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Signature gatherers get top dollar as WA deadline nears

Mary Champine, left, adds her signature to a petition in Washington state (file photo).
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Mary Champine, left, adds her signature to a petition in Washington state (file photo).

Signatures are due this Friday for November ballot measures in Washington state. But a shortage of signature gatherers has made this year’s efforts especially frantic.

Professional signature-gatherers often migrate here after California’s deadline is finished. But California extended its deadline this year, so the workforce showed up later.  

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Peter McCollum is the campaign manager for Integrity Washington. His group has raised $1.8 million dollars. Their chances for getting on the ballot in November are looking good. 

“We’ve gathered more than 250,000 signatures already and we’re confident that we’re going to have around 330,000 at least,” he said. They need 246,000 valid signatures to qualify.

“We did have to pay a little bit more than we anticipated for signature gathering because of the shorter timeline,” McCollum said. “That was an adjustment that needed to be made.”

Other initiative backers say meeting Friday’s deadline will be a challenge. The campaign for restrictions on transgender bathroom access, called Just Want Privacy, has just 150,000 signatures and has raised $180,000.

Spokeswoman Kaeley Triller Haver said they are relying equally on paid gatherers and volunteers.  

“The paid effort is expensive,” Triller Haver said. “We had contracted out at $1 a signature, but it’s not going to compete with these things that are backed by millionaires where they’re getting $4 per signature.”

She said they had 11,000 signatures arrive on a single day last week, and several file folders of new voter registrations to submit.

But she said legal challenges over the language of the measure delayed their signature gathering, and the group has faced “harsh condemnations” in the media.

A group called Washington Won’t Discriminate has also campaigned against the measure.

Initiative 1515, would repeal rules guaranteeing transgender people access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of their gender identity.  

“I think you’ll hear a lot of transgender people say, ‘We’ve been using the bathrooms and locker rooms for 10 years without incident.’ And I think most of us would agree that’s true,” Triller Haver said.

“If someone looks like a female and is being discreet, that’s not the issue,” she continued. “Our initiative would just restore that status quo and allow businesses to determine their own policies.”

The initiative would also require public schools to keep transgender girls, for example, out of locker rooms when other girls are changing. Failure to do so would be grounds for a lawsuit.

Year started with KUOW: 2005