Category Archives: Ballot Watchdogging

Three important things to know about Tim Eyman’s Initiative 947

Ballot WatchdoggingRethinking and ReframingThreat Analysis

1. Initiative 947 is really about gutting Sound Transit, not lowering vehicle fees

Just as with Initiative 776 in 2002, the main intent of I-947 is not actually to lower vehicle fees, it’s to sabotage the work of Sound Transit.

As far as Eyman is concerned, the lower vehicle fees are a welcome side effect. Eyman’s real aim is to nullify the 2016 Sound Transit 3 vote. And he’s now starting to openly admit that with his new slogan: “Let’s stick it to Sound Transit!”

Eyman has been nursing a deep grudge against Sound Transit for years, as is evident from his email today in which he rants at length against the agency, even falsely accusing it of having every law firm around on its payroll.

Eyman has previously contended that “voters are smart” and that the typical voter is perfectly capable of listening to the arguments made by ballot measure proponents and opponents, then making up their minds on their own. But Eyman clearly doesn’t believe that himself, as he is once again trying to overturn their will. Every time you get the chance, ask Eyman, “Why are you trying to overturn the will of the voters?”

Read more about Eyman’s obsession with taking out Sound Transit and how it inspired the creation of NPI’s Permanent Defense project — and later NPI itself.

2.  Eyman is trying to raise money for I-947 while also trying to raise $600,000 to pay legal bills

The cost of getting on the ballot exclusively with hired help runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even more money is needed when the initiative sponsor wants to arrange to receive illegal kickbacks from the company providing the signatures.

Those kickbacks and other serious public disclosure law violations are the basis for four — yes, four — lawsuits filed by the State of Washington against Tim Eyman.

Like his idol Donald Trump, Eyman is claiming to be the victim of a “witch hunt”. He recently sent out an appeal for money via the United States Postal Service, writing, “I need help, a lot of help…. For the past five years, the AG has been investigating me and it has been incredibly stressful, burdensome, and costly to me and my family.”

“I implore you. Please help me get through this,” Eyman adds.

He says his goal is to raise $600,000 for his legal defense — about what a signature drive would cost minus the kickbacks Eyman has received in the past. Eyman says he has seeded his own legal defense fund by taking out a loan against his house.

How is Eyman going to manage to raise over half a million for a new initiative at the same time he’s trying to raise over half a million for his legal defense? That’s a lot to ask, even of his wealthy benefactors, who have been less and less generous since 2015.

3. Initiative 947 is actually Eyman’s sixth attempt to slash vehicle fees, not his third

Some of the accounts of Tim Eyman’s “announcement” from yesterday have portrayed Initiative 947 as Eyman’s third attempt to set vehicle fees at thirty dollars. It is actually Eyman’s sixth attempt to do so. Eyman doesn’t like talking about his many failures, which is why he painted an incomplete picture yesterday.

Here’s a rundown of the prior initiatives:

I-695, 1999: Voted on in November of 1999. Gutted the statewide motor vehicle excise tax, eviscerating funding for ferries, roads, bridges, transit, and a host of other local public services. Declared unconstitutional by the courts; partially reinstated by the Legislature. Read more about the impacts of I-695.

I-776, 2002: Voted on in November of 2002. Repealed local motor vehicle excise taxes in King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Douglas counties and also revoked Sound Transit’s authority to collect vehicle fees. I-776 ended up not applying to Sound Transit because the vehicle fees were used as the basis for bond sales. Read more about the impacts of I-776.

I-917, 2006: Failed to qualify to the 2006 ballot. Using Michael Dunmire’s money, Tim Eyman hired petition crews to gather signatures for I-917, but he didn’t buy enough to qualify the measure. It took the Secretary of State the rest of the summer to check all of the I-917 signatures. In September of 2006, the office announced I-917 had not qualified for the ballot. Read more about the spectacular collapse of I-917.

I-1421, 2016: Failed to qualify to last year’s ballot. In February of 2016, Tim Eyman made a similar announcement to the one he made yesterday, saying the time was ripe for another initiative to slash vehicle fees. He summoned reporters to a morning press conference, made a big show of being the first to sign, and then send out a flurry of fundraising emails. But I-1421 didn’t go anywhere. It turned out there wasn’t much interest. Only a few months later, Eyman was forced to acknowledge I-1421 had been abandoned.

