It's an initiative to change the initiative process, which Eyman and allies submitted today with what they estimate at 345,000 signatures. Since they need 246,372 valid signatures, the measure and another on genetically modified foods "appear virtually assured of validation," the secretary of state's office says.
Initiative 517 goes to the November 2013 ballot, unless the Legislature takes the unlikely step of approving it first. Lawmakers also have the option of creating an alternative version to go on the ballot as well.
If approved, the proposal would give campaigns an extra six months to gather voter signatures; make it a misdemeanor crime to interfere with a petitioner; and guarantee initiatives that qualify for the ballot will go to public votes, regardless of their topics or lawsuits filed against them. The latter change targets a recent court ruling declaring red-light cameras are a topic that isn't subject to public vote.
Here's what Eyman and allies put out by e-mail today:
From: Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, Paul Jacob, & Eddie Agazarm, co-sponsors of Initiative 517, ph: 425-493-9127, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.VotersWantMoreChoices.com
We're thrilled that I-517 will be on the November, 2013 ballot for voters to vote on. It's a great initiative. I-517 makes the signature process safer for signers and petitioners, provides more time for citizens to participate, and guarantees a vote on initiatives that qualify for the ballot. As Eddie Agazarm said today, "I-517 puts the citizen back in the citizen initiative process."
Here is its' ballot title: Initiative Measure No. 517 concerns initiative and referendum measures. This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures."
Attached are recent polling results for I-517 -- 67% yes, 23% no, 11% not sure (see attached). How accurate is the poll? Pretty darn accurate. That same March, 2012 poll showed 63% public support for I-1185 which is almost exactly the percentage that eventually approved our 2/3 initiative 8 months later. Voters support the initiative process (interestingly, a UW poll in 2010 showed 67% support for the initiative process itself so the polling support for I-517 lines up perfectly -- question 40: http://www.washingtonpoll.org/results/oct29_2010.pdf).
What was the final spark that lit the fuse for I-517? This: State high court rules against red-light initiative, March 8, 2012, http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Wash-high-court-rules-against-Mukilteo-red-light-initiative-141926443.html. After this infuriating ruling on March 8th, the polling was done on March 26th and I-517 was filed on April 5th. I-517 reverses this atrocious ruling and makes it 100% clear in state law that any state or local initiative that qualifies for the ballot gets to be voted on. I provide further comments about the ruling in the story.
I've also included a one-page informational handout on each of its' policies and the rationale for each. Eddie, Paul and I each have our own primary motivation for supporting I-517:
Eddie Agazarm: "I worked extremely hard this year on getting I-517 qualified because petitioners are often harassed (photos and sworn declaration: http://www.voterswantmorechoices.com/Harassment1.html). I've been doing signature drives for nearly two decades, both as a petitioner myself, as a coordinator, and as a founding partner of Citizen Solutions (I've since retired because of my stroke in 2011). Every year the process of getting signatures has gotten more and more dangerous. It's a guaranteed First Amendment free speech right and it deserves protection. I-517 sets penalties for interfering with or retaliating against petition signers and signature gatherers. I want Washington's initiative process to be a safe, easy, and pleasant experience for all involved. Recent trends towards the polarization of politics has brought out the worst in some people and is making signature gathering more volatile and unpredictable than ever before. It is becoming increasingly difficult for there to be a safe environment when exercising free speech. For what is likely my last campaign, I want to make Washington's initiative process better for everybody."
Paul: "Our mission at Citizens in Charge is to protect the initiative and referendum process (http://www.citizensincharge.org/about-us/cic). I've known Eddie for many years and so when he asked us to work with him on Initiative 517, I was happy to help and excited by such a great opportunity. We provided financial support for I-517 because it provides common sense protection for our democratic rights. The most important reform of all is I-517's one-year time frame for citizens to collect signatures for statewide initiatives, which allows grassroots groups a better chance to bring issues to the ballot. We see that states with the least amount of time have the fewest grassroots initiative campaigns. More time means more grassroots; less time means the wealthy and powerful have the advantage. We look forward to helping get I-517 over the finish line in Washington."
Tim: "For 15 years, I've worked with heroic people on various initiative campaigns - but none have been as fun as the local initiatives in 2010 and 2011 on red-light cameras in Mukilteo, Monroe, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Longview, and Redmond. In every one of those campaigns, no money was raised or spent for their signature drives. But once our initiatives were filed and/or qualified for the ballot, we were forced to 'lawyer up' because each initiative faced costly lawsuits seeking to prevent the people from voting. Who was suing the citizens with anti-vote lawsuits? Out-of-state red-light camera corporations with their lawyers funded by camera profits, and city officials with their lawyers funded with our own taxpayer money. Their big-money bullying was obscene. I-517 simply requires that initiatives that qualify for the ballot be voted on by the people. I'm super supportive of I-517 because it ensures that no one else who sponsors an initiative will have to go through the nightmare we did. And it allows me to continue to work with local activists who simply want to let their local voters decide if they want those obnoxious cameras or not."