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Originally published Tuesday, July 15, 2014 at 8:38 PM

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Signatures falling short in bid to put $15 wage law on Nov. ballot

The referendum to put Seattle’s $15 minimum wage to voters is unlikely to qualify for the ballot, based on Tuesday’s signature count.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The referendum to put Seattle’s $15 minimum-wage law to a November vote is unlikely to qualify for the ballot, based on signature counts completed through Tuesday by King County Elections.

The county has reviewed 15,004 signatures and found 11,412 valid, a verification rate of 76 percent. Only 3,924 remain to be counted, meaning the measure would fail to have the required 16,510 signatures, even if all the remaining ones were valid.

But city officials and leaders from Forward Seattle, the group behind the referendum, said the count has not been finalized and that almost 3,600 signatures that have been challenged must be reviewed.

“Does it look promising? No,” said Angela Cough, campaign chairwoman for Forward Seattle. “But I’m not going to make any calls until the final signatures have been reviewed and the final count announced.”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he was heartened that the referendum appears to be a longshot to qualify for the November ballot. Murray appointed a group of business, labor and nonprofit leaders to develop a plan to raise the minimum wage.

Part of his message was that a consensus deal could avoid a costly and divisive ballot fight, such as the SeaTac $15 minimum-wage measure that pitted labor against business.

Forward Seattle had originally proposed a charter amendment that would have phased in, eventually, a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. But that wasn’t allowed because charter amendments can appear only in odd-numbered years.

Forward Seattle then introduced the referendum to put the wage ordinance, which phases in the wage hike over seven years, to a vote.

Working Washington, a union-supported group that organized fast-food workers last year and lobbied for the $15 minimum-wage ordinance adopted by the City Council in June, declared victory Tuesday.

“The numbers are clear. Forward Seattle’s minimum-wage repeal will not qualify for the ballot,” said Sage Wilson, spokesman for Working Washington.

The group also was able to mobilize backers who signed the petition based on what they said were false representations of some paid signature gatherers that it was actually in support of the higher minimum wage.

Monica Martinez Simmons, the Seattle city clerk, said her office received 281 requests to withdraw signatures from Seattle voters.

A second referendum on the city’s wage ordinance also was submitted. Titled “Save Our Choice,” backers collected almost 600 signatures, of which about 500 have been deemed valid.

The verified signatures potentially could be added to the Forward Seattle total, but Simmons said a legal decision on that hasn’t been made and could be moot if there still aren’t enough.

Lynn Thompson: or 206-464-8305. On Twitter @lthompsontimes

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