Confused about how to vote on Ref. 71? You're not alone
The measure will ask voters to approve or reject the most recent expansion of Washington state's domestic-partnership law, which extends marriagelike state benefits to registered gay and some senior couples. A vote on this might seem pretty straightforward: Approve Ref. 71 if you want registered domestic partners to have these additional benefits, or reject it if you don't.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Ref. 71 languageThe Legislature passed Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 688 concerning rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners, and voters have filed a sufficient referendum petition on this bill. This bill would expand the rights, responsibilities and obligations accorded state-registered same-sex and senior domestic partners to be equivalent to those of married spouses, except that a domestic partnership is not a marriage.
Should this bill be:
Approved ___ Rejected ___
Source: Secretary of State's Office
Only two weeks before the Nov. 3 election, many voters remain confused about Referendum 71.
The measure will ask voters to approve or reject the most recent expansion of Washington state's domestic-partnership law, which extends marriagelike state benefits to registered gay and some senior couples.
A vote on this might seem pretty straightforward: Approve Ref. 71 if you want registered domestic partners to have these additional benefits, or reject it if you don't.
Yet, for untold numbers of voters, it's apparently not so clear.
Part of the confusion stems from the two-step referendum process for putting contentious pieces of legislation up to a public vote before they become law.
Usually, referendum supporters are for them before they are against them.
In the case of Ref. 71, religious conservatives who originated the referendum and gathered signatures for it did so in the hopes that voters would throw the legislation out. They were "for" getting it on the ballot but now want people to reject it, thereby preventing the legislation from taking effect.
Supporters of gay rights, meanwhile, who were opposed to the referendum during the signature-gathering phase — why jeopardize something you believe in by putting it to a public vote? — now are asking voters to approve Ref. 71, thereby allowing the legislation to take effect.
A poll this summer by pollster Stuart Elway suggested some people have a hard time connecting those dots. Elway said some 10 percent who took part in the poll were unknowingly intending to vote on Ref. 71 in a way that would be contrary to their actual position.
There's so much confusion, Secretary of State Sam Reed takes time in public-service addresses to spell out the process for voters.
Gifford Jones, a retired airline captain, called The Seattle Times to explain where he got confused.
Because Ref. 71 was initiated by people with whom he disagrees on gay rights, he figured he should vote against a measure they wanted to put on the ballot.
"It's counterintuitive," Jones said.
That's because Washington voters are far more familiar with initiatives, such as those brought by promoter Tim Eyman.
Unlike referenda, which allow voters to second-guess the Legislature on measures it passes, the more common initiative process allows people to initiate legislation — to place a proposal directly on the ballot or submit it to the Legislature for that body to approve.
And while both initiatives and referenda require a sufficient number of valid signatures before they can be considered, there's seemingly more continuity with initiatives.
Because initiative backers are creating new law — not trying to repeal it — people who sign a petition to put an initiative on the ballot also are expected to vote for it.
Between 1912 and 2009, nearly 1,500 initiatives have been filed with the state, compared to 72 referenda. Petitions for some never were circulated, and some never received sufficient signatures to reach either the Legislature or voters.
Another area of confusion surrounds Ref. 71: What exactly is at stake?
A vote on the measure will affect only the expanded benefits the Legislature approved this spring, and not the entire domestic-partnership law, which was passed in 2007.
Regardless of the outcome on Ref. 71, the 240 rights and responsibilities the law already confers on registered domestic partners will remain in place.
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or email@example.com
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.