By Ralph Schwartz
The Washington state initiative industry is just that — an industry. No longer is it realistic for ordinary folk of modest means to successfully get a citizen’s measure on the statewide ballot, according to Tim Eyman, the industry leader.
So Eyman, naturally, has in a mind a solution to this problem, his “initiative initiative,” as he calls it. Among other things, it extends the signature-gathering period from six months to one year. Look for Initiative 517 on your ballot in November.
Here’s part of an email Eyman sent today to media:
In 1999, we spent $ 49,452 to qualify I-695′s $30 tabs for the ballot – 179K signatures were necessary. Check out what’s happened to costs as the number of signatures has increased:
1997-2000 …….. $341,746 average spent to qualify initiatives (179K signatures required)
2001-2004 …….. $676,536 average spent to qualify initiatives (198K required)
2005-2008 …….. $712,980 average spent to qualify initiatives (225K required)
2009-2012 ……..$1,432,050 average spent to qualify initiatives (241K required)
The number of signatures has grown exponentially (the Secretary of State now recommends 320K), but the time to collect them has stayed the same since 1912. Big Business (Costco, American Beverage Association, etc), Big Labor (SEIU, etc), Billionaires (charter schools, Gates’ income tax), and well-established groups like ours, we’ve all managed to adapt (and will continue to adapt) to this cost escalation. But regular citizens? Those with low-budget, no-paid-petitioner campaigns? As things stand now, they have almost no chance. I-517 doesn’t lower the high hurdle — they’ll still need to get 320K and growing — but with more time, grassroots groups will be able to compete and have a chance to access the process.
Most initiative states allow more time than Washington (the average is 15 months, the median is one year — so, passing I-517 would take Washington from one of the shortest petition periods to right in the middle of the pack but still less than the average).
Eyman turned in signatures for I-517 on Thursday, and he told the Politics Blog he’s confident the measure will qualify for the November ballot.
A report by AP indicates he likely collected more than enough signatures to make the cut.
Alternately, read or listen to a report by public radio.
The initiative does more than extend the time for signature-gathering. I plan to write more about I-517, most likely for the newspaper. Stay tuned…