Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Counties certify November general election; 2015 turnout is the worst in state history

Well, it’s official: The 2015 general election has now been certified by Washington State’s thirty-nine counties, and as we projected earlier this month, turnout ended up between 38% and 39% (to be precise, 38.45% statewide), which means it’s officially the worst in recorded state history.

The previous low of 40.18% was set in 1985.

Below is a table showing turnout by county, sorted from best to worst. Tiny Garfield County had the best turnout in the state, surpassing 60%, while Yakima County had the worst… 32.70%. Both counties are located east of the Cascade Mountains.

Snohomish County, which was a turnout laggard early on, managed to improve its showing significantly and come in ahead of Pierce County.

King County bested most of the state’s swing counties with respect to turnout this year, running ahead of the statewide average. The only major swing counties that did better than King were Whatcom and Spokane.

County Registered Voters Voters Voting Turnout Percentage
Garfield 1,544 936 60.62%
Lincoln 6,806 3,932 57.77%
San Juan 12,177 7,009 57.56%
Jefferson 23,021 12,676 55.06%
Columbia 2,634 1,393 52.89%
Pend Oreille 8,433 4,144 49.14%
Wahkiakum 2,959 1,432 48.39%
Clallam 47,509 22,863 48.12%
Pacific 13,523 6,410 47.4%
Ferry 4,573 2,164 47.32%
Whatcom 129,345 61,136 47.27%
Island 50,531 22,884 45.29%
Grays Harbor 38,647 17,494 45.27%
Okanogan 21,284 9,483 44.55%
Whitman 20,520 9,079 44.24%
Chelan 40,548 17,823 43.96%
Stevens 29,072 12,773 43.94%
Asotin 13,114 5,733 43.72%
Skagit 69,299 29,784 42.98%
Spokane 286,245 120,460 42.08%
Mason 35,839 14,641 40.85%
Klickitat 13,336 5,447 40.84%
Kittitas 22,320 9,115 40.84%
Skamania 7,130 2,911 40.83%
Lewis 43,795 17,812 40.67%
Douglas 19,670 7,882 40.07%
Grant 36,712 14,534 39.59%
King 1,193,706 467,608 39.17%
Adams 6,204 2,424 39.07%
Walla Walla 32,219 12,392 38.46%
Kitsap 154,355 58,940 38.18%
Thurston 164,555 60,872 36.99%
Snohomish 422,871 146,973 34.76%
Pierce 450,941 153,368 34.01%
Clark 251,528 85,541 34.01%
Cowlitz 59,483 19,887 33.43%
Franklin 30,702 10,242 33.36%
Benton 99,539 32,616 32.77%
Yakima 108,263 35,403 32.7%
Statewide Total 3,974,952 1,528,216 38.45%

Here is an overview of the 2015 general election in King County:

  • Registered voters: 1,193,706
  • Ballots issued: 1,204,515
  • Ballots returned: 474,363
  • Ballots counted: 467,608
  • Ballots cast on accessible voting units: 274
  • Ballots returned to drop boxes: 124,837
  • Signatures initially challenged: 4,911
  • Signature challenges resolved: 2,803
  • Ballots returned too late: 4,439
  • Ballots returned as undeliverable: 11,875
  • Calls to voter hotline: 4,141
  • Emails from voters: 853

The above data is courtesy of King County Elections.

Even though King County has a paltry number of ballot drop boxes, it’s interesting to note that more than a quarter of all ballots were still returned to drop boxes.

A significant number of ballots were rejected because they were returned too late… over four thousand, as a matter of fact. That’s an absurdly high number. Had those ballots counted, it would have pushed turnout higher.

“We had hoped for a bigger turnout and appreciate the voters who got their ballots in,” said Sherril Huff, director of King County Elections, in a news release. “We are always looking for ways to promote voter engagement and anticipate that next year’s presidential election will see a dramatic increase in turnout.”

King County Elections has one race that is so tight that it will head to an automatic recount. That is the fascinating contest for Seattle City Council, District #1 between Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock. Braddock led for much of the count, but she finished just thirty-nine votes behind Herbold.

To put that in context, there were a total over twenty-five thousand votes cast in the race, and yet the two candidates are separated by a mere thirty-nine votes. That’s equivalent to a dozen or so households on a single street!

One hundred and sixty-four of the 25,043 votes cast were write-in votes.

“The recount process will begin on Monday, November 30 and be completed on Monday, December 7th,” King County Elections says. “The first few days of the recount process will involve staff and observer training and ballot sorting in order to obtain the votes specific to this District No. 1 race. Ballots are not stored by district.”

“Actual counting of the ballots is scheduled to begin on Thursday, December 3rd and is expected to continue through Friday, December 4th and possibly the morning of Monday, December 7th.  After the manual hand count and reconciliation is complete the Canvassing Board will meet to certify the recount on Monday, December 7 at 3:00 PM. Final results will be announced by 4:30 PM that day.”

New legal challenge filed against Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366 in Superior Court

With Washington’s 2015 general election on the verge of being certified, the time has come to continue the fight against Tim Eyman’s I-1366 in the courts.

Accordingly, attorneys with Pacifica Law Group have filed a new lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that I-1366 exceeds the scope of the initiative power and violates multiple provisions of the Washington State Constitution in King County Superior Court, on behalf of the following plaintiffs:

  • Tony Lee and Angela Bartels
  • State Senator David Frockt
  • State Representative Reuven Carlyle
  • Eden Mack
  • Jerry Reilly
  • Paul Bell
  • League of Women Voters of Washington

With the exception of the League of Women Voters, all of the above-named plaintiffs were also plaintiffs in Huff v. Wyman, the preelection scope challenge to I-1366, which was argued in August, decided in early September by the Supreme Court, and retained for a decision on the merits until two weeks ago.

In Huff v. Wyman, plaintiffs sought an injunction to keep I-1366 off the ballot on the grounds that I-1366 exceeded the scope of the initiative power. King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum ruled I-1366 did in fact exceed the scope of the initiative power, but nevertheless declined to grant an injunction. Judge Lum’s decision was immediately appealed to the state Supreme Court, which likewise declined to grant an injunction, though on different grounds.

I-1366 thus appeared on the ballot and passed narrowly in an election year that saw the worst voter turnout in Washington State history. Only around 19% of the state’s registered voters cast votes in favor of Tim Eyman’s I-1366.

This new case against I-1366 is what’s known as a substantive challenge. Substantive challenges are routinely filed against flawed voter-approved initiatives after the conclusion of an election. I-1366 is as flawed of an initiative as we’ve ever seen, and there are ample grounds on which to bring a case against it.

Not all substantive challenges are successful, but Paul Lawrence, the senior litigation partner at Pacifica Law Group (the firm representing the aforementioned plaintiffs), has a very strong track record. Paul was the lead attorney in both League of Education Voters v. State (decided in 2013) and League of Women Voters v. State (decided a few weeks ago), which were landmark cases against right wing initiatives.

In LEV, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that the two-thirds vote requirement contained in I-601 and Tim Eyman’s I-601 clones was unconstitutional, thus restoring majority rule to Washington’s statehouse. In LWV, the Court held that charter schools were unconstitutional, striking down I-1240 from 2012.

Both LEV and LWV were substantive challenges brought against initiatives after they had passed. In postelection substantive challenge, any constitutional defect that an initiative happens to suffer can be the basis for a lawsuit, unlike in a preelection challenge, which can only be brought on procedural or scope grounds.

