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WA initiative season underway ?>

WA initiative season underway

I-1100 petition drop 003

As WA lawmakers prepare to open their session on Monday, the people’s process of writing laws by initiative got its start Friday.

By mid-afternoon, 24 proposals were filed with the Secretary of State’s Elections Division, including 13 from initiative activist Tim Eyman. His measures deal with making it tougher to raise taxes in Olympia, bringing back $30 car tabs, express lane tolls, and other issues.

Kurt Ludden of Seattle filed seven initiatives, dealing with medical marijuana, and the initiative process.  Other sponsors submitted measures dealing with a single-payer health insurance system for Washington, grandparents’ visitation rights, and faculty carrying handguns.

The process of filing is easy — pay a $5 filing fee and submit the proposed wording.  History shows, however, that usually only a few actually make the ballot. It takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters — and the Elections Division recommends bringing in at least 325k to cover duplicate and invalid signatures.  The deadline this year is July 8.

Initiatives are sent to the state code reviser for review as to form, and then on to the attorney general for a ballot title. Ballot titles can be challenges by sponsors or foes in court. After all that, it is up to sponsors whether to actually print up 20,000 or more actual petition sheets for signature collection. Many sponsors do not take that final step, and many do not gather enough signatures to qualify.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kim Wyman has provisionally certified two initiatives to the Legislature as the Elections Division begins the signature-verification process. They are I-732, dealing with carbon taxes, and I-735, petitioning for a constitutional amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign fundraising.

 

WA Election 2014 under way; 62% turnout forecast ?>

WA Election 2014 under way; 62% turnout forecast

GeneralElectionMap2014

Washington’s General Election is under way.  About 65,000 military and overseas ballots were going out by Saturday, Sept. 20, many of them sent electronically, and those voters are able to begin voting as soon as they receive their ballots.

The other 3.8 million registered voters will be getting ballots and Voters’ Pamphlets by this time next month. The 18-day voting period kicks off Oct. 17.

Ballots can be voted any time after they are received. They may be returned by mail, in person, or by using a county-supplied dropbox.  Postmark deadline is Election Day, Nov. 4; dropboxes may be used until 8 p.m. Election Day.  Results will be available online and via smart-phone apps after 8 p.m. Election Night.

Deadline for online and mail-in voter registration is Oct. 6.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting a 62 percent voter participation for the mid-term election, or roughly double the turnout in this year’s primary.  The 62 percent figure is lower than the turnout for the two previous midterm elections (71 percent in 2010 and 65 percent in 2006), primarily because this year we have no U.S. Senate

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Second gun initiative certified ?>

Second gun initiative certified

 

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Boxes of Initiative 591 signatures were delivered to the Elections Division of the Office of Secretary of State in late November. 

(UPDATE: Fixes number of signatures filed for I-591)

Secretary of State Kim Wyman has officially certified Initiative 591 to go before the legislature this session.

I-591 is the second gun-related measure before the legislature and would prohibit government agencies from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.

Sponsors of I-591 submitted 349,860 petition signatures in late November exceeding the minimum requirement of 246,372 valid voter signatures, Elections official said Thursday.

The high number of signatures submitted qualified I-591 for a 3 percent random sample check. This meant that out of 19,749 pages of signatures, 10,669 signatures were checked for validity. Checkers accepted 9,286 of the signatures sampled, while 1,383 were rejected. Of those rejected, 1,285 were because the signers were not registered voters in Washington and 72 did not match those on file. The rest were rejected as duplicates or because the signature image was pending.

The rival of I-591, initiative 594, has already been certified by the Office of Secretary of State and would require universal background checks on gun purchases. I-594 sponsors submitted 346,834 signatures.

The Senate and House held hearings on both measures earlier this week. Lawmakers are not expected to approve either alternative meaning both initiatives would then appear on the fall statewide ballot.

More information on current initiatives to the legislature can be found here.

WA 2013 election underway this week ?>

WA 2013 election underway this week

GeneralElectionMap

Washington’s general Election Day used to be just that, a single day in November.  Today, it’s an election season of nearly three weeks — and the 2013 edition gets underway this week.