I-869, 2016: Failed to qualify as an initiative to the 2017 Legislature. After the failure of I-1421, Eyman started over with a clone, I-869, rebranding the effort as “We Love Our Cars”. But it was no more successful than I-1421. In December of 2016, it died a quiet death, without so much as passing obituary from Eyman.

Given that Eyman’s last three attempts to qualify an initiative slashing vehicle fees have ended in failure, we should all be skeptical that I-947 is going anywhere until Tim Eyman shows us the commitments from his wealthy benefactors. Eyman has not gotten on the ballot with mostly volunteer labor since 1999. His initiative factory relies on big money to function — it’s not a grassroots operation. Without sizable commitments from the likes of Kemper Freeman, Jr., Kenneth Fisher, or Clyde Holland, Eyman will not be able to get a signature drive going for I-947.

Right wing petitioners using county measure that would ban safe injection sites as lead-in for statewide anti-transgender initiative

Ballot WatchdoggingThreat Analysis

What does a county-level initiative that would ban safe injection sites have to do with a statewide initiative that would roll back transgender rights? Answer: It serves as a nice lead-in for out-of-state petitioners who have been given the sheets for both.

Yesterday, NPI leadership documented right wing petitioners in action, photographing a crew camped out in front of a QFC in Renton.

Petitioners were seen approaching voters to sign I-27 (the county-level measure) first– and then going for a second score by flipping their boards to present petitions for I-1552, the statewide initiative that would wrongly prohibit transgender individuals from using washrooms designated for the gender they identify as.

Because petitioners in Washington State are paid by the signature, they have a strong incentive to lead with whatever they’ve got that people are most receptive to. Banning safe injection sites (which don’t yet exist) is proving to be an easier sell in King County than forcing a public vote on the rights of transgender individuals.

Petitioner next to a QFC sign about unsanctioned petitioningManagement of the Kroger-owned QFC where the petitioners were operating wasn’t pleased about the signature gathering activity taking place at their store entrance, and placed a freestanding sign right outside the doors informing patrons the petitioners were operating without the company’s blessing.

The sign read:

To Our Customers:

Petitioners are on QFC property without our permission.

QFC is not associated with this petitioning activity.

We apologize for any inconvenience this activity may cause.

The campaign to qualify I-27 to the King County ballot in November is being spearheaded by Bothell City Councilmember Joshua Freed, who says he’s quite pleased with signature gathering efforts so far.

“We’ve had over 600 volunteers reach out to us and collect signatures,” Freed told KIRO Radio in an interview on June 6th. “Today, we’re at 20,953 signatures. Our required goal is 47,443 by July 31. So, we are very well on our way.”

Freed failed to mention that his group is benefiting from the services of out-of-state signature gatherers, who have been deployed around King County with I-27 petitions. (One of the petitioners in front of the Renton QFC admitted to NPI leadership when asked that he isn’t a King County resident and is here to make a few quick bucks petitioning.)

The I-1552 campaign started back in the winter, but has struggled to catch fire. Backers are running out of time. Their submission deadline is early in July, as opposed to the end of the month, and their petitions need to contain at least 330,000 signatures or the measure will be at risk of failing a signature check. The campaign announced yesterday it had surpassed 100,000 signatures, but that’s less than a third of what they need.

The existence of the I-27 campaign is rather convenient for the struggling I-1552 campaign, because petitioners for hire haven’t got much of an incentive to come to King County just to carry I-1552 sheets. (A high number of voters in King County support LGBT rights, making refusals or lack of interest a barrier to getting signatures for I-1552.)

But by piggybacking on the I-27 effort, the I-1552 campaign can partly work around this problem. Since petitioners from out of state are already in King County to work I-27, the I-1552 campaign is making sure their paper is made available to those petitioners.

Considering how poorly their drive has gone so far, however, it could be futile. I-27 may well qualify for the November ballot in King County, but I-1552 is floundering, and won’t make the statewide ballot short of a last ditch signature gathering bonanza.

Anti-transgender initiative campaign still struggling to gather signatures as deadline nears

Ballot WatchdoggingThreat Analysis

A theoconservative effort to qualify an initiative that would roll back transgender rights in Washington appears to be going nowhere, although its backers have yet to concede defeat.

With less than a month to go until this year’s signature gathering deadline arrives, proponents of I-1552 have issued a fresh plea for donations and volunteers in which they tacitly acknowledge that they’re not getting the support they had hoped for. I-1552 is a do-over of I-1515, which failed to make last year’s ballot.

What comes to your mind when you hear the number “23?” The greatest basketball player who ever lived? The number of chromosomes each human receives from each parent? The beloved Psalm in the Bible?

