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Spin Control

Posts tagged: ballot measures

Sunday Spin: Initiative fights continue after elections end

OLYMPIA – For a political reporter, state initiatives have become gifts that just keep on giving.

There have always been plenty of unusual ideas for ballot measures that crop up every spring, sort of like dandelions in the political lawn, and knock-down campaign battles over the few that collect enough signatures to make the ballot.

Some measures manage to remain controversial long after voters approve or reject them. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Signature gatherers could need to register

OLYMPIA — Paid signature-gatherers for statewide ballot measures would need to register with the Secretary of State and their employers would need to conduct background checks before hiring them under a bill approved Thursday by a House panel.

They would have to sign a statement saying they understand election laws, list what initiatives or referenda they are being paid to collect signatures, and couldn't collect signatures on other petitions for free at the same time. Companies that hire unregistered signature gatherers, or allow their employees to be paid for one ballot measure while collecting names on another for free could be fined $500 

The bill is the latest attempt to address concerns some legislators have expressed about the growth of paid-signature gathering for the statewide initiatives, which now rarely qualify for the ballot solely with volunteer staff. Several campaigns in recent years have had paid gatherers who turned in forged signatures.

Katie Blinn of the Secretary of State's elections office said the agency had opposed previous proposals but was supporting this measure because it does not require the signatures to be rejected if the person gathering names violates the law. A House appropriations subcommittee passed the bill on a 7-1 vote.

 

Sunday Spin2: New definition of victory?

In elections, victory is usually well-defined. You got the most votes. Period.

So it was a bit odd Thursday to get a post-election email from initiative guru Tim Eyman describing the results of the election as “7 measures, 7 votes, 7 victories”. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Tax advisory votes: How much effect?

Voters seeking extensive information from the usual sources on five statewide advisory measures before casting their ballots may be out of luck.

There are no high-powered campaigns for or against Advisory Votes 3 through 7. No statements pro or con in the state Voters Pamphlet. No web sites with videos or lists of endorsers…

 

To find out more about the tax advisory votes, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

GMO labeling measure losing steam?

The onslaught of commercials castigating Initiative 522, the genetically engineered food labeling measure on the November ballot, may be taking their toll.

A new survey by The Elway Poll shows support for I-522 has dropped precipitously in the last month. In September, about two-thirds of voters surveyed said they supported the measure, which requires many foods bought at the store to carry labels if they have genetically modified ingredients. Only about one voter in five opposed it.

In the latest poll, that support is down to 46 percent, and opposition up to 42 percent. With the poll's margin of error at 5 percent, that's a statistical tie. More concerning for supporters could be that it has dipped below 50 percent support, because undecided voters tend to vote No if they remain undecided at the point they must cast their ballots.

The Seattle Times broke down the Elway Poll numbers this week. King TV had similar results from a separate poll.

The latest Public Disclosure Commission reports show the No campaign, funded in large part by Monsanto, DuPont and large food and beverage companies contributing to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have spent about $13.5 million. The Yes campaign, which has collected large amounts from some natural food and cosmetic product companies, but also has hundreds of small donations from Washington and around the country, has spent about $5.4 million.

  
  

Sunday Spin: Initiative sponsors go 0 for 84

OLYMPIA – Friday was a rare day in Washington state politics, although it went mostly unnoticed because it was rare for what didn’t happen rather than what did.

It was the deadline to turn in signatures for an initiative to the people to put on the November ballot an idea some would deem brilliant and others ridiculous. No one turned any in. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

No on I-522 money flooding in from out of state

OLYMPIA – In another sign that Washington will be the national battleground this fall over genetically altered foods, opponents of a ballot measure requiring those products to be labeled raised almost $1 million last month.

None of it came from Washington state. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

1 year for initiatives to get signatures? How about 2 years?

OLYMPIA – As state law enforcement officials began investigating more than 8,000 allegedly forged signatures for a pair of ballot measures, a legislative panel looked at changes to the century-old avenue for grass-roots democracy, the initiative process.

One suggestion the Senate Governmental Operations Committee aired out Thursday: Give initiative campaigns more time to circulate petitions.

“If we give citizens more time to get involved, you wouldn’t need paid signature gatherers,” Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Same-sex marriage foes concede defeat

Spokane County vote on Referendum 74 after Wednesday's ballot count.

OLYMPIA — Opponents of Referendum 74, this afternoon conceded that they will lose the fight over same-sex marriage in Washington.