Starting Wednesday, Oct. 16, ballots are being mailed to over 3.9 million registered voters — a near-record.  Voters may fill out their ballots right away or hold off awhile. Although election officials recommend returning ballots promptly, the voter does face a Nov. 5 deadline to have their ballot postmarked or, alternatively, return it to an official drop box by 8 p.m.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting 51 percent voter participation, about average for an off-year election. That would be nearly double the August primary turnout of 26 percent, but well below the 81 percent last year for a ballot that included the White House race, governor and three other wide-open statewide elective offices, gay marriage and marijuana legalization, all 10 congressional seats and most of the Legislature, and judicial races.

Wyman said the election still has plenty to offer a voter, including:

  • Statewide ballot measures, including the closely watched, high-spending I-522 battle over labeling of genetically engineered foods; and I-517, brought forward by initiative activist Tim Eyman, dealing with the initiative process itself.  Under provisions of a previous Eyman initiative passed by the voters, there will also be five non-binding tax advisory votes for people to express their support or opposition to revenue measures approved earlier this year by the Legislature.  The measures will be numbered 3 through 7.  Where are No. 1 and 2? Voters acted on those last year.
  • Three special state Senate races, including a pivotal 26th District clash between appointed Democratic Sen. Nathan Schlicher and his GOP challenger, state Rep. Jan Angel.  The other two races, in the 7th and 8th districts in Eastern Washington, also have an interesting twist: each features two Republicans.  The state’s Top 2 Primary sends the two biggest vote-getters to the General Election ballot without regard to party preference.  Although there has never been a one-party final election for statewide or congressional office, it is sometimes seen in essentially one-party legislative districts.
  •  Local races and measures. A variety of local contests also add interest to the ballot.  The state Senate’s Democratic leader, Ed Murray, emerged first in a crowded primary to take on one-term incumbent Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. If elected, Murray would be the first openly gay mayor of the Northwest’s largest city. He was architect of the state gay-marriage law ratified by the voters last fall. King County Executive Dow Constantine is running for re-election. Thurston County Auditor Gary Alexander, the senior GOP budgetwriter in the Legislature and Wyman’s appointed successor at the courthouse, is running for the remainder of the term. Dozens of other local government races also dot the ballot, including school boards, ports, city and county councils, mayors, and fire, water and sewer districts.  Bonds and levies are on the ballot, and in a nationally-watched election in SeaTac, voters are asked whether to boost the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“The hyper-local races are incredibly important to citizens, from ports to parks,” said state Elections Director Lori Augino. “I urge voters to take part in this election, to do their homework and then vote their ballot without waiting until Election Day.”

 

High court overturns supermajority for taxes ?>

High court overturns supermajority for taxes

TOJ

The Washington Supreme Court, in a bombshell decision handed down just days before Gov. Jay Inslee and lawmakers tackle a multibillion-dollar budget gap, invalidated a popular voter-approved requirement of a two-thirds supermajority for taxes raised in Olympia.

The court, in a decisive 6-3 ruling, said the state Constitution clearly says a bill becomes a law by gaining a majority in each house. The justices noted that this is the first time the court directly answers the question of whether the voters violated the constitution by requiring a two-thirds vote in both houses to pass taxes in Olympia.

Justice Susan Owens, writing for the majority, said the court is taking no position on whether the supermajority idea makes good policy sense, but said if voters or the legislators want to depart from the age-old concept of simple majority rule, they’ll have to amend the constitution.  Ironically, that would take a two-thirds vote in both houses — plus voter approval.

The majority, which also included Chief Justice Barbara Madsen and Justices Tom Chambers, Mary Fairhurst, Charles Wiggins and Stephen Gonzalez, gave a long defense of the concept of simple majority and noted that the founders worried about a “tyranny of the minority” blocking the wishes of the majority.

Justices Charles Johnson and James Johnson penned separate dissents, rapping the majority for wading into the political arena in “unwise and unprecedented” fashion, misreading the constitution and overriding case law and the clear wishes of the electorate.

Reaction came quickly.  Inslee and many Democrats welcomed the court’s ruling.  Democrats said the opinion doesn’t open the floodgates, but allows an open discussion of simple-majority extension of expiring (more…)

New video looks at initiative process ?>

New video looks at initiative process

Checker

The Office of Secretary of State has released an educational video entitled “A Look at the Washington State Initiative Process.” It gives an inside look at the journey of an initiative from conception to certification by our Elections Division.