Here at JWP headquarters, 23 means one thing and one thing only – the number of days remaining to qualify I-1552 for the November ballot. That’s not much time at all.

Are we going to make it? Please take a few moments to watch Joseph’s video update to find out. If you do, you’ll learn that we have over 92,000 signatures in hand already and that we received over 170,000 signatures during the final two weeks of last year’s campaign. This is good news.

Good news, perhaps, for the opposition, but not for the I-1552 campaign. To qualify for the ballot, they must submit around 330,000 signatures. That’s the minimum they need. If they’ve truthfully reported what they have in hand, then they’re in bad shape. They only have a third of what they need with only a few weeks to go… and the clock is ticking.

I-1552 backers are counting on there being a sudden surge of activity at the end of their drive to propel them to the ballot.

But even if they get their wish, it’s unlikely to be enough, because they’re entering into the home stretch of the signature gathering season in such a weak position.

On May 19th, the campaign reported to its supporters that it had 50,000 signatures in hand. I-1552 promoters Joseph Backholm and Kaeley Triller Haver sent repeated appeals urging their followers to enlist church congregations to participate in a “Signature Sunday” event on June 4th to bolster the campaign’s position.

It appears the “Signature Sunday” event didn’t yield very many signatures.

By the campaign’s admission, around 42,000 signatures have been added to the tally since the 19th. That’s an average of around 2,211 signatures a day. If the campaign continued to gather signatures at the same pace, it would wind up with around 50,853 more signatures than it has now — which is less than half of what is needed.

Even if the campaign was able to collect 170,000 signatures during the final two weeks of this year’s drive — something it claimed it did last year — that still wouldn’t be enough to qualify. 92,000 + 170,000 = 262,000, and the campaign needs to submit at least 330,000 or it’s at risk of failing a signature check.

The I-1552 campaign has expended some funds to hire signature gatherers, but has said it is counting on volunteers to deliver most of what’s needed (200,000 of 330,000 signatures). It doesn’t appear that either the paid drive or the unpaid drive are going very well. And that’s great news for Washington. Hate has no place on our ballot. Our transgender population is not a public safety threat. In fact, transgender individuals are more likely to be the victims of harassment or assault than the typical person.

The demise of I-1552 would not guarantee that transgender rights are safe from being overturned. But it’s hard to see a third effort succeeding next year when two previous efforts failed. If anything, grassroots support for the cause may wane further due to the collapse of I-1515 and I-1552 and the shifting political landscape.

It’s a great day for Washington: I-1515’s failure means zero right wing initiatives on the November ballot

Ballot Watchdogging

Shortly after the close of business today, word came down from Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office that backers of Initiative 1515 had canceled their Friday appointment to turn in petitions, owing to having failed to collect the minimum number of signatures required to make Washington’s November 2016 ballot. The demise of I-1515 is a watershed victory for LGBT civil rights, and leaves in place a Human Rights Commission rule that expressly protects the right of transgender individuals to access washrooms and bathrooms designated for the gender they identify as.

The law that serves as the basis for the Human Rights Commission rule I-1515 tried to repeal was itself briefly threatened ten years ago by a failed referendum instigated by Tim Eyman that NPI’s Permanent Defense fiercely opposed. Eyman teamed up with fundamentalist pastors and the religious right for the campaign. But, as with I-1515, they never turned in any signatures, and so Referendum 65 did not qualify for the November 2006 ballot.

Eyman is also not on the ballot again this year, due to having failed to persuade his wealthy benefactors to pour money into the various schemes he had claimed to be working on for 2016. This November will thus be the fourth Eyman-free general election since the 1990s, after 2003, 2006, and 2014.

More significantly, the collapse of I-1515 and the unexpected idling of Eyman’s initiative factory means that, for the first time this century, there will be zero right wing initiatives on Washington’s November ballot.

For NPI’s Permanent Defense, it is a historic and unprecedented moment.

“2016 marks the first time in the history of Permanent Defense that we have not had a right wing-backed ballot measure to fight on the general election ballot,” said NPI/Permanent Defense founder Andrew Villeneuve.

“This is a truly encouraging and welcome development. As a state, our focus needs to be on improving lives, expanding freedom, and bettering communities. Progress gets impeded when we have to beat back attacks on our Constitution, our commonwealth, and our values. Fortunately, Washington progressives have come together to make the most of this presidential election cycle. Voters will see a robust mix of worthy ideas, including a proposal to raise the minimum wage and create extreme risk protection orders — but no right wing measures that would take our state backwards. That’s as it should be.”