The latest vote count has Ref. 74 passing with about 52 percent of the vote, or a lead of about 84,000 ballots.

On Wednesday, supporters of the measure declared victory, saying their analysis of ballot returns convinced them there was no way it would fail.  A spokesman for Preserve Marriage Washington, the group mounting the opposition campaign said at that time they believed there was “a path to victory” in later ballot returns.

Today, however, Joseph Backholm, the group's chairman, said the ballots counted Wednesday afternoon and evening showed they were not closing the gap. Instead, the gap was growing.

“We are disappointed in losing a tough election battle on marriage by a narrow margin,” he said.

To view the latest statewide results on Ref. 74, click here.

Backholm blamed the loss on Washington being “a deep blue state and one of the  most secular in the nation” as well as the disparity between the two campaigns in terms of fundraising. He insisted it was not “a turning point” for the nation.

“It's not a turning point when you win on your home turf,” Backholm insisted in a prepared statement.

Washington was one of three states to approve same-sex marriage in Tuesday's election. Same-sex couples will be able to apply for marriage licenses on Dec. 6, the day election results are certified and approved ballot measures become law.

Under state law, couples must wait three days after they get their license to marry.

Ref. 74 supporters declaring victory

OLYMPIA — Supporters of Referendum 74, the state ballot measure that would legalize same-sex marriage, are declaring victory this afternoon, even before any more ballots are counted from the general election.

Opponents say they aren't conceding.

 Washington United for Marriage scheduled an afternoon press conference to say that their analysis shows victory at hand. Spokesman Andy Grow said the campaign had “some of the best minds available” analyze the numbers from last night's ballot count and compare them with long-time voting trends. Based on the strong vote in King County, and the ballots that are likely still coming in, the lead will hold up, Grow said.

That statement prompted congratulations from other supporters, such as Gov. Chris Gregoire and state Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, but skepticism from Preserve Marriage Washington, which spearheaded the opposition.

There hadn't been any new ballots counted since midnight,when WUM supporters described themselves as “cautiously optimistic” but urged patience, Andy Chip of Preserve Marriage said.

Opponents are still behind about 3.5 percentage points, with an estimated 1.3 million ballots still to count. “Although the math is difficult, there remains a path to victory,” Chip said.  

So what happens if the trends turn around in later ballot counts? “We will issue another statement,” Grow said. “But we don't think that's going to happen.”

For the record, Spin Control isn't ready to call this race yet, although it is clear that supporters are in a much better position than opponents.

Marijuana measure passes

Initiative 502, which legalizes recreational marijuana use for adults in Washington, will pass.

The Associated Press has called the race, and we here at Spin Control agree. It's at 56 percent yes to 44 percent no, and that's too big of a  margin to turn around.

Next up: A clash between the state and the federal government over conflicting marijuana laws.

On the Web: HuffPo profiles state Rep. Walsh

Another example of Washington state politicians getting ink elsewhere: Huffington Post looks at state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, noting her stance in support of gay rights and same-sex marriage.

Spin Control readers with good memories might recall a post with a video of her floor speech during the House debate over the bill behind what became Referendum 74.

Ref 74 gets $25,000 from Brad Pitt

The campaign to pass same-sex marriage in Washington state got a contribution Wednesday that is far from it's biggest, but may be from one of its most celebrated donors: Actor Brad Pitt.

And you thought he was busy making perfume commercials.

Pitt recently gave $100,000 to the Washington, D.C., based Human Rights Campaign, which divided that among the four states where same-sex marriage campaigns are being waged: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

It's like one of those public radio pledge drive match arrangements. Pitt is promising to match contributions from other donors. HRC says he sent this message by e-mail: “If you're like me, you don't want to have to ask yourself on the day after the election, what else could I have done?”

WA poll: Gov race tied, ballot measures ahead

Washington's gubernatorial race was tied in a recent poll of state voters, while ballot measures for same-sex marriage, legalized marijuana and charter schools were all leading.

The poll of 500 voters last week as the ballots hit the mail had Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee each with support from 46 percent of those surveyed. Inslee is ahead in King County and North Puget Sound, while McKenna leads in other parts of Western Washington and in Eastern Washington. McKenna's ahead among men, Inslee among women.

In other words, it looks like your typical tight Democrat vs. Republican race.

