No initiatives on state ballots this year

For the first year since 1989, an initiative to the people won’t be placed before Washington voters.

Friday, July 5, was the deadline for initiative sponsors to submit signatures to the Elections Division. However, Elections staff say they do not expect any initiative sponsors to turn in signatures by the deadline.

The sponsor for I-1307, the Washington State Firearms Freedom Act, had told the Elections staff that he planned to bring in several hundred signatures Friday afternoon, but he changed his mind and chose not to submit them. According to Elections staff, the signatures would not have been checked because it would have been clear that there were not nearly enough to be certified.

Sponsors who filed an initiative this year with the Elections Division would need to submit at least 246,372 valid signatures from registered Washington voters last Friday, July 5, to be certified and qualify for the 2013 General Election ballot.

Prior to 1989, it was a somewhat common occurrence for Washington voters not to even see an initiative to the people on the ballot. That was the case in 1974, 1979, 1983 and 1985-87.

While there won’t be any initiatives to the people on the ballot this fall, Washington voters this year will decide the fate of two initiatives to the Legislature that will go on the statewide ballot.

Initiative 517, dubbed the “Protect the Initiative Act,” would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures. The measure is sponsored by Tim Eyman, who turned in nearly 347,000 signatures.

Initiative 522, called “The People’s Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale. Chris McManus is I-522’s main sponsor. The initiative sponsors brought in more than 350,000 signatures.

Because I-517 and I-522 were filed in 2012, each needed “only” 241,153 valid signatures in order to be certified. The minimum number of signatures needed rose to 246,372 this year because it’s 8 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in 2012, as directed by the Washington Constitution.

Sponsors for I-517 and I-522 submitted enough signatures last January to qualify for 3 percent random sample checks.

Once an initiative to the Legislature undergoes a successful signature check and then is certified by the Secretary of State, the Legislature has three options: pass it into law as is, let it go to the November ballot for a public vote, or send it and a legislative alternative to the ballot and let voters decide which, if either, they want to support. The typical initiative to the Legislature takes the second path, as was the case for 517 and 522.


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