This morning I’ll stand in Washington State’s capitol in Olympia to turn in more than 340,000 voter signatures on petitions — enough to place Initiative 517 on the ballot next November.
I’ll be there representing Citizens in Charge, the major funder of the initiative, joined by Eddie Agazarm, former head of Citizen Solutions, and Tim Eyman, the leader of Voters Want More Choices.
I-517 strikes three critical blows for protecting the state’s citizen initiative process: (1) providing more time to gather signatures, (2) protecting the First Amendment rights of people circulating or signing a petition, and (3) guaranteeing issues will be voted on if sufficient signatures are gathered.
Currently, Evergreen State petitioners are allowed only six months to gather petition. I-517’s one-year petitioning window will give less well-funded grassroots groups a better chance to place an issue onto the ballot.
Petitioning is “a guaranteed First Amendment free speech right and it deserves protection,” points out Mr. Agazarm. “I-517 sets penalties for interfering with or retaliating against petition signers and signature gatherers.” Such harassment has been happening with greater frequency in recent years.
Tim Eyman is best known for his tax cut initiatives, but I-517 is close to his heart because of his experiences petitioning against red-light cameras. In each of his campaigns they were sued by “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.”
I-517 simply requires that initiatives backed by enough signatures be voted on by the people. Even when an initiative is precluded from taking effect, for whatever legal reason, a vote of the people can help educate public officials.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.