The history of Washington’s initiative process, a detailed overview of the signature check procedures, and an explanation of the Legislature’s role are included. Commentary from Secretary of State Kim Wyman and Elections Division officials can be seen throughout the video.

Wyman and her staff are strong supporters of citizen activism and the initiative process and its ability to allow Washingtonians to have a role in the lawmaking process.

The video can be seen here on Youtube. Enjoy!

WA voters: Yes to gay marriage, Obama & Democrats … ?>

WA voters: Yes to gay marriage, Obama & Democrats …

But the governor’s race, the marquee state contest in the General Election, remains very close. 

Democrat Jay Inslee, who gave up a safe congressional seat to run for the office being vacated by two-term Gov. Chris Gregoire, led Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna 51.32 percent to 48.68 percent, or about 50,000 votes out of nearly 1.9 million counted.  Inslee told cheering supporters it looked like victory, but didn’t declare himself the winner in so many words.  McKenna, still seeing a path to victory as more votes come in, declined to concede.

Roughly 40 percent of the vote remains to be counted.  Inslee led in nine of the 39 counties. That included vote-rich King, where he was polling 63-37, for a plurality of 140k.

Another close statewide race was for Secretary of State.  Republican Kim Wyman had a lead of about 14,000 over Democrat Kathleen Drew.  Democrats led in all other contests for statewide office.

President Obama picked up Washington’s 12 electoral votes, as expected. He outpolled Mitt Romney 55-43.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, was returned to a third six-year term, polling 59-41 over Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.

Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene led in the open 10th, 6th and 1st U.S. House districts. Incumbents were easy winners in the other districts.

The Legislature again will have Democratic majorities to work with the new governor.

The state drew some national attention for its ballot measures:

–The state, along with Maryland and Maine, was apparently affirming same-sex marriage. R-74 was the text of the marriage equality bill passed by the Legislature last spring and placed on the ballot by opponents.  It was passing narrowly, 52-48, but proponents were already celebrating. The margin was about 68,000 with 1.9 million votes tallied, including a 65-35 affirmative vote in populous King County.

–By an even larger margin, 56-44 percent, the state was approving a plan, I-502, to authorize, regulate and tax recreational sales and use of marijuana by adults. The federal government said the vote does not change drug policies against marijuana growing, sales and use.

–Fourth time’s the charm? A plan to authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools, I-1240, was narrowly ahead.

–Tim Eyman’s perennial plan  to require a two-thirds supermajority to pass taxes in Olympia, I-1185, passed easily, with nearly two-thirds of the voters in favor — 65-35. The concept of a supermajority, however, is being challenged in the state Supreme Court.

Secretary of State Sam Reed said the turnout was exceptionally strong, possibly higher than the 81 percent he initially forecast.

“There were so many significant decisions for voters to make, and so many interesting state and local ballot propositions. There was literally something for everyone, and I was so glad to see the Washington voters get so engaged in our elections.”

Secretary Reed: YOUR vote is your voice ?>

Secretary Reed: YOUR vote is your voice

Secretary of State Sam Reed is urging voters to take part in “one of the most significant and interesting elections in modern times.”  He said enthusiasm is “sky-high” in Washington, which regularly enjoys one of the best voter participation rates in the country.

Reed noted that more than 8 out of 10 voters are expected to cast ballots, with some counties forecasting turnout even higher than the 81 percent he has predicted statewide.  He said he would be delighted, of course, if the turnout exceeds the record set in 2008, 84.6 percent.

He added:

“A ballot left untouched on your coffee table does no good, though, and so I am strongly urging every registered voter to mark a ballot just as soon as possible and get it in the mail or take it to a secure county dropbox. Don’t wait until the last minute.”

Reed, conducting his last election after 41 years in state and local election administration, said this is one of the most intriguing and significant elections in his tenure.

“I am extremely happy that our voters are engaged and involved in these voting decisions that will affect our daily lives in very concrete ways.  In our system of self-government, our vote is our voice — and we want to hear from everyone.

“Our voters rolls have never been cleaner, outreach efforts have never been stronger and good voter information has never been more plentiful.  Now it is up to the voters!”

Washington has topped the 3.9 million mark for the first time for registered voters — including a spike of nearly 180,000 added just since the August Primary.  Reed said the great interest is driven by the down-to-the-wire races for President and Governor, as well as “the most interesting and compelling ballot measures in the country.”

