Secretary of State Shantel Krebs took a moment during her visit to Aberdeen yesterday to explain to me how the certification and challenge process for the eight ballot initiatives submitted this month will work.
First and foremost, be patient. This certification process will take a lot longer than the referendum certification process earlier this year. Back in June, when I brought Secretary Krebs the petitions to refer Senate Bills 69 and 177, she had two days before those laws would have taken effect. Summer in a non-election year is a little quieter in the Capitol, so Secretary Krebs could afford to have all hands on deck, even the ladies from business services, working non-stop on those two petitions. With that people-power and focus, Team Krebs was able to turn the SB 69/Referred Law 19 petition around by the end of the day submitted and the SB 177/Referred Law 20 petition around by the end of the next day.
In June, Secretary Krebs had two petitions with a total of about 37,000 signatures to process. Now she has eight petitions with more than 275,000 signatures to process. Plus, her staff have other projects, like training local auditors for next year’s election and getting ready for the 2016 Legislative Session that can’t be set aside. Secretary Krebs cannot allocate the same staff or daily work hours to these petitions. She said her team had just yesterday finished numbering the sheets for the first submission, Jason Glodt’s crime victims bill of rights. Available staff plan to start with two or three hours a day checking sheets and signatures and see how far that gets them. Secretary Krebs can’t calculate yet a finish date, but she hopes she can clear the decks before Session and before nominating petitions for candidates start coming in after January 1.
(Reminder: I made Secretary Krebs’s job a little easier by referring Senate Bill 69, which would have forced candidates to start circulating nominating petitions on December 1. Now she keeps a good eight weeks between initiative and nominating petition seasons. You’re welcome.)
Secretary Krebs will process each petition one at a time. While Team Krebs works on Glodt’s petition, no one touches the other seven. Those petitions stay locked in a room… which we can only hope is more secure than wherever Jason Gant stashed the state flag. Anyone wanting to review an initiative petition for possible challenge must wait until the Secretary certifies that specific petition.
Now the only petition with a signature count that seems close enough to make a challenge viable is the medical marijuana petition, with only 16,631 signatures and a 16.5% allowable error rate. But suppose someone wanted to go after a couple of the other petitions, say Glodt’s law and Lisa Furlong’s fake 18% rate cap. Those two petitions were frequently carried by the same shady circulators, with Glodt’s law as bait (hey, want to help domestic abuse victims?) and the fake rate cap as sneaky undercard (here, sign this, too). It would be really useful to look at Glodt’s and Furlong’s petitions side by side for matching names and dates. Find a bogus name on one, and it’s likely on the other.
But that side-by-side comparison may not be possible, at least not within the 30-day deadline for submitting challenges to the Secretary of State. Suppose Team Krebs certifies Glodt’s law on November 16. They have two more petitions to plow through before they get to Furlong’s petition, and when they get tto Furlong’s, they have even more signatures to check. Team Krebs may not certify Furlong’s petition until December 9. People wanting to cross-check the Glodt petition with the Furlong petition would only have one week before having to submit a challenge on Glodt’s petition. The Glodt challenge deadline may be days past by the time all eight petitions are certified.
That timeframe makes it likely that any challenge involving cross-checking of petitions would have to forgo involving the Secretary of State and go straight to circuit court, where the challenge deadline for all ballot measures is effectively the day that the Secretary must print ballots next year in early September.
Signature hawks, keep an eye on the Secretary’s Twitter feed for updates on the petition review process. It should be an interesting holiday season.