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Some signature-gatherers in Washington state have been double-dipping, carrying initiatives for measures both for and against expanded gun background checks. (AP file)

Double-dipping signature-gatherers causing confusion over dueling gun initiatives

If you've been asked to sign initiatives for two competing gun measures by the same signature-gatherer, you're not alone. And both sides are trying to put a stop to the confusion.

It turns out, some paid signature-gatherers have been carrying clipboards for both I-594 and I-591 and it's got a number of voters up in arms.

"We have in our contract with the signature-gathering company they can't collect for 594, too," says Allen Gottleib, a spokesman for I-591, a measure backed by guns rights advocates that would prevent Washington state from adopting a stricter background-checks standard unless the federal government does the same thing.

"The problem is that the companies all hire independent subcontractors and some of those people will do anything they can to make a dollar, obviously," and they're collecting for both, Gottleib tells KIRO Radio.

Under I-594, background checks would be extended to nearly all gun sales or transfers in the state, including gun shows and between private parties. Right now, they're only required for sales by licensed dealers.

Gottleib says while both sides disagree on the fundamental issues, they do agree that the dueling signature-gathering needs to stop.

"We're concerned with how ethical it is," he says.

Not everyone has a problem with the dueling signature-gathering.

"I like the idea that the guy's got two clipboards and he can take either a pro or a con. He or she likes it because they're getting $1 a signature," says KIRO Radio's John Curley. "No problem. If they're going to be out there, you don't want anybody to stop the person from making a livelihood and if they can make more on a signature, fine."

Curley says he also likes the idea of not having to tell a signature-gatherer 'no' if they're only gathering for one side of a competing measure.

"The other great thing about this is the fact that I'm not being judged...If he doesn't care who wins, then you're more likely to sign."

The president of Democracy Workshop, one of two signature-gathering firms used by I-591, tells The Seattle Times she's ordered her contractors not to get signatures for the other initiative. But she admits there's little they can do since the gatherers - normally paid about $1 for each signature - are independent contractors.

As for the voters? Gottleib says its hard to tell if they're actually confused. Some of the signature-gatherers ask them to sign both initiatives, while others reportedly ask how they feel about background checks and then steer them to the appropriate initiative. Either way, Gottleib says it has to stop.

"It's confusing and it's annoying."

Both measures are intended as initiatives to the legislature for next session. If lawmakers don't act, as Gottleib expects, they would go to the ballot in November 2014.

Josh Kerns, KIRO Radio Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.
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