The new case against I-1366 alleges that the initiative is invalid in four ways. The introduction to the complaint summarizes each defect:

[First Defect]:

The fundamental and overriding purpose of I-1366, as evidenced by its text, its title and its advertising, is to invoke the process to amend the Constitution to require a two-thirds legislative supermajority or a public vote for approval of any measure that “raises taxes” and legislative approval for state fee increases. See Exhibit A. It is well-established that the Constitution cannot be amended, revised or altered by initiative or referendum. As such, I-1366 is beyond the scope of the legislative power reserved to the people under Article II and is therefore invalid.

[Second Defect]:

For the same reasons, I-1366 is also unconstitutional because it violates the terms of Article XXIII. Article XXIII sets forth the sole method of amending the state Constitution. The Article XXIII amendment process is “manifestly distinct” from that involved in the enactment of ordinary bills or laws and involves two distinct phases. First, an amendment must be proposed in either house of the legislature and approved by two-thirds of each house. Then, it must be submitted to and approved and ratified by a majority of Washington voters. Amendment of the Washington Constitution is not a “legislative act” exercising the power to pass ordinary bills and laws under Article II of the Constitution.

Though Article XXIII expressly provides that amendments should be proposed by either house of the legislature, here, the people have usurped this power by proposing the amendment via the initiative process. I-1366 expressly dictates the terms of the intended supermajority amendment, including the definition of what it means to “raise taxes” and require legislative approval for state fee increases. Because I-1366 did not follow the process for amendment set forth in Article XXIII, it is unconstitutional and invalid.

[Third Defect]:

I-1366 is also unconstitutional under Article II, Sec. 19 because it contains multiple subjects in both the body of the Initiative and its title, including but not limited to a reduction in the state sales tax and an amendment to the state constitution that contains two subjects of its own: a supermajority requirement for tax increases and a simple majority requirement for fee increases.

[Fourth Defect]:

I-1366 is also unconstitutional because it abridges the power of the 2016 legislature to act. The Initiative requires the legislature to choose between an unsupportable sales tax reduction and the unconstitutional submission of a supermajority amendment that will forever empower a superminority to exercise control over all future taxation decisions. The 2016 legislature is thus not free to exercise its plenary law¬making power or its plenary power to consider and propose constitutional amendments; rather it is forced to choose between two undesirable options. As a result, I-1366 is an unconstitutional limitation on the plenary power of the 2016 legislature.

The complaint requests the following relief:

  1.  That the Court enter a declaratory judgment that I-1366 exceeds the scope of the initiative power, and violates Article II, sec. 1, Article II sec. 19 and Article XXIII of the Washington Constitution and therefore Initiative 1366 is unconstitutional and void;
  2. Such other relief as may follow from entry of a declaratory judgment;
  3. Reasonable attorney’s fees, expenses and costs to the fullest extent allowed by law and equity; and
  4. Any further relief this Court deems necessary and proper.

Now that the initial complaint has been filed, the case is on. Additional briefs will be submitted to the Court during the month of December. A hearing is not likely until early January. At the hearing, the Court will consider oral argument from all sides in the case. If history is any indication, a ruling would follow soon after, possibly coming during the first few weeks of the Legislature’s short 2016 session.

The trial court’s decision will likely be appealed by the losing party, which will put the issue back before the Washington State Supreme Court in short order.

If the trial court grants the relief requested by plaintiffs, I-1366 would become unenforceable during the midst of the 2016 legislative session, and would effectively be iced until the Supreme Court decided its fate on appeal.

That would spare the Legislature from having to worry about filling the giant budget hole that Scenario 1 of I-1366 would create, at least until the Supreme Court of Washington weighs in with a final decision. (Scenario 1 is the provision of the initiative that cuts the sales tax if the Legislature refuses to pass the constitutional amendment demanded by Eyman and his wealthy benefactors.)

Democrats on both sides of the dome are utterly uninterested in capitulating to Tim Eyman, so Scenario 2 of the initiative is implausible. The votes simply do not exist to sabotage Article II, Section 22 with a constitutional amendment.

And they’re not going to materialize as we get closer to April, either.

Democrats are sick and tired of Eyman’s endless demagoguery and are staunchly opposed to taking a hatchet to the majority vote provision of our Constitution that dates all the way back to statehood. Two of them, State Representative Reuven Carlyle and State Senator David Frockt, are among the plaintiffs in this case.

If the courts don’t strike I-1366 down, the Democratic House and the Republican Senate will be left with no choice but to quickly to figure out how to offset the sales tax cut, or else go into the 2016 campaign with an unraveling state budget. The little progress that has been made to date towards McCleary compliance will be completely wiped out in short order if I-1366 is not dealt with.

But again, if the courts do their job, the Legislature won’t have to worry about I-1366. We believe this new challenge to I-1366 has a very solid foundation, and we look forward to seeing it argued in the weeks to come.

Democrat John Bel Edwards elected Governor of Louisiana in a stunning runoff upset

Bayou State voters shocked the Louisiana Republican Party and pundits across the country Saturday night, overwhelmingly choosing Democratic State Representative John Bel Edwards as the next governor of Louisiana over the once-heavy favorite, U.S. Republican Senator David Vitter, a victor of many past statewide elections.

John Bel Edwards and family

Louisiana gubernatorial hopeful John Bel Edwards with his wife Donna and their three children (Courtesy of John Bel Edwards for Governor)

Edwards, forty-nine, currently represents Louisiana’s 72nd District in its House of Representatives. His gubernatorial campaign enjoyed the support of a united Democratic Party from the get-go, whereas several Republicans clashed with each other in the hopes of succeeding incumbent Bobby Jindal, who is term-limited.

Louisiana, for readers who don’t know, has a messy jungle-style general election similar to our awful Top Two system. In fact, it was the inspiration for I-872, the initiative that created the Two Two system. In Louisiana, candidates from all parties compete against each other, and there is no partisan primary as there is in most other states. If no candidate gets a majority in the general election, the top two candidates advance to a runoff in late November or early December.

Vitter beat out two other Republicans for the right to face Edwards in a runoff, but is losing badly tonight. With all 3,945 of Louisiana’s precincts now reporting, the final results for tonight’s historic and remarkable runoff are as follows:

John Bel Edwards (D) 56.11% 646,860 votes
David Vitter (R) 43.89% 505,929 votes



On January 18th, 2016, Edwards will become the only Democratic governor in the Deep South, and one of only two Democratic statewide officeholders in the region.

Edwards ran a brilliant campaign that neatly capitalized on Vitter’s weaknesses, especially his involvement in the D.C. Madam scandal that rocked Capitol Hill several years ago. Edwards’ campaign aired ads that hammered Vitter for choosing “prostitutes over patriots” (like this spot, titled, The Choice).

Republicans, who resort to negative campaigning all the time, were hardly in a position to complain, but they did so anyway… loudly. It didn’t matter.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, Vitter tried to ride the abhorrent national wave of anti-refugee sentiment to victory. But that last ditch scheme didn’t work either, and throughout Election Night, he found himself well behind Edwards.

“This election shows us that the people of Louisiana in a time of deep cynicism about our politics, and also about our future, that the people have chosen hope over scorn… over negativity,” a jubilant Edwards said to his cheering supporters during his victory speech at the Monteleone Hotel.

He added: “I did not create this breeze of hope that’s rolling across our beautiful and blessed state. But I did catch it, and I thank God I did.”

Edwards’ victory speech followed Vitter’s concession, in which Vitter announced that he had phoned Edwards to offer his congratulations. Vitter’s concession speech was surprisingly gracious, and Edwards was correspondingly magnanimous in victory. Edwards was introduced by his brother, following a prayer offered by his pastor.