Tim Eyman concedes he won’t make 2016 ballot; NPI’s Permanent Defense ready to fight I-869

Ballot WatchdoggingStatements & AdvisoriesThreat Analysis

Implicitly conceding at last that he doesn’t actually have a paid signature drive in the field and thus won’t have anything on the 2016 ballot, initiative profiteer Tim Eyman announced this morning that he’s devoting his energies to qualifying a new initiative for 2017 that would eviscerate funding for roads and transit at both the state and regional levels.

“Today is the third time in the past seven months that Tim Eyman has ‘launched’ a new initiative,” noted Northwest Progressive Institute and Permanent Defense founder Andrew Villeneuve, who has been organizing opposition to Eyman initiatives for over fourteen years.

“The first time was back in November of 2015 when he said he was doing a follow-up to I-1366 to require revenue increases to expire after a year. Then, in February, he said he was also going to try to qualify to the 2016 ballot I-1421, an initiative to repeal vehicle fees. Now he says he’s doing I-869, a similar initiative to the Legislature for 2017. His announcement today makes no reference to either of those previously planned initiatives.”

“And that’s no accident. Eyman doesn’t like to dwell on failure, and it’s evident at this point he will fail to make the 2016 ballot with anything. It appears the good people of Washington will once again be able to enjoy an Eyman-free election this autumn, while having the opportunity to consider several progressive initiatives that would move our state forward. That’s a victory we will be celebrating all summer long.”

“Time will tell if I-869 is for real or not. Remember, Eyman printed up petitions for I-1421 too — and even made a big show of being the first to sign one in front of television cameras — but I-1421 has now been abandoned. I-869 won’t make it either unless Eyman has commitments from his wealthy benefactors to fund a signature drive. The gears of his initiative factory simply cannot turn without big money.”

In the event I-869 does have serious money behind it, NPI’s Permanent Defense is prepared to fight it and defeat it, together with the Keep Washington Rolling coalition and many other allies.

“Tim Eyman has tried to mess with mobility in our state many times before and been defeated,” Villeneuve observed.

“In 2000, he qualified a scheme to take money away from transit and spend it on highway construction. Voters defeated it. In 2008, he qualified a scheme to eviscerate our HOV system. Voters defeated it. In 2011, he qualified a scheme to prohibit variable tolling and block East Link light rail. Voters defeated it.”

Eyman claims that a survey he paid for shows that I-869 is wildly popular, but the press and public should be aware Eyman says that about all of his initiatives.

Prior to the 2005 general election, Eyman boasted that John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur’s initiative to repeal the fuel tax increases approved by the 2005 Legislature as part of that year’s transportation package was destined for certain victory. Following I-912’s qualification, many pundits shared that view, or were skeptical that I-912 could be beaten.

“With I-912, inevitably approved this fall, voters will say NO to Queen Christine’s underhanded effort to sneak through a multi-billion tax increase when the voters clearly opposed it,” Tim Eyman wrote in a September 26th, 2005 email.

But instead, much to Eyman’s astonishment, I-912 was defeated by voters in a landmark victory, after opponents successfully waged a compelling NO campaign.

NPI is a veteran of that campaign, as are the many organizations that belong to Keep Washington Rolling.

“Voters have repeatedly said no to right wing initiatives that would mess with our transportation system, but Eyman refuses to listen,” said Villeneuve. “The will of the voters clearly doesn’t matter to him. He just keeps recycling the same awful ideas, election cycle after election cycle. We are prepared and committed to ensuring that I-869 ends up in the same graveyard as most of Eyman’s other initiatives, should it end up qualifying to the Legislature at the end of the year. The investments we’ve made to strengthen mobility in Washington must be protected.”

An updated version of Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart, documenting the long list of Eyman initiatives that have either failed to make the ballot, been defeated by voters, or struck down as unconstitutional may be viewed on Permanent Defense’s website.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 4

You are here:

What we do

Permanent Defense works to protect Washington by building a first line of defense against threats to the common wealth and Constitution of the Evergreen State — like Tim Eyman's initiative factory. Learn more.

Protecting Washington Since 2002

Have you been asked to sign a right wing initiative? If so, tell us about your encounter with the petitioner.

We’re social

Follow Permanent Defense on Facebook and Twitter for campaign and project updates.

Permanent Defense on Facebook Permanent Defense on Twitter

Newsroom Archives