Paid signature gatherer accused of faking R-74 signatures

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Before voters struck down Referendum 74, signatures were gathered to get the measure on the ballot, but state elections officials say some of those signatures, gathered by a Marysville woman, were fake.

The Marysville woman submitted more than 2,000 signatures for the gay marriage referendum, and another initiative, but officials say less than 600 appear to be real.

"She came clean pretty quickly once they indicated the evidence they had against her," Lt. Shane Nelson said. "She indicated that her finances were of troubled times, and she was doing everything she could to get the signatures she needed in the time that she needed to do them."

Even more troubling is detectives say the woman got the names from a phone book then used a website to verify registered voters.

"When you're looking at a dollar per signature, it's a mighty temptation to get out the phone book and start writing down all kinds of names because you can literally rack up hundreds of dollars," said David Ammons, Communications Director.

Once the signatures are submitted to the elections division, staff begins the process of verifying each signature line-by-line.

"We're going through with trained staff. Every single one of those pages, looking for things like a whole page in the same handwriting, maybe where the names are in alphabetical order," Elections Director Lori Augino said.

During a 5 year period, detectives with State Patrol have investigated 8 of the 19 initiatives or referendums that raised suspicions, but only 2 cases had convictions.

Detectives say it's difficult to prosecute these cases because the signature gatherer uses fake names for themselves, and they're difficult to locate.

Elections officials are not aware of any cases where fraud signature impacted ballot measures.