Vitter told dejected supporters he would leave politics next year, choosing not to run for another term in the U.S. Senate. His retirement will leave an open seat. Democrats will now need to recruit a strong candidate to take advantage.

After Edwards is sworn in, he is expected to commit Louisiana to an expansion of Medicaid, which will mean that thousands of families in the Bayou State who currently don’t have decent health coverage will finally be able to get it. The man Edwards is succeeding, the extraordinarily unpopular Republican Bobby Jindal, has been an utter disaster as governor and is leaving quite the mess behind.

As Jason Berry explains in The Daily Beast:

The new governor’s first order of business in 2016 will be a special legislative session to confront the budget crash. Jindal imposed draconian cuts on higher education to offset the skyrocketing health care costs created by his expensive alternative to [the Patient Protection Act]: UNO, once a rising regional research hub, lost 183 professors—39 percent of its full-time faculty. Some 290,000 people in the state have no health coverage, because Jindal refused Medicaid funds under [the Patient Protection Act] on ideological grounds. Edwards has said he will accept the funds, which would at least be a first step in stanching the hemorrhaging state budget.

In so many respects, John Bel Edwards was the perfect candidate at the perfect time for Louisiana Democrats. He is a devout Catholic, U.S. Army veteran, and family man whose roots in the state go incredibly deep. One of his ancestors fought with General and later President Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, and his family has been active in Bayou State politics for decades. His brother is a parish sheriff. So was his father, like his father’s father, who was also a state senator.

Edwards is socially conservative, but that’s to be expected of Democratic candidates in red regions like the Deep South. Like me, he was a Democratic delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte for Barack Obama.

The Republican Governors Association tried to use this fact to associate Edwards with President Barack Obama (who Edwards has never met), but as we can see from tonight’s election results, that dog simply wouldn’t hunt this time.

We at NPI extend our congratulations to John Bel Edwards on his amazing victory in this gubernatorial runoff, and wish him the best as he prepares to take office as Louisiana’s new chief executive. We hope he governs progressively and brings broad prosperity to the Bayou State’s many diverse communities.

Shameful: U.S. House passes bill to effectively stop Syrian refugees from coming to America

The United States House of Representatives today disgraced itself by voting overwhelmingly to approve a Republican-backed bill intended to effectively block America from taking in more Syrian refugees. The vote on the legislation was two hundred and eighty-nine to one hundred and thirty-seven, with forty-seven Democrats shamefully joining nearly all the Republicans in voting aye.

H.R. 4036, in the words of New York Times reporters Jennifer Steinhauser and Michael Shear, “would require that the director of the F.B.I., the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence confirm that each applicant from Syria and Iraq poses no threat.”

The White House has made its unequivocal opposition to the bill known, saying that President Barack Obama would veto it if it reached his desk. But it must first go through the Senate, where its prospects are uncertain.

“Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do,” President Obama tweeted ahead of the vote, adding, “Welcoming the world’s vulnerable who seek the safety of America is not new to us. We’ve safely welcomed 3 million refugees since 1975.”

With one exception, the roll call from our region was split along party lines:

Voting Aye: Republicans Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dan Newhouse, Dave Reichert (WA), Greg Walden (OR), Don Young (AK), Ryan Zinke (MT), Raúl Labrador and Mike Simpson (OR); Democrat Kurt Schrader (OR)

Voting Nay: Democrats Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith, Denny Heck (WA), Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer (OR)

Not Voting: Peter DeFazio (OR)

Special jeers to Kurt Schrader of Oregon, who was the only Democrat from our region to turn his back on Syrian refugees and vote for this awful legislation.

“Today’s vote to severely restrict the resettlement of Syrian refugees in America is a fear-based, knee-jerk reaction that leaves families, women and children, the collateral damage of the war raging in Syria, out in the cold,” said OneAmerica Executive Director Rich Stolz in a news release sent to NPI. “It is a betrayal of America’s most cherished values and our character as a nation.”

“We are grateful for the moral leadership of Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who led several states in declaring a welcome for those fleeing the war in Syria, and Representatives Adam Smith, Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, Dennis Heck and Derek Kilmer for showing moral courage and voting against punitive restrictions on the settlement of refugees of the Syrian War.”

“We urge Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to follow suit. America stands as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge, opportunity and a better life. We must remain true to our character and values, and allow families and children fleeing war-torn lands a place of respite. Our core values as a nation demand no less.”

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid hinted he would be leading an effort to put the bill on ice in the Senate, telling reporters, “Don’t worry, it won’t get passed.”

Here is the full list of Democratic U.S. Representatives who voted for H.R. 4036:

  • Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
  • Brad Ashford (NE-02)
  • Ami Bera (CA-07)
  • Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
  • Julia Brownley (CA-26)
  • Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
  • John Carney (DE-AL)
  • Gerry Connolly (VA-11)
  • Jim Cooper (TN-05)
  • Jim Costa (CA-16)
  • Joe Courtney (CT-02)
  • Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
  • John Delaney (MD-06)
  • Lloyd Doggett (TX-35)
  • Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02)
  • John Garamendi (CA-03)
  • Gwen Graham (FL-02)
  • Gene Green (TX-29)
  • Janice Hahn (CA-44)
  • Jim Himes (CT-04)
  • Steve Israel (NY-03)
  • Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
  • Bill Keating (MA-09)
  • Ron Kind (WI-03)
  • Annie Kuster (NH-02)
  • Jim Langevin (RI-02)
  • Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
  • Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
  • Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
  • Sean Maloney (NY-18)
  • Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
  • Rick Nolan (MN-08)
  • Donald Norcross (NJ-01)
  • Scott Peters (CA-52)
  • Collin Peterson (MN-07)
  • Jared Polis (CO-02)
  • Kathleen Rice (NY-04)
  • Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
  • Tim Ryan (OH-13)
  • Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
  • David Scott (GA-13)
  • Terri Sewell (AL-07)
  • Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
  • Louise Slaughter (NY-25)
  • Marc Veasey (TX-33)
  • Filemon Vela (TX-34)
  • Tim Walz (MN-01)

It pains us to say that some of these Democrats are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It’s incredibly disappointing to see names like Louise Slaughter, Marcy Kaptur, and Jared Polis on this list. What on Earth were they thinking, helping Republicans pass this shameful bill with a nearly veto-proof supermajority?

POSTSCRIPT: The Obama administration’s statement officially opposing H.R. 4308 has just been published and can be read on the White House website.

The disgusting extremism of Republican Jay Rodne, Snoqualmie’s own resident bigot

Over the past few days, we’ve seen a vile escalation of anti-refugee rhetoric from some of the Republican Party’s most bombastic figures, including presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, France. A number of Republican governors have also gotten into the act, declaring that the states they’re supposed to be in charge of will not accept refugees (which is not a decision they have the authority to make).

Our own state’s chief executive, Governor Jay Inslee, has been forcefully pushing back against this nonsense, noting that Washington has a long tradition of accepting refugees, and that federal authorities already have an extensive screening system in place. For that, Inslee has earned the scorn of one particularly mean and extremist Republican state representative: Jay Rodne of the 5th Legislative District.

Rodne has been trashing Inslee on Facebook and engaging in immigrant and refugee bashing. His posts, which we’ve been tracking for a while, have caught the attention of the mass media, including The Seattle Times and The Stranger.

In an interview with Fox affiliate KCPQ, which ran yesterday, Rodne did not back down, telling the station “I stand by those comments”.

These are the specific comments that Jay Rodne stands by:

Obama wants to import 1.5 million muslims into the U.S. This is absolute madness! Islam is incompatible with western civilization! How anyone people need to die? In the interim, Amicans, arm yourselves!!!!!

