Statement on the defeat of Initiative 517

Election PostmortemStatements & Advisories

Initial returns from Washington’s thirty-nine counties this evening indicate that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 517 is headed down to a big defeat. NPI founder and NO on I-517 steering committee member Andrew Villeneuve thanked the people of Washington for overwhelmingly rejecting I-517, which would have made it easier for Eyman and his associates to manipulate our state’s initiative process and profit from it.

“Congratulations to the people of Washington for having the good sense and wisdom to reject Tim Eyman’s self-serving I-517,” said NPI founder and NO on I-517 steering committee member Andrew Villeneuve. “Over the past few weeks, we’ve worked hard to help voters understand that I-517 would have infringed upon our constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights and property rights, giving petitioners special privileges that no one else would have. We’re thankful that our efforts were successful. The rejection of I-517 is a victory for the initiative process over the initiative business.”

I-517 was opposed by a broad and diverse coalition that included progressive organizations like NPI, retailers like Safeway, Fred Meyer, REI, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Walmart, as well as labor unions like the Carpenters and the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific and sports teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders. Opposition was also bipartisan: Former gubernatorial rivals Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna each took a stand opposing I-517, as did the Washington State Democratic Party, the Mainstream Republicans of Washington State, former State Auditor Brian Sonntag, and former Secretaries of State Sam Reed and Ralph Munro.

The Yes on I-517 campaign remains under investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission for violating Washington State’s public disclosure laws during its signature gathering stage. The PDC acknowledged last month the investigation would not be completed ahead of the election.

NPI will be monitoring the status of the investigation in the weeks to come.

“Ending abuse of our state’s initiative and referendum process is a priority for us,” Villeneuve said. “We’re strong believers in the initiative and referendum and we want to return these instruments of direct democracy to their roots. It should be easier for grassroots activists to put together an initiative campaign, and harder for powerful interests to simply arrange a vote so they can purchase laws favorable to them.”

“In 2014 and beyond, we will working to end the exploitation of petition workers by outfits like Citizen Solutions that profit from qualifying initiatives while failing to comply with our worker protection laws,” Villeneuve added.

“We will also urge the Legislature to put a stop to the practice of ballot title shopping and require that petitions be more transparently laid out, so people have a clearer understanding of what they are being asked to sign.”

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