Citizen Blog

In next week’s election for governor, Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis has signed our Initiative & Referendum Pledge to support bringing a statewide process of initiative and referendum to Virginia. Neither Democratic Party candidate Terry McAuliffe, nor Republican Party candidate Ken Cuccinelli has signed the pledge.

“I have a lot more faith in the people of Virginia than in politicians,” Sarvis wrote, in returning his signed pledge. “Initiative and referendum would enable voters to decide on many needed reforms to our government.”

Democrat McAuliffe and Republican Cuccinelli offered no response after numerous requests for them to sign the I&R Pledge and/or supply a statement of their position on the issue.

Now, finally, a story in the Seattle Times reports the latest Elway Poll results for Initiative 517. Unlike the 40 point closing from YES to NO on I-522, I-517 showed only a nine-point tightening from last month’s results. The Elway Poll was conducted Oct. 13-15, before any TV or radio advertising by the NO side, and found 52 percent support against only 25 percent opposition, and 23 percent undecided.

But the Seattle Times story spun the Elway Poll by combining it with a Moore Information survey, conducted Oct. 23-25, reporting that, “Two recent polls indicate Tim Eyman’s initiative on initiatives, I-517, is losing ground.”

With the November 5th election just one week away, opponents of Initiative 517 in Washington are spending more than $600,000 on radio and TV ads twisting the provisions of the “Protect the Initiative Act.”  The money against I-517 has come exclusively from corporate interests such as Safeway, Kroger and the Washington Retail Association – each chipping in $100,000 to oppose 517. 

Even the Washington State Hospital Association has come out against 517, feverishly claiming that the law would allow petitioners to collect signatures outside of hospitals, even though they already currently have the right to do so. (For obvious reasons, hospitals are not good places to petition.)

A referendum petition concerning Arizona’s House Bill 2305 has qualified for a place on the state’s November 2014 ballot, with more than 100,000 valid signatures submitted to meet the 86,405 voter signature requirement.  By qualifying for the ballot, the referendum now blocks all the provisions of HB 2305 from going into effect, pending the result of the referendum vote in the 2014 election.

Thus, the partisan bill’s many election-related provisions will not affect the outcome of next fall’s election, nor the petition process leading up to it, because HB 2305 is simply not yet law.

With less than two weeks before the Nov. 5 election and early voting already well underway, the No on I-517 PAC has gone up with a statewide television advertising campaign. While it is not clear precisely how much is being spent on the TV buy, the No on I-517 group has raised over $500,000 with almost all the funding coming from four sources: Washington Retail Association ($105,000), Kroger, Inc. ($103,000), Safeway, Inc. ($103,000) and the Washington Food Industry Association ($80,000).

In an op-ed posted to his personal Facebook page, the sponsor of Washington’s Initiative 522 regarding genetically modified food, Chris McManus spoke out strongly in favor of Initiative 517 also on the state’s Nov. 5, 2013 ballot.

McManus was especially enamored with the provisions of I-517 that provide protection from intimidation for petitioners and potential signers.  He cited an incident where verbal abuse was spouted at petitioners and, despite a police report being filed, nothing was done by authorities to punish the individuals instigating the harassment.

The president of a Washington state property rights group endorsed a YES vote on the pro-initiative Initiative 517 and called charges from opponents that the measure violates the property rights of businesses: “bogus.”

Citizens Alliance for Property Rights President Preston Drew, in a letter to the Snoqualmie Valley Record, wrote:

A news segment on KLEW in Pullman, Washington, profiled I-517 and a local debate at the Pullman League of Women Voters held on Tuesday, October 15.

Proponents of I-517 spoke up to defend the initiative, such as Ted Weatherly, who said, “517 makes citizen participation safer, and guarantees people’s right to vote on initiatives.”

Opponents continue to state their case that petitioners already have protections and claim property rights could be violated if I-517’s provisions took effect.

An opponent of Initiative 522 – also on the ballot this November – Rob Rembert said, “What this really does, and they want, ultra-protection. And ultra-protection that violates the rights of others.”

The following material provided by the Yes on I-517 campaign:

I-517’s primary policy change is guaranteeing you the right to vote on qualified initiatives.

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the much maligned Assembly Bill 857 over the weekend, blocking for now the legislation that would have placed a number of unconstitutional restrictions on the collection of signatures for initiatives in the Golden State.

In his veto message, Governor Brown stated: “Requiring a specific threshold of signatures to be gathered by volunteers will not stop abuses by narrow special interests – particularly if ‘volunteer’ is defined with the broad exemptions as in this bill.”

Yesterday, the ACLU of Arkansas and the Arkansas Public Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of two citizens of the Natural State seeking to overturn Act 1413, a statute that establishes cumbersome restrictions on paid signature gatherers and provides new byzantine rules designed to disqualify whole petition pages of valid signatures due to the smallest of mistakes.

Initiatives are difficult to qualify in Washington.  In 2014, it will require 246,000+ signatures to petition a statewide measure onto the ballot. This can be a hill too high to climb for under-funded ballot initiative campaigns.

That’s where this November’s Initiative 517 comes in and makes a simple, smart change.  For both initiatives to the people and those to the Legislature, I-517 would increase the signature-collecting timeframe by six months. The extra time will allow all-volunteer efforts and groups with shallow pockets a better chance to collect the necessary signatures.  

Toledo Blade columnist Marilou Johanek writes in praise of a lawsuit, Citizens in Charge v. Husted, filed in federal court by Ohio’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and seeking to overturn Senate Bill 47, which restricts non-residents from helping to gather signatures and reduces the time sponsors have to petition. SB 47 passed on entirely partisan votes in the legislature and was signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich earlier this year. 

Johanek quotes Maurice Thompson, the 1851 Center’s executive director: “We like the checks on government that the initiative and referendum provides, and the opportunities for citizens to take lawmaking power into their own hands and deal directly with the issues.”

In recent days, supporters of Initiative 517 in Washington state are making their voices heard on the editorial pages of the state’s newspapers.  A recent op-ed article State Senator Ann Rivers of Washington’s 18th District was published in the Columbian is one of a number of opinion pieces endorsing I-517.

Sen. Rivers praised the positive effects the initiative would have on protecting the process from obstructionist legal battles as well as making petitioning safer and allowing more time for signature collection.

The skirmish over the anti-initiative Assembly Bill 857 will reach a climax very soon, as California governor Jerry Brown is set to either sign or veto the bill within a week’s time.

The bill would place a restriction on all petition signature-gathering efforts, requiring 10% of the total verified signatures be collected by volunteers. This would mean more than 50,000 signatures would need to be gathered if a petition’s requirement was based on the last gubernatorial election (which puts the total requirement at just over 500,000).