— Jay Rodne, November 13, 2015 at 9:55 PM

The Seattle Times deemed the first false statement worthy of a Truth Needle debunking, which ran online and in this morning’s paper.

Rodne kept at it this week, writing:

The assault in Europe continues and Obama and Gov Inslee’s response is to open the door to unvetted Syrian migrants. Where is the leadership?

— Jay Rodne, November 17, 2015 at 1:59 PM

Inslee is doing no such thing, of course. As he said on Tuesday after participating in a White House briefing on security protocols related to refugee resettlement:

The federal government reaffirmed that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States. This multi-layered screening process involves the use of biographic and biometric information, such as background checks and fingerprints, which are screened against multiple law enforcement and counterterrorism databases.

Refugee screening experts perform multiple in-person interviews, and each screening is again reviewed by a supervisor.

Refugee candidates also undergo a medical screening. And because of the particular conditions regarding the Syrian crisis, there are additional security screens in place for Syrian refugees. The U.S. State Department is continually monitoring the process to ensure we have the strongest possible safeguards in place to provide refuge to those who need it while keeping out those who would seek to harm us.

Federal officials also made it clear that there is a lot of misinformation about the type of people who are fleeing from persecution. The U.S. State Department prioritizes the highest-risk and most-vulnerable groups of people – children, the elderly, and victims of torture or abuse. About half of all Syrian refugees are children.

We are fortunate that our nation’s location and borders do not put us in the same situation we see in Europe, where boats and rafts full of refugees wash ashore with a significantly diminished ability to track who is arriving or departing.

The federal government feels confident that we have in place robust and thorough security protocols and practices that allow us to provide a safe harbor to those fleeing unfathomable types of brutality and violence while also keeping us safe.

Reacting to Rodne’s November 17th post criticizing Inslee (quoted in full above), Denali Financial CFO Chris Dukelow wrote:

I’m not sure why my ‘STATE Representative’ is wasting time on matters in which States have zero jurisdiction. How about figuring out Mcleary [sic], business issues and transportation infrastructure?

Rodne’s response was to double down:

Chris, many of the Governors who have said “no” to the resettlement of Syrian migrants have put teeth into their stance by mandating that no state funding would be used for the relocation services.

This could have huge budgetary implications that would further drain scarce resources away from being used for othet [sic] budget items, such as Mcleary [sic]. So, I am sorry but this issue has a very significant nexus to our state budget.

Dukelow didn’t care for that answer one bit.

So is this a budgetary issue or a fear issue? I guess I don’t understand how refugees utilize state resources anymore than other citizens. They get jobs, they pay sales tax, they start businesses and pay B&O taxes, they live in places that pay property taxes. And I’d venture to say that they would be off assistance programs a helluva lot quicker than some of our “own” deadbeats.

Rodne also shared a map on Tuesday of the states with Republican governors who have been falsely declaring that their states will reject Syrian refugees (which, again, is not something that they have the power to do), commenting approvingly, “The tide is turning in favor of common sense!”

Much of the grist for Rodne’s commentary is provided by reactionary right wing author and columnist Pamela Geller. Rodne is so enamored with her that he is in the habit of posting videos and links she’s shared several times a week.

Although Rodne told KCPQ that he believes “the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful and want nothing more than to live in peace with other faiths”, his many Facebook posts demonstrate he is Islamophobic. Here’s another:

These are the barbarians that we are up against. This is an existential threat–our very existence as a civilization is being threatened. Islam is incompatible with western values of tolerance, personal freedom and respect for the rule of law. It is time for America to wake up and confront the realities of the challenges that we face.

— Jay Rodne, October 31, 2015, 3:01 PM

Notice here Rodne doesn’t bother to distinguish between “the vast majority of Muslims” and the “small percentage of that 1.5 billion Muslim practitioners who prescribe to a medieval interpretation of their faith that commands them to commit acts of atrocity against our civilization”. He instead falsely says that Islam is “incompatible” with American values. He’s wrong about that.

Rodne’s refusal to take back his comments in his KCPQ appearance prompted the Washington State Democratic Party to call for his immediate removal from the House Judiciary Committee by the House Republican caucus, with Rodne sits on as the Ranking Member. (The Committee is chaired by Democratic State Representative Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma; its vice chair is Democrat Christine Kilduff.)

“Jay Rodne’s bigoted and Islamophobic comments are just unacceptable, and someone who holds these hateful views should not hold a crucial position of power in Olympia” said Jamal Raad, Washington State Democrats Communications Director, in a statement sent to NPI. “The House Republicans are meeting right now for pre-session days and can change committee assignments. The Washington State Democratic Party urges them to take this opportunity to do the right thing and strip Jay Rodne of his leadership position on the Judiciary Committee. Tolerating those kinds of harmful comments is just plain wrong.”

Sound Transit identifies Peter Rogoff as its top choice to succeed outgoing CEO Joni Earl

It looks like Sound Transit’s search for a new permanent CEO has come to an end. Today, the agency announced its search committee is recommending a high-caliber, distinguished candidate to succeed outgoing executive Joni Earl.

His name is Peter M. Rogoff, and he previously served as Federal Transit Administrator prior to assuming the post of Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy in the United States Department of Transportation.

“In a competitive field of applicants, Peter Rogoff is the committee’s clear and unanimous recommendation to lead our region in meeting the growing demand for rail and bus service,” Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a news release sent to NPI. “Tomorrow, the full Sound Transit Board will discuss his considerable qualifications.”

“At its meeting tomorrow the full Board may accept the committee’s recommendation or continue the search process,” the release says, adding, “Rogoff will be present at the meeting. The Sound Transit Board will meet in executive session, initially with Rogoff and then with Board members only. It will move back into open session to discuss next steps. The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 PM to 4 PM at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson Street in Seattle.”

I have had the pleasure of being able to interact with Peter Rogoff in 2011 (when he visited Seattle to participate in groundbreaking festivities for University Link), and have been very impressed with him. He speaks well, is well respected in his profession, and would bring invaluable experience and connections to the job.

It is a testament to Joni Earl’s leadership and record of getting results that Rogoff is interested in taking over for her. This would be a huge win for Sound Transit.

We congratulate King County Executive Dow Constantine and the Sound Transit board on this recruiting coup, and urge the board to hire Peter Rogoff as the new chief executive officer of Sound Transit as soon as it feels comfortable doing so.

Tim Eyman announces new initiative for 2016

For-profit initiative promoter Tim Eyman announced that he plans to appear in Olympia tomorrow with his sidekicks Jack and Mike Fagan to announce a new initiative for 2016, which Eyman is calling his “back-up initiative” for I-1366.

(I-1366 was the hostage-taking measure that appeared on this year’s ballot; it would cut the sales tax by $8 billion over six years unless the Legislature sabotages the majority vote provision of our state Constitution by April 15th, 2016.)

Apparently anticipating that the courts may soon strike down I-1366 (which is blatantly unconstitutional), Eyman has come up with a new measure which would attach a one-year expiration date to future revenue increases, unless such an increase receives a two-thirds vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people.

Eyman has previously filed drafts of this scheme as initiatives to the Legislature for 2015, which NPI has been analyzing. Eyman claimed this morning in a braggadocios email to have already poll-tested the ballot title on one of the scheme’s incarnations, using his favorite pollster, Pulse Opinion Research.

Initiatives to the people for 2016 cannot be filed until next January, so the initiative to the Legislature Eyman will be filing tomorrow will merely be for show.

