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July 19, 2006

Eyman says petitions "pilfered." Secretary of State says no way

Posted by David Postman at 7:28 AM

Tim Eyman has changed his online fund-raising solicitation to make it closer to the truth. The pitch at his Web site no longer says he "succeeded at qualifying I-917 for the ballot" but that "I-917's signature drive is completed."

He still claims 300,353 people signed it, though the secretary of state's office said that's more than Eyman turned in. Eyman also still says the signatures are "guaranteeing that this taxpayer-protection proposal will qualify for the November ballot."

But hey, baby steps.

Secretary of State Sam Reed told me yesterday that any suggestion that petitions were lost or stolen while in state custody is "silly to the point of being a ridiculous accusation." Reed said that after his staff recounted Eyman's petitions, an additional 38 pages were found.

But Reed said the system of processing petitions is carefully controlled. Initiative sponsors and a state trooper observe the initial count of petitions. The petitions are then boxed up and taken under watch of the trooper to the state archives building. There they are kept behind locked doors — Reed's entry card won't get him in there even though it is a division within his office — and photographed. The petitions are then taken to the secretary of state's off-campus office where the checking of signatures takes place.

Safeguard have been an important part of the system since 1963, when a stack of pro-gambling initiative petitions were allegedly stolen from a safe in the state Capitol. There were suspicions early on that it was a phony heist, with the Daily Olympian reporting June 25, 1963:

The facts in the fantastic case seemed stranger indeed, than fiction. Two men — one tall and fiddle-faced, the other short and squat — were seen numerous times by state employees as they cased the heist as far back as a month ago. Never were they questioned.

There was no sign of forced entry into the ground-floor safe. Pro-gambling Democrats argued that even without signatures to verify, the measure should be put on the ballot in the fall to carry out the will of the voters. (It was and voters rejected the measure that would have allowed gambling on pinball machines, punchboards and card games.)

No one was ever arrested in the heist. It was a day before the theft was noticed which, the Olympian reported, gave "the yeggs ample time to leg it out of Olympia with 100 pounds of official paperwork."

Since turning in signatures early this month, Eyman has pressed the state to find the petitions that he is convinced have been stolen.

In an e-mail to the secretary of state's office last week, Eyman said he wanted to "determine when the missing voter signature sheets were pilfered," apparently convinced that the real thieves are out there somewhere.

Eyman will not respond to questions, saying he is dealing exclusively with the Associated Press.

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