The Lewis County Auditor’s Office has completed its signature validation process after staff went through thousands of signatures turned in by the political action committee One Lewis County earlier this week, determining the move to initiate the home rule charter process has so far fallen short of its required threshold.
The group was short just 131 signatures.
The official count from the auditor’s office shows that 457 signatures were rejected. Out of the 2,015 signatures examined, there were 1,558 valid signatures. To place the measure on the November ballot, 1,689 signatures are needed.
Although the required amount of signatures was not met, there is still time for One Lewis County to collect more.
Earlier this week, Chief Deputy Auditor Tom Stanton said the group could continue to collect signatures, but each one is only valid for a limited amount of time.
“It wouldn’t start the process over, but the signatures are only valid for six months, so the longer they go, the more likely they are going to start losing signatures from when they first started collecting them,” Stanton said. “Timewise, it can get tricky.”
In an earlier interview with The Chronicle, Alicia Bull, the executive director of the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce, which launched One Lewis County, said the first signature was collected on Aug. 5, 2017.
“That gives us a lot of time,” she said, adding that if the group needs more signatures, they will continue to collect them. “This is the first submission.”
Members of One Lewis County turned over a stack of petitions to the auditor’s office on Tuesday morning for validation. Staff at the auditor’s office worked through each signature to compare it to those in the county’s voter registration database. The signatures had to match the ones on file, and everyone who signed the petition needed to be a registered voter for it to count. Bull estimated only 70 percent of the signatures would be valid.
If the required signature threshold is later met, two measures would be placed on the November ballot. Those include a vote to pursue the charter process, while the other would elect freeholders who would draft a plan to reorganize the county form of government.
One Lewis County, which is spearheaded by the chamber, hopes to institutionalize a county manager position to oversee day-to-day operations for the Board of Lewis County Commissioners.
The group would also like to see the commission increase to five-part time individuals who are paid far less than the current $100,000 commissioners make in salary and benefits.