Eyman wants the Legislature to vote to sabotage the majority vote requirement found in Article II, Section 22, which dates back to statehood. It reads:

SECTION 22 PASSAGE OF BILLS. No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

Our state’s founders believed, as Madison and Hamilton did, that our legislative branch should operate by majority vote. They created a plan of government for us which balances majority rule and minority rights. Eyman wants to mess with that balance because he doesn’t want to participate in that most noble of American traditions: Pooling resources to make possible essential public services like schools.

Eyman doesn’t want Article II, Section 22 to apply to revenue bills. He wants revenue bills to pass by the same threshold that a constitutional amendment must receive: Two-thirds of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the Senate.

But getting a two-thirds vote of the Legislature requires getting legislators from both parties on board (a small submajority effectively controls the outcome, because the bar is so high). And Eyman has no influence in the Democratic Party, so he’s stuck.

Eyman tried coercion with I-1366, but it simply isn’t producing the results that he wants, to his great frustration. Democrats simply aren’t rolling over and capitulating to his blackmail. So he’s trying to put more pressure on them.

Prior to the 2015 general election, Eyman had been keeping a low profile, not wanting to be the public face of the campaign for I-1366. But now that I-1366 is narrowly passing, Eyman has evidently decided to come out of hiding.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office is currently looking into allegations that Eyman committed serious and egregious violations of Washington’s public disclosure law, both during the 2012 time period where he used donations to one initiative (I-1185) to qualify a second, unrelated initiative (I-517) as well as other time periods. Ferguson got the case after the Public Disclosure Commission voted unanimously in September to refer the matter to his office, finding a lengthy, drawn-out investigation conducted by PDC staff.

NPI’s Permanent Defense has already begun preparations to oppose this latest Eyman scheme, which Eyman will presumably be attempting to qualify to the November 2016 statewide ballot.

Eyman will need the backing of his wealthy benefactors to fund another signature drive, but he presumably already has commitments from them to do so.

Liveblogging the second 2016 Democratic Presidential Debate from the great Northwest

Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the second Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. Several NPI staff and board members will be watching the debate from Cannon Beach and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses. The debate is being broadcast by CBS and its affiliates.

Courtesy of CBS, here’s where you can watch:

There are three candidates left seeking the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. They are Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley. As Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and Larry Lessig have dropped out, and Joe Biden has decided not to run, they will have the stage all to themselves tonight.

Let’s get started with our live coverage!

We will begin…

UPDATE, 4:51 PM (Rennie): Stay tuned for our coverage of the 2nd Democratic debate of the 2016 cycle!

UPDATE, 4:58 PM (Essie): The debate will begin in one hour.

UPDATE, 5:15 PM (Andrew): We will be getting started in forty-five minutes.

UPDATE, 6:01 PM (Andrew): CBS asks listeners and candidates to join in a moment of silence for victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

UPDATE, 6:01 PM (Essie): Candidates are observing a moment of silence to honor the citizens of Paris.

UPDATE, 6:02 PM (Andrew): The candidates have been introduced; now we’re heading back to commercial break before we really kick off.

UPDATE, 6:05 PM (Essie): Now explaining rules of debate. One min opening statements now.

UPDATE, 6:07 PM (Andrew): Hillary Clinton is the second candidate to give an opening statement. “I will be laying out, in detail, what we need to do, with our friends and allies, to do a better job of coordinating efforts against the scourge of terrorism,” she says.

UPDATE, 6:08 PM (Andrew): Clinton stressed in her opening statement that America is not just electing a President, it’s choosing a Commander-in-Chief.

UPDATE, 6:08 PM (Essie): O’Mally’s opening statement and addressing Paris: “My heart goes out to the people of France in their moment of loss…We must anticipate these threats before they happen. We need new leadership. We need to collaborate and become better leaders.”

UPDATE, 6:09 PM (Rennie): Bernie begins in the 1 minute opening statements by denouncing ISIS, then ends with how we need to restore the economy for the working class.

UPDATE, 6:10 PM (Andrew): Clinton gets the first follow-up question, about the threat of Islamic State. “This cannot be an American fight, although American leadership is essential she says.”

UPDATE, 6:13 PM (Essie): If the United States doesn’t lead who leads? O’Mally says that we are best when we show the leadership and work collaboratively with other nations. O’Mally says that we have not been on the ground enough. We must meet this enemy in a strong presence in the region and defeat this enemy.

UPDATE, 6:13 PM (Andrew): That was a strong answer by O’Malley. He’s correct that we have not put enough resources into human intelligence. We’re addicted to signals intelligence, and that’s a serious problem.

UPDATE, 6:14 PM (Essie): All of the candidates have mentioned working with other nations, and not leading alone in the fight against ISIS.

UPDATE, 6:14 PM (Rennie): Bernie states that Climate change is a big cause for terrorism. He also states that the invasion of Iraq is what created ISIS.

UPDATE, 6:15 PM (Rennie): Moderator tried to get Bernie to go negative by referring to Clinton’s “Yes” vote on the Iraq war. Bernie didn’t fall for it.

UPDATE, 6:17 PM (Andrew): O’Malley nicely picks up on Sanders’ “unintended consequences” theme.

UPDATE, 6:17 PM (Essie): O’Mally is interjecting in a debate of the invasion of Iraq between Clinton and Sanders. He says we need to be more far-thinking in conflict. We need to understand the secondary and third consequences that follow with regime changes.

UPDATE, 6:18 PM (Rennie): Moderator asked Bernie about Hillary’s performance as Secretary of State. Bernie instead talked about being against toppling other governments and creating “regime changes” in the world. He stated he was more conservative than Clinton in that respect.

UPDATE, 6:18 PM (Andrew): “We’ve got to understand the complexity of the world we are facing,” Clinton says, concluding her response.

UPDATE, 6:18 PM (Essie): Clinton is giving strong answers on her grasp of foreign policy and the history of the region.

UPDATE, 6:19 PM (Andrew): Sanders says nations like Jordan are “going to have to get deeply involved, in a way that is not the case today.”

UPDATE, 6:19 PM (Rennie): Bernie says we need to understand that the Muslim nations need to get more involved in the fight against ISIS.

UPDATE, 6:19 PM (Andrew): Clinton says Sanders is being unfair to Jordan, but agrees the Gulf nations need to step up and make up their minds.

UPDATE, 6:21 PM (Andrew): Clinton reviewing lessons from Libya, which is a pretty chaotic place…

UPDATE, 6:22 PM (Andrew): Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya…. they’re all a mess, Martin O’Malley says.

UPDATE, 6:23 PM (Andrew): “Just because we’re involved and we have a strategy doesn’t mean we are going to be able to dictate the outcome,” Clinton says.

UPDATE, 6:24 PM (Andrew): Sanders reminds us that we need to take care of our veterans when they come home.

UPDATE, 6:25 PM (Essie): Is the world too dangerous for a governor with no foreign policy experience? “O’Mally responds that the world is a dangerous place, and says that we are not good in developing stable democracies and attacking the root causes. He tells a story of a mother of a soldier in Iowa who asked him not to use the term “boots on the ground,” while campaigning, because they are “not a pair of boots” they are men. We need to develop better and stronger ways of thinking and approaching foreign conflict.

UPDATE, 6:25 PM (Rennie): Bernie says “When we talk about long term effects of the war, we should not ignore the issues that our soldiers have when they return home.” Referring to brain injuries and PTSD.

UPDATE, 6:27 PM (Andrew): We don’t want to use language that suggests we are at war with all Muslims, Clinton says.

UPDATE, 6:28 PM (Andrew): Clinton and O’Malley agree that we should say we’re at war with jihadists, not “radical Islamists”.

