Advisory vote costs are not “chump change”

Rethinking and ReframingStatements & Advisories

Earlier today, The Herald of Everett reported that the Secretary of State has scheduled five meaningless “advisory votes” following the Legislature’s passage of five bills that resulted in revenue being raised or recovered for the state treasury.

The advisory votes are required a provision of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 960, which narrowly passed in 2007 and was partially struck down earlier this year by the Washington State Supreme Court.

The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield sought comment for Eyman about the five advisory votes, and reported that Eyman was unconcerned about the cost of what amounts to very expensive, pointless opinion research paid for with taxpayer dollars.

In fact, Eyman even referred to the cost of incorporating the advisory votes into the voter’s pamphlet (estimated at $240,000) as “chump change”.

“Tim Eyman’s comments today again show that his real objective is weakening and destroying government, not making it function more efficiently,” said NPI founder and executive director Andrew Villeneuve. “Our Constitution provides for three kinds of statewide ballot measures: initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments. The Constitution does not authorize advisory votes. Consequently, I-960’s advisory vote scheme is unconstitutional in addition to being wasteful. It was purposely engineered to clutter up our ballots and give Eyman more fodder for emails to reporters.”

“Elections budgets at the state and local level are stretched tight enough as it is – Eyman’s unconstitutional advisory vote scheme just makes a bad situation worse.”

The thicker voter’s pamphlet is actually not the only additional expense related to the advisory votes.

Yesterday, in a separate article, The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield reported that the price tag for the special election to fill Jay Inslee’s House seat ended up being more than three quarters of a million dollars ($791,339.40). Though it was an even-numbered year (when counties are responsible for elections costs) the state agreed to help the counties out with the special election.

King County will be sent the lion’s share of the money, $529,057.02, while Snohomish County gets $106,576.13 and Kitsap County stands to receive $55,706.21.

The data just released by the state for the special election in Washington’s 1st Congressional District makes it clear that the cost of adding races or ballot measures to our ballots is not, in fact, “chump change”.

Because 2013 is an odd-numbered year, the cost of holding the five advisory votes will likely come out of the state treasury. The final bill may not be paid by the state until late 2013 or early 2014, but it won’t be an insignificant amount of money.

“What many people don’t understand is that elections are actually a public service,” Villeneuve said. “It costs serious money to hold elections. Every time there’s a public vote on something, we pay for it. Democracy is a great thing, but it isn’t free.”

“That’s why, when a vote is held, it should mean something. If Tim Eyman wants to do public opinion research, he can pay for that himself with his own PAC’s funds. The rest of us should not be forced to pay for it.”

In the coming weeks, NPI’s Permanent Defense will be releasing a report, Elections are a public service, too: Here’s what they cost which will delve more deeply into the subject of election expenses. Look for this report as election season gets underway later in the summer.

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