The activist group pushing to place a $15 minimum wage measure on the November ballot will have to keep gathering signatures, after 41 percent of the initial batch were declared invalid.
The biggest problem, by far? The vast majority of the invalid signatures came from people who aren’t registered to vote.
The Pierce County Auditor’s office said Wednesday it was done verifying the initial batch of about 4,700 signatures provided by 15 Now Tacoma last week. The group needs 3,160 valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 3 ballot. The auditor’s office compares the signatures against voter registrations.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had 2,681 valid signatures – almost 85 percent of what’s needed. The auditor’s office reported 1,970 of the signatures had been “challenged.” Challenged signatures include those from people who are not registered to vote, people who are not registered to vote in Tacoma, illegible or printed signatures, duplicates, and signatures that don’t match voter registration records.
The rate of invalid signatures for this ballot measure is high, the auditor’s office has said. Members of 15 Now Tacoma have attributed this to the measure affecting only Tacoma. Since only Tacoma residents can vote on the issue, the thinking has gone, many people sign the petition thinking they live in Tacoma but actually may not.
But the data released Wednesday revealed a more basic problem. The vast majority of the 15 Now Tacoma petition’s challenged signatures came from people who aren’t even registered to vote – some 1,046 signatures, or more than 1 in every 5 signatures submitted.
Representatives for 15 Now Tacoma didn’t return two phone messages for comment Wednesday. In the past the group has said they are certain they will ultimately have enough signatures to prevail.
The deadline for submitting enough valid signatures to qualify is June 17. The Pierce County Auditor’s Office has been posting updates on the signature verification process on its website.
Meanwhile, a City Council-convened task force on the minimum wage will hold its first meeting Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Center for Urban Waters, 326 East D St. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland convened the task force earlier this month after prompting by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. She and other Tacoma City Council members chose 17 people, including two alternates, to develop an alternative to the 15 Now ballot measure.
Strickland said she wants to see the task force continue its work regardless of what happens to the 15 Now proposal.
Information from News Tribune archives was included in this report.