UPDATE, 6:29 PM (Rennie): Bernie says that groups like ISIS are very regressive (wanting to move society back thousands of years) and that the ISIS agenda needs to be stopped.

UPDATE, 6:29 PM (Essie): Sanders gives a powerful broad perspective on the attitudes toward ISIS and Al Qaeda, saying that we need to be aware of what exactly they want, which is to take the world back several thousand years.

UPDATE, 6:29 PM (Andrew): Clinton says we need to update, upgrade the authorization for the use of force against terrorists.

UPDATE, 6:30 PM (Essie): Overall Clinton and Sanders seem to be dominating the stage, although O’Mally is giving strong answers.

UPDATE, 6:31 PM (Rennie): Bernie speaks about 0B military budget, but less that 10% is used to fight terrorism. We need to reform military spending to be better spent on intelligence and on actually fighting global terrorism.

UPDATE, 6:32 PM (Essie): O’Mally says that 65 thousand refugees is what we should accept. He says that needs to be done with proper screening. He says to be a moral leader in this world we need to do this. The nature of warfare has changed and we are facing  a new age. We need to be more proactive. We need to take our place among the world to relive the specter to the world of children washing up on beaches.

UPDATE, 6:33 PM (Andrew): We need a careful screening and vetting process in place before we can take in large numbers of refugees, Clinton says.

UPDATE, 6:33 PM (Essie): Taking a break now….

UPDATE, 6:36 PM (Andrew): The first segment of this debate goes to Martin O’Malley. His answers have been very strong.

UPDATE, 6:36 PM (Essie): Round 2 starting now…

UPDATE, 6:37 PM (Andrew): This Democratic debate is a real, substantive, meaningful conversation about serious issues… not a clown show. So refreshing.

UPDATE, 6:38 PM (Andrew): Clinton says it’s time for America’s wealthy families to pay their fair share so we can be fiscally responsible while making the investments our country needs.

UPDATE, 6:39 PM (Andrew): Democratic candidates should be reframing in their answers to these “Who pays?” questions, which aren’t being framed using the logic of progressive values.

UPDATE, 6:41 PM (Andrew): The framing of these questions is wrong. Why are conservatively-framed questions like “How high will you raise taxes?” being asked in a Democratic debate?

UPDATE, 6:41 PM (Rennie): Sanders says that there has been a redistribution of wealth to the top 1% and corporations. We need a tax on Wall Street and corporations.

UPDATE, 6:42 PM (Andrew): Sanders is correct: There has to be real tax reform in this country.

UPDATE, 6:43 PM (Rennie): Bernie said “I’m not as much of a Socialist as Eisenhower.” when explaining that his tax increases will not be as high. Audience laughs.

UPDATE, 6:44 PM (Essie): On free public college: O’Mally answers:  In MD, sales tax was raised by a penny. MD asked the top 14% of earners to pay more in income tax. He noted that the AAA bond rating was maintained while his policies addressed public college. O’Mally says that the entitlement of lower income rate on high wages and capitol gains should be addressed by taxing  the same way as hard labor….Nice job addressing income rate on high wages as an entitlement! He notes that other candidates say what they would like to do, but he has made it work in MD.

UPDATE, 6:45 PM (Rennie): Bernie said he was on the committee that wrote ACA. But ACA is only a step forward. We need to move to Healthcare as a right of all people.

UPDATE, 6:45 PM (Andrew): It’s the Patient Protection Act, Nancy Cordes. Use the law’s real name. You’re a journalist, not a Republican operative.

UPDATE, 6:46 PM (Essie): Sanders got the first belly laugh of the night! “I’m not as much of a Socialist as Eisenhower!” He also got the first applause…saying the ACA is a step, but healthcare is a right for all people.

UPDATE, 6:47 PM (Essie): O’Mally got his hand slapped for talking over Sanders. “Governor…you’re breaking the rules!”

UPDATE, 6:48 PM (Essie): My favorite commercial so far was from UFCW featuring Walmart Workers.

UPDATE, 6:51 PM (Andrew): Way to go, Martin O’Malley! Very nice Donald Trump slam… he certainly is a carnival barker.

UPDATE, 6:51 PM (Andrew): Clinton says her reading of the law convinces her that President Obama had the authority to issue his executive order to make our immigration enforcement more sensible and compassionate.

UPDATE, 6:53 PM (Rennie): Sanders on “wage issue”: Millions of Americans are working 2 or 3 jobs because wages are just too low.

UPDATE, 6:53 PM (Andrew): Bad framing, again. Wages have not kept up with cost of living. That’s why we need to increase the minimum wage. And to ask “what level of job loss is acceptable to you?” is a nonsensical question.

UPDATE, 6:54 PM (Essie): O’Malley are you willing compromise Boarder security or comprehensive immigration? O’Malley responds beautifully to a roar of laughter and applause:  We need to bring our Republican brothers and sisters to the table and [not listen to that ]“Immigrant Bashing Carnival Barker Donald Trump!” The truth is that we want wages to go up. We need people come out of the shadow economy into the light. That what our parents and grandparents did. We have  11million people living in the U.S. have known no country. Our symbol is the statue of liberty not a barbed wire fence.

UPDATE, 6:54 PM (Rennie): Bernie: It is not a radical idea that a working mother should make a living wage that will support her family. Bernie said that he will not apologize for stating that people need a living wage.

UPDATE, 6:55 PM (Andrew): Shout-out for Seattle on the minimum wage! Thanks, Bernie Sanders.

UPDATE, 6:56 PM (Rennie): Bernie say cities like Seattle have been successful in raising the minimum wage and increasing prosperity without the job loss that nay-sayers predict.

UPDATE, 6:56 PM (Andrew): Clinton says she supports a /hour federal minimum wage, and cities and counties can go higher.

UPDATE, 6:57 PM (Essie): O’Mally says that a strong middle class is the source of economic growth. .10 was all he could get done in MD legislature. Many of our counties raised it to more and it works! Bernie shouts out to Seattle!!! Clinton feels is more sensible, and other areas like Seattle can do more. O’Malley says she is taking advice from economists on Wall Street.

UPDATE, 6:57 PM (Andrew): That was awkward… CBS’ Dickerson: “We’re going to talk about Wall Street, but for now we’ve got to go to commercial break!”

UPDATE, 6:58 PM (Essie): O’Malley is gaining some ground now! GO TERPS!

UPDATE, 7:01 PM (Essie): New Topic is Wall Street.

UPDATE, 7:01 PM (Andrew): On to the second half of the debate!

UPDATE, 7:02 PM (Andrew): Tough question for Hillary Clinton: How do you convince voters you’re going to level the playing field when you take money from Wall Street?

UPDATE, 7:02 PM (Essie): Clinton says she has a tough plan to go after the big banks that brought our economy down.

UPDATE, 7:02 PM (Andrew): “I want to look at the whole problem,” Clinton says, calling her Wall Street reform plan the most comprehensive that’s out there.

UPDATE, 7:03 PM (Rennie): Sanders says Clinton’s answer to Wall Street is “Not Good Enough”.

UPDATE, 7:04 PM (Andrew): If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today, he’d say, Break ’em up, Sanders says, denouncing the big banks.

UPDATE, 7:04 PM (Rennie): Sanders says the the banks need to be broken up. He is the only one not accepting Wall Street cash and says he will follow through with that promise.

UPDATE, 7:05 PM (Andrew): Clinton punches back: “A majority of my donors are women.”