Voters will decide four citizen ballot propositions, including same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, charter schools and a Tim Eyman tax initiative, as well as two noncontroversial constitutional amendments and two first-ever state tax advisory votes.  The ballot includes wide-open races for Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and Auditor, as well as other statewide executive and court races. Control of the Legislature is up for grabs. A U.S. Senate seat and all 10 U.S. House contests are on the ballot, including a first-ever vote in the newly awarded 10th District.

Local races and propositions also await voters’ decision.

Said Reed:

“Literally, there is something for everyone in this election.”

 

 

Reed urges strong Top 2 Primary turnout ?>

Reed urges strong Top 2 Primary turnout

Secretary of State Sam Reed is urging a great turnout for Washington’s Top 2 Primary, which offers voters a chance to pick finalists for Governor, U.S. Congress, Legislature, and many state and local offices.  Tuesday is your deadline for mail ballots to be postmarked or placed in county election dropbox.

Reed says the election offers ballot draws for just about everyone:

“This is one of those watershed election years, and the action begins with the primary. There are lots of great races that should interest just about everyone. This is one of the most interesting election seasons in years.  We encourage every registered voter, even the busiest people and those of us who are glued to the Olympics coverage, to take part.  It’s our duty and our privilege. In my book, casting an informed ballot really deserves a civics gold medal!”

In some judicial races, and potentially the state’s top education post as well, the primary will be decisive, with special rules allowing a candidate who gets 50 percent-plus-one to be elected outright or advance alone to the General Election ballot.

For partisan races and for local government offices, though, the Top 2 Primary is a winnowing process that allows voters to pick their favorite for each office, without regard to party preference, with the two highest vote-getters advancing to the Nov. 6 General Election.

Ever since the parties successfully challenged the state’s time-honored “blanket” primary, which produced Democratic and Republican nominees for each office, since 2008 the state has used a Top 2 process in which no party is guaranteed a November election slot.  Although voters usually pick finalists who prefer the two major parties, it’s possible for the General Election to pit two people who list the same party preference.  That has happened in legislative races in single-party districts in Seattle and Eastern Washington. Candidates also can run as independents or with a self-designated party preference.

In Washington, voters do not register by party and all registered voters are welcome to take part in the Top 2 Primary.

The election has been underway for several weeks – longer for military and overseas voters – and counties sent out ballots to the general electorate by July 20.  This is the first presidential-year primary that is being conducted by mail, with county voting centers available to persons with (more…)

Charter-school I-1240 qualifies for statewide ballot ?>

Charter-school I-1240 qualifies for statewide ballot

And then there were six.

Secretary of State Sam Reed has certified charter-school Initiative 1240 to the November statewide ballot. It will be the fourth time Washington voters have dealt with the issue in the past 16 years.

The measure earned a place on the ballot after submitting over 357,000 signatures that sponsors collected in a remarkably short 21-day signature-gathering drive financed by powerful backers, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

With I-1240 getting the green light, Washington voters now will decide six ballot measures: initiatives dealing with a supermajority for tax votes taken in Olympia, charter schools and decriminalization of marijuana; a referendum on a new law permitting civil marriage by same-sex couples; and two noncontroversial amendments to the state Constitution.  Voters may also cast an advisory ballot on removal of a tax preference for certain large banks; the attorney general is currently studying whether a vote is triggered by a previously adopted initiative on taxes.

Reed, the state’s chief elections officer, said the wide assortment of hot-button issues should boost voter interest and turnout in the November General Election. He said:

“There certainly is something to intrigue just about everyone. In this Centennial year of Washington voters approving the initiative and referendum process, we are seeing vigorous use of `direct democracy’ by sponsors from across the political spectrum. We are also seeing a lot of national interest in our issues – and some very large contributions.  My challenge to all campaigns is that they be conducted in a civil manner and that advertising be forthright, clear and honest. The voters deserve that.”

Shane Hamlin and Katie Blinn, state elections co-directors, said I-1240 easily qualified for the ballot, despite sponsors’ very late start in collecting signatures. Sponsors brought in 357,252 signatures, far more than the bare minimum of 241,153 needed.  Of the random sample of 10,915, inspectors found 9,337 were valid, with the rest either invalid or duplicates.  The error rate was 16.2 percent, a little “cleaner” than the average of 18 percent.

The charter school measure will be making its fourth appearance on the ballot. The concept was (more…)