The pollsters didn't ask a “horse race” question on the U.S. Senate race, but it did ask about voters opinions of incumbent Maria Cantwell and challenger Mike Baumgartner. Good news for Cantwell: While Congress has pretty low approval ratings in the country, 53 percent said they had a favorable opinion of her, slightly better than seatmate Patty Murray's rating of 51 percent.

Bad news for Baumgartner: Relatively few voters surveyed — 22 percent statewide and 29 percent in Eastern Washington — had any opinion , good or bad, of the Spokane legislator. The rest were either unfamiliar with the name or had no opinion of him.

Initiative 502, which would legalize marijuana for adult use, Referendum 74, which would legalize same-sex marriage, and Initiative 1240, which would allow public charter schools, all had support from more than half of those surveyed. But with the poll's margin of error of 4.4 percent, all could be close to pulling down a majority in the election.

 

I-502 puts former feds in TV ad

Those wondering what the Initiative 502 would do with that boatload of money it is sitting on have at least part of an answer. Today they unveiled a television ad that features three federal law enforcement types — two former district attorneys and one former FBI agent — arguing that legalizing marijuana would be a good thing.

A copy of the ad can be found here.

Kate Pflaumer was the U.S. attorney for Western Washington under Bill Clinton, and John McKay had the job under George W. Bush. Also on the ad is Charles Mandigo, was once the special agent in charge in Seattle. McKay and Mandigo both testified at a legislative hearing earlier this year in favor of the change in law.

I-502 would legalize marijuana use in Washington for adults in many instances. The pro campaign, which is called New Approach Washington, has collected more than $4.8 million, but has spent only about half of it so far.

A check of the Public Disclosure Commission records shows that total is driven in part by some big out-of-state donations, including $1.7 million from Peter Lewis of Mayfield Village, Ohio, the retired board chairman of Progressive Insurance, and 1.3 million from Drug Policy Action, the political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York based group working on changing drug laws. Biggest Washington donor is Rick Steves, noted travel writer and marijuana activist, who's in for $350,000.

The No campaign, which goes by the name Safe Access has raised about $9,300, much of it from medical marijuana operations which oppose the law, Another group, No on I 502, has raised just under $5,800. Those totals are a bit dated, because neither has reported any contributions or expenditures since the end of August.

Update: Both sides of Ref. 74 campaign in Spokane Tuesday

Expect some action tomorrow for the forces for and against Referendum 74, the ballot measure to affirm the law allowing same-sex marriage in Washington.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington, which is opposing Ref. 74, has invited Rick Santorum, former U.S. senator and GOP presidential candidate, to speak at a luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel at noon. Tickets are $36, and more info is available by calling 425-608-0242.

Update: Clergy members supporting Ref 74 will hold a “rally for love” in the nearby Convention Center Plaza, with the Rev. Happy Watkins as the keynote speaker, starting at 11:45 a.m.  The local pro-Ref 74 folks are planning a rally starting at 11:15 a.m. at the “grassy area in front of the DoubleTree.”

Meanwhile, Washington United for Marriage, the main campaign organization, is releasing a new ad to counter Santorum. It features state Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, who spoke passionately in favor of the bill when it was in front of the House earlier this year.

Fiscal note on I-1185 stands, judge rules

OLYMPIA — The fiscal note on the latest initiative requiring a supermajority in the Legislature for tax increases will remain in the voters pamphlet, even though it is different from a nearly identical initiative that passed in 2010, a judge ruled today.

That might not have much effect in the upcoming election, but could be a point of contention in next year's Legislature if Initative 1185 passes, sponsor Tim Eyman said

The fiscal note prepared by the Office of Financial Management for Initiative 1185 — requiring a two-thirds legislative approval of any tax increase and a legislative vote on fee increases — says passage may cost the state between $22 million and $33 million in lost toll revenues in 2017 and some other costs in other agency fees.

Eyman challenged that assessment, arguing that I-1185 merely continues the initiative voters passed in 2010, so it doesn't change anything. Calling the fiscal note a “gross injustice” stemming from “a complete lack of accountability,” Eyman, who is not an attorney, represented the initiative's sponsors in a hearing on a request to have the fiscal note removed or altered.

I-1185 has the same ballot title as I-1053, he told Thurston County Superior Court James Dixon. It should have the same fiscal note, which in 2010 said I-1053 had no direct fiscal impact.