UPDATE, 7:05 PM (Essie): Sanders says lets not be naive. Why have they been major contributors to Clinton’s campaign? Sanders says I’m the only one up here not supported by a Super Pac. If Teddy Roosevelt was alive he would say “break them up.” Hillary is bent out of shape!

UPDATE, 7:06 PM (Andrew): “My [Wall Street reform] proposal is tougher, more effective, and more comprehensive,” Clinton says.

UPDATE, 7:06 PM (Essie): Clinton says she goes after all of Wall Street not just the big banks and re-instating Glass-Stegall is a part of her plan.

UPDATE, 7:06 PM (Andrew): It’s easy to talk the talk, Sanders says, reaffirming his call to break up the banks.

UPDATE, 7:07 PM (Rennie): Bernie says it is not just Wall Street. It is the corrupt financial system. Too much power and wealth in the financial system. Banks need to be broken up.

UPDATE, 7:07 PM (Andrew): “I won’t be taking my orders from Wall Street,” O’Malley says, saying he wouldn’t appoint the likes of Larry Summers to serve on the Council of Economic Advisors.

UPDATE, 7:09 PM (Andrew): O’Malley lands the sharpest blow yet against Clinton in the debates, calling her Wall Street reform plan “weak tea”.

UPDATE, 7:09 PM (Essie): Governor O’Malley says that there needs to be new economic thinking and that his economic advisers will not be Wall Street advisers. He notes he was on the front lines as a governor to protect people during the struggle. He says that Clinton’s plan is “weak tea”. He supports Sanders:  “Bernie is right! We need to look at new implementation of Glass-Stegall.”

UPDATE, 7:10 PM (Rennie): Bernie responds to Clinton: Wall Street will not “play by the rules”. “Wall Street execs will not be on my cabinet.”

UPDATE, 7:10 PM (Andrew): “Wall Street representatives will not be in my Cabinet,” Sanders pledges.

UPDATE, 7:10 PM (Andrew): New topic: candidates talking gun responsibility now.

UPDATE, 7:11 PM (Essie): On gun legislation: Clinton describes her different policies as immunity to gun sellers would not be something she supports as Sanders did. She notes statistics on how many people have been killed by gun violence. Claims she will close the gun show and online loopholes and implement universal background checks.

UPDATE, 7:11 PM (Andrew): Clinton calls for universal background checks, smarter gun laws. “I will do everything I can as President to get that accomplished.”

UPDATE, 7:12 PM (Essie): Clinton’s Iraq record what then turned back on her by the moderator.

UPDATE, 7:14 PM (Rennie): Bernie responds to Hillary’s attack on Sanders over gun manuf immunity vote. Bernie says we need a better bill to revisit the immunity issue.

UPDATE, 7:15 PM (Andrew): No other candidate is attracting the kind of crowds Bernie Sanders is, so why did CBS ask Sanders about right wing movement politics?

UPDATE, 7:16 PM (Essie): On gun legislation : O’Malley states the immunity Sanders allowed needs to be looked at and says that Clinton has been on three sides off the issues and at one point was portraying herself as Annie Oakley. Sanders says that Baltimore is unsafe, O’Malley fired back that its much safer than it was. O’Malley points to his record in MD on promoting gun safety.

UPDATE, 7:17 PM (Andrew): Clinton name-drops Paul Krugman and Paul Volcker in again defending her Wall Street reform plan.

UPDATE, 7:17 PM (Rennie): Bernie says at the end of the day, Wall Street’s business model is greed. Bernie says we need to re-instate Glass-Steagall. Clinton does not support Glass-Steagall.

UPDATE, 7:18 PM (Andrew): “Help me wage this campaign for real American capitalism,” Martin O’Malley says, promoting his website.

UPDATE, 7:20 PM (Essie): O’mally says that crony capitalism is what we have been observing with the bailouts, and cozy relationships with Wall Street.  He says that he is not the Wall Street candidate. Clinton drew applause saying that just re-instating Glass-Stegall was not enough. We need to look at policies that are going to work.

UPDATE, 7:23 PM (Rennie): Bernie, in response to “conservative revolution”: we need a working family revolution. Bring people together to say “enough is enough” to Wall Street.

UPDATE, 7:23 PM (Rennie): Bernie: What we need is leadership in this country that revitalizes democracy in this country.

UPDATE, 7:24 PM (Essie): Sanders says we need leadership in this country to revitalize American Democracy.

UPDATE, 7:24 PM (Rennie): Bernie: We are happy with this campaign. We are giving young people hope.

UPDATE, 7:25 PM (Rennie): Bernie says the media needs to talk more about wealth inequality, high imprisonment rate, and not Hillary’s emails.

UPDATE, 7:26 PM (Andrew): “I agree completely,” Hillary Clinton says, smiling, after Sanders affirms he’s glad Clinton’s emails aren’t front and center in the presidential campaign.

UPDATE, 7:26 PM (Andrew): Boom. Clinton handled that question nicely.

UPDATE, 7:27 PM (Essie): Sanders directs a question about Clinton’s email, by saying lets get off this topic, I’m still sick of it. Lets talk about the middle class. Clinton says she agrees completely to a round of laughter. Clinton draws applause for saying that she thinks Obama deserves more credit for getting as much as done as he did with an obstructionist congress.

UPDATE, 7:28 PM (Andrew): Good breadth of topics being covered in this debate.

UPDATE, 7:30 PM (Andrew): Martin O’Malley has his words ready this time: Black Lives Matter!

UPDATE, 7:30 PM (Rennie): Sanders: 1 in 4 young black males end up in the justice system. We need very clearing major reform in the American justice system.

UPDATE, 7:31 PM (Rennie): Sanders: End minimum sentencing. Hold police who kill on the streets accountable.

UPDATE, 7:32 PM (Andrew): “I do appreciate the way young people are standing up and speaking out,” Hillary Clinton says, reflecting on recent student activism at the University of Missouri.

UPDATE, 7:33 PM (Essie): O’Malley says on the police force issue across the nation:  The question is how can we improve public safety and race relations and that both issues are intertwined. We should all have a sense of responsibility to look at things that will work. Notes that his state repealed death penalty under his leadership, decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and implemented criminal  justice reform. As president he states he would lead efforts, for public safety and race relations  and would attend more grave sites than any of the three candidate and ended his statement with yes, “Black Lives Matter.”

UPDATE, 7:33 PM (Andrew): Clinton name-drops Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown.

UPDATE, 7:34 PM (Essie): Sanders says that free college would be an “extraordinary investment in this country.”

UPDATE, 7:34 PM (Andrew): Sanders reminds us that many colleges used to be much more accessible… nearly tuition-free.

UPDATE, 7:35 PM (Rennie): Sanders: Free tuition is not throwing money away, it is an extraordinary investment. Other countries do this. Students should get a college education regardless of income level of their family.

UPDATE, 7:36 PM (Rennie): Bernie: in 2015, we should look at a college degree in the same way as we looked at a high school degree 50 or 60 years ago. We should eliminate barriers to getting a college degree.

UPDATE, 7:37 PM (Andrew): Clinton’s now repeating much of what O’Malley just said about making college accessible and debt-free.

UPDATE, 7:38 PM (Essie): In the year 2015 we should look at a college degree the same way as we looked as a High School Degree 50 years ago, Sanders said.  O’Malley says that debt free college is the way to go. He disagrees with Sanders and says that grants and interest rates. He says that his daughters graduated and he is proud, but will be “proud, every month for the rest of our lives. “

UPDATE, 7:38 PM (Andrew): Medicare For All is the next frontier. We don’t need to scrap the Patient Protection Act; we should build on it!

