THE right to petition the government for a redress of grievance is ensconced in the First Amendment. In Washington, initiatives and referendums have reshaped the state, from passage of Measure 3 in 1914 to launch statewide Prohibition, to affirmation of same-sex marriage via Referendum 74 in 2012.
That success makes Initiative 517 redundant. On the Nov. 4 ballot, it would grease the signature-gathering process. It reads as if Tim Eyman wrote it to expand his initiative-manufacturing industry.
I-517 overreaches by broadening the turf for signature gathering. The clipboard armies would be explicitly allowed in any public building, including any public sports venue, and on “all public sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrian traffic.”
That presents serious challenges for any business anxious to ensure its customers aren’t barraged when coming and going. There is good reason the No on 517 coalition ranges from Seattle Sounders FC to homebuilders to the Washington Retail Association.
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I-517 also overreaches by extending a protective halo around signature gatherers and requiring law enforcement to “vigorously protect” them. I-517’s definition of interference — including “maintaining an intimidating presence within 25 feet” — is too broad.
Lastly, the initiative would require an automatic vote on any initiative with enough qualifying signatures. Currently, the state does not allow pre-election challenges to vet the constitutionality of measures intended for the state ballot, but there is no such rule for local initiatives.
The Yes on 517 campaign has anecdotes about worthy local measures blocked from a public vote. That is an issue for local jurisdictions. If citizens demand a vote on all local measures, take it up with the local council. A statewide mandate is, once again, an overreach.
The state, at times, has been well-served by initiative s, because those measures pushed lawmakers to recognize the will of the people. But it should be a tough process.
This initiative doesn’t come close.Vote no on I-517.