But since 2010, a pair of attorney general's opinions that looked at I-1053 concluded that the new law could require addiltional authorization by the Legislature for certain fees,  Steve Dietrich, a deputy attorney general said. OFM had to take those opinions into account when it made its assumptions about the effect of continuing the law.

“This isn't the same situation they faced when they wrote (the fiscal note for) 1053,” Dietrich said.

The Legislature might have to authorize new fees, but that doesn't cost anything, Eyman countered. At the very least, the voters pamphlet should contain a line that says the fiscal note is disputed by sponsors, he said.

Eyman's arguments were “largely political” not legal, Dietrich said. State law allows for someone to challenge the wording of an initiative's ballot title, but doesn't  provide a mechanism for challenging the fiscal note for an initiative, he added.

“You simply don't have the power to order OFM to rewrite in the way he would like,” said Dietrich told the judge.

Dixon agreed the order Eyman was seeking, a writ of mandamus, didn't apply to the case. If it had refused to write any fiscal note, that option might be available, but OFM has the discretion on how it prepares a fiscal note, he said. If it came up with conclusions that were “arbitrary and capricious”, the court might also be able to step in.

“It is not arbitrary and capricious to review a law and come up with new conclusions,” Dixon said.

After the hearing, Eyman said he didn't know how much effect the fiscal note will have on voters, and many probably won't study it. “I think voters have seen this issue before, so they're pretty well-educated on it.”

But politicians do pay attention to things like the fiscal note, and Eyman and other initiative supporters will raise the part of the analysis that talks about the Legislature needing to approve at any opportunity during the next session.

The campaign has no plans to spend money on ads to rebut the fiscal note, he said. But the court challenge was important for creating a record of the sponsors' objections, if questions about the fiscal impact come up in debates or interviews.

More words for the Nov. 6 ballot

OLYMPIA — Voters get to weigh in on two more ballot measures in November, a pair of advisory votes on changes to tax law the Legislature approved this year.

One involves petroleum taxes, the other involves a tax break for large banks on mortgages.

They're advisory votes, so the Legislature isn't bound by them. They're required by Initiative 960.

They will add about 16 pages to the state Voter's Guide, which will be coming out in the fall.

To read the ballot language, go inside the blog.

Same-sex marriage campaign gets $2.5 million boost

OLYMPIA — Supporters of a ballot measure to ratify same-sex marriage in Washington state received $2.5 million from the founder of Amazon.com, the campaign announced today.

Washington United for Marriage, which is pushing Referendum 74 on the Nov. 6 ballot, announced  the contribution from Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos this morning. A spokesman said it was the largest single donation to a campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.

It also more than doubles the campaign's total contributions, to about $4.8 million and shows continuing support from the state's high-tech executives. The campaign has also received contributions of $100,000 each from Microsoft's Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

Preserve Marriage Washington, the group that gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot and is urging a no vote to block same sex-marriage, has reported about $250,000 in contributions.

The Washington Legislature passed a bill legalizing marriage between same-sex couples early this year and it was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire, who had announced her support for the change before the session started. But opponents quickly filed a referendum and gathered the needed signatures, placing the law on hold.

Six states — Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont — as well as Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, but no state has approved it through a ballot measure. Washington, Maryland and Maine have same-sex marriage proposals on statewide ballots this fall.

For the top donors to Washington United for Marriage and Preserve Marriage Washington campaigns, click here to go inside the blog.

Charter school measure makes November ballot

OLYMPIA — An initiative which will be the fourth attempt to get voter approval for charter schools will be on the November ballot.

Initiative 1240 has enough valid signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 election, the Secretary of State's office said this afternoon.

Although supporters had a mere 21 days to collect signatures, they turned in about 115,000 more than the 241,000 needed to put an initiative on the ballot. They accomplished that largely with paid signature gatherers, paying almost $2.1 million to a California company, PCI Consultants.

The state Elections Division said a random sampling of the petitions showed a rejection rate of about 16 percent, resulting in I-1240 qualifying as the sixth ballot measure for this fall.

Under the initiative, a charter school would be a public school governed by a special board and operated under a special contract that outlines powers, responsibilities and performance expectations. As many as 40 such schools could be set up in the state over the next five years, either by public school districts or nonprofit organizations. The per-pupil allotment that a public school would get would go to the charter school for its students.

Voters have turned down charter school proposals in 1996, 2000 and 2004.  

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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