative campaign signature-gatherers to register with the state, sign an oath on each petition that they witnessed the signatures, sign an oath asserting they are not convicted of sex offenses, fraud or forgery and submit a photo to the Public Disclosure Commission is a solution to a problem that does not exist.
Hunt claims HB 2601 will “counter concerns that people are signing false names on petitions,” as well as protect the public from convicted sex offenders “out there at a supermarket or a mall … gathering names and addresses of families as they sign the petition.” Yet Secretary of State Sam Reed says no cases of forgery or fraud by initiative signature gatherers have been verified in the past 12 years. Nor has there been any case of sex offenders using the information gleaned from signature gathering to victimize a signer.
What has been a very real problem has been paid voter registration gatherers. The ACORN workers prosecuted this past fall for forging voter registration cards, in what Reed calls the “worst case of voter registration fraud ever in Washington state history,” were not required to register with the state, sign an oath on each petition that they witnessed the signatures, sign an oath asserting they were not convicted of sex offenses, fraud or forgery, nor submit a photo to the Public Disclosure Commission.
The ACORN workers convicted of perpetrating the “worst case of voter registration fraud ever in Washington state history” were also convicted of some of the worst crimes prior to being turned loose on the public.
Five of the seven ACORN workers prosecuted for vote fraud were convicted of serious felony crimes prior to being hired by ACORN. Crimes ranging from child molestation, bomb threats, burglary, drug dealing and stalking pepper the resumes of these five ACORN workers.
As paid voter registration gatherers, all five ACORN workers did more than frequent supermarkets and malls while gathering signatures — these convicted felons, child molesters and drug addicts were knocking on doors in residential neighborhoods in King and Pierce counties. And all five ACORN workers signed false names on voter registration cards.
So why hasn’t Hunt zeroed in on regulating those who register people to vote? Why are initiative campaigns using paid signature gatherers the sole focus of Hunt’s efforts when a real problem with paid voter registration gatherers has been identified? One would think Hunt would, at the very least, include voter registration collectors in his bill were his crusade truly about “citizen safety” and “system integrity.” His refusal to do so is a red flag.
It is hard to believe Hunt’s intention is not to knee cap the initiative process when he ignores voter registration gatherers in his crusade to protect citizens and the system. If Rep. Hunt and the Legislature are really serious about protecting the public from felons and counter fraud, they would pass legislation targeting paid voter registration gatherers.
Erin Shannon is the public relations director of the Building Industry Association of Washington.