After insisting for weeks that the city of Longview put their red-light camera initiative petition to voters, supporters of the measure have hit a major snag — they probably won't have enough valid signatures.
Now they're going door-to-door trying to collect hundreds more.
Tim Sutinen, a sponsor of a Longview citizens' initiative petition calling for a repeal of red-light cameras, said he figured that by initially gathering 900 more signatures than needed to put the measure on the ballot, supporters would be "home free."
But Saturday, he and other anti-red-light-camera activists hit the panic button when Cowlitz County elections office notified them that nearly half of the 1,413 signatures checked so far were invalid. Initiative campaigns statewide typically have an 18 percent error rate, according to the Washington Secretary of State's office.
The number of valid signatures was "tremendously lower than I expected," Sutinen said Monday.
He and other anti-camera activists hit the streets with their petition again Sunday, collecting about 100 signatures, Sutinen said.
"It's a huge amount of work," he said Monday. "It'll be a couple more weeks of knocking on doors."
On May 23, Sutinen turned in 3,628 signatures to the city for Longview Initiative #1, thinking that was more than enough signatures to hit the minimum 2,830 necessary to qualify the petition.
"We figured we were home free ... Turns out we've got a long way to go," Sutinen stated Monday in a press release asking supporters for help gathering hundreds more signatures.
The city clerk finally delivered the petition to the county auditor's office Thursday after a three-week delay, and elections workers began verifying them Friday. Once workers have the final count, the initiative supporters have 10 days to collect additional signatures, Sutinen said, citing initiative and referendum guidelines of the Municipal Research and Service Center of Washington.
As of Monday night, elections workers had checked 2,119 signatures and accepted 1,168 as valid, said Amy Hair, chief deputy auditor. That means 45 percent of the signatures have been rejected so far.
To verify signatures, the office make sure they match registered voters' signatures on file and ensure they still live within city limits. Many signatures on petition are ruled invalid because the person isn't registered to vote, and many of the signers live outside Longview city limits, said elections supervisor Carolyn Myers.
Also, a couple people signed the petition several times, Myers said, noting that under state law, if someone signs more than once, the signature doesn't count at all.
Even if Sutinen collects enough valid signatures, the measure may not end up on the ballot. The city maintains its ordinance allowing the traffic enforcement cameras is not subject to recall by the initiative petition process. The city's request for a judge to declare the initiative invalid will be heard at 9:30 a.m. June 27 in Cowlitz County Superior Court.
If the judge denies the city's request, the city could appeal the decision or take no action, in which case the initiative would be placed as written on the November ballot for a public vote.