UPDATE, 7:39 PM (Essie): Sanders says that eventually we need to see a single payer system. “Why are we the only major company in the world that does not look at healthcare as a right?” Sanders says that Medicare for all is the way to go to applause.

UPDATE, 7:39 PM (Rennie): Sanders: Healthcare For All is not going to happen tomorrow. How can we continue not guaranteeing healthcare for all of our citizens?

UPDATE, 7:40 PM (Andrew): Sanders responds to Clinton: “We don’t eliminate Medicare, we expand Medicare!”

UPDATE, 7:41 PM (Essie): Clinton says that the ACA should not have to be defended among Democrats. She says that the system should not be administered by the states under Sanders plan.  She says its better to improve upon the ACA.

UPDATE, 7:41 PM (Andrew): “We’ve got to take a break, or the machine breaks down,” CBS’ John Dickerson says apologetically.

UPDATE, 7:42 PM (Essie): We have stellar candidates compared to the Republican field by far!

UPDATE, 7:48 PM (Andrew): This has arguably been the best presidential debate of the 2016 cycle. A great conversation between Sanders, Clinton, O’Malley.

UPDATE, 7:49 PM (Essie): Clinton describes her most challenging moment as being in the situation room with President when deciding to go after Bin Laden. O’Malley says that he has not experienced the type of crisis that would be faced by a  commander in chief, but he has learned disciplines that are applicable. He was tried under emergencies, gang warfare, disasters, and is proven his ability to lead under crisis.  

UPDATE, 7:49 PM (Andrew): Closing statements!

UPDATE, 7:50 PM (Essie): O’Malley says in his closing statement that new and fresh approaches are needed now. He says divisiveness is harmful and that we need to work together to construct a new foreign policy of identifying threats before they cause crisis around the world.

UPDATE, 7:51 PM (Rennie): Sanders met with veterans. Sanders wants to improve healthcare for veterans. Sanders states that he can work on less than ideal bills that still makes change happen. He says he has proven that he can get things done even with Republican opposition.

UPDATE, 7:51 PM (Andrew): “I’ve heard a lot about me in this debate; I’m going to think a lot about all of you,” Clinton says, with a broad smile, launching her closing statement into orbit.

UPDATE, 7:51 PM (Essie): Clinton says the President needs to do everything SHE can do to uplift the people of this country.

UPDATE, 7:53 PM (Andrew): Now all of the candidates have mentioned their websites!,,

UPDATE, 7:53 PM (Rennie): Sanders: itemizes issues including campaign finance corruption, etc. We need to stand up to big money interests and take back control of our country.

UPDATE, 7:53 PM (Essie): Bernie notes all the things our country fails to do that other western nations provide their people with, like education, and healthcare. Bernie calls for a political revolution in his closing statements.

UPDATE, 7:56 PM (Essie): Candidates are now thanking each other for a good debate.

UPDATE, 7:58 PM (Andrew): And with that, we are done! Thank you for following along with us.

More observations on the way!

A progressive Legislature, not Eyman’s 1366, can fix Washington’s regressive tax system

Within hours of Election Night 2015, after it had become apparent that Tim Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366 had too much of a head start in early ballots to be defeated, multiple commentators with a thirst for progressive tax reform began floating the idea of using I-1366 as a springboard to get the job started, reasoning that something good might as well come out of something bad.

First out of the gate was Don Smith, writing at Washington Liberals, who opined:

There’s a simple way to beat Tim Eyman and his initiative I-1366. At the same time we’ll help the environment, and, optionally, raise revenue to fund schools. And we can even do it in a revenue-neutral way, thereby making it palatable to Republicans… Let’s go ahead and lower the sales tax […] but at the same raise taxes on carbon, capital gains, and/or income to make up the loss.

Two days later, Jeff Reifman made a similar argument on his personal blog, though he chose to be more provocative with his call to action:

Tim Eyman may have accidentally done us all a favor.

Legislators, please listen to the voters on I-1366. It’s time to cut the state’s sales tax and collect revenue more evenly from corporations, property owners and residents. Progressives, drop the lawsuit against I-1366 — it’s time to challenge Olympia to represent residents and stop subsidizing corporate shareholder profits.

And yesterday, Danny Westneat echoed both of them, writing:

That Eyman. He has us in another pickle, doesn’t he? Maybe not. Maybe there’s a third way — one that could be “win-win-win” in that it preserves the state budget, makes taxes fairer and, most important, gives some relief to the poor and working class of the state.

Eyman’s initiative will slash the state sales-tax rate from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent on April 15, 2016, unless the Legislature first passes a two-thirds tax-vote constitutional amendment. The intent, for him, is to coerce lawmakers to do the amendment. But there’s nothing in Eyman’s measure that says they can’t go ahead and cut the sales tax, then replace that lost revenue with something else.

While we at NPI certainly applaud the yearning to make lemonade out of one of the biggest lemons of an initiative in Washington State history, Smith, Reifman, and Westneat are all engaged in wishful thinking.

First, allowing I-1366 to go unchallenged, as Jeff Reifman has proposed, would set a terrible precedent, considering that I-1366 is an outrageous hostage-taking scheme that is beyond the scope of the initiative power. Letting I-1366 stand would invite further mischief in the future from other entities active in Washington politics. Abuse of the initiative (by Tim Eyman and by other actors) has become a serious problem in our state, and it is a problem that will get much worse if I-1366 is not struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court.

King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum has already ruled I-1366 beyond the scope of the initiative power. I-1366 is probably also unconstitutional in its entirety in additional respects (there’s a strong case that it violates the single-subject rule, for instance). I-1366 will continue to be fought in court, as it must be.

Second, the idea that the Legislature will respond creatively to use I-1366 as a springboard for progressive tax reform (in the event the Supreme Court does not act) is totally unrealistic. This isn’t 2007. The Legislature no longer has Democratic supermajorities. Militant Republicans gained control of the Senate with Rodney Tom’s power coup in 2012 and have whittled the Democratic majority in the House down to a bare minimum of fifty, following their victory in the 30th LD.

Democrats no longer have the ability to pass bills in the House on their own unless all of their members are present, and in agreement. In the Senate, Democrats are the minority; consequently, they have have very little power.

Majorities matter in legislative bodies. When you’re in the majority, your party sets the agenda, decides when to work and schedule votes, controls the committee structure and the composition of committees, and determines what bills come to the floor and which ones do not. Right now, the Republicans have a majority of twenty-six in the Washington State Senate. They decide what happens there.

Now, this wouldn’t be an issue if Republicans were interested in progressive tax reform, as the more reasonable wing of their party was in the 1970s when Dan Evans was governor. Sadly, they’re not. The days when the Evans Republicans were in charge are long gone. The Republican Party has morphed into a rabid, radical right wing anti-public services and anti-common wealth party… a party in which Grover Norquist wannabe Tim Eyman wields tremendous influence.

Readers not familiar with the inner workings of the Washington State Legislature may not be aware that Tim Eyman has a tight relationship with many members of the Republican caucuses. Spend enough time on the grounds of the Capitol during session, and you may catch a glimpse of Eyman walking around with the likes of Don Benton, or disappearing into a conference room to chat with Republicans on a key committee. They consult with him regularly, and take cues from him.

After the Public Disclosure Commission released the findings of its investigation into Eyman’s financial machinations during the I-517 and I-1185 campaigns in 2012, Eyman turned to his friends in the House and Senate Republican caucuses to sub for him on the campaign trail. He deployed Ed Orcutt, Doug Ericksen, and Pam Roach as surrogates to make appearances or sign ghostwritten op-eds, and announced endorsements from still more Republican lawmakers.

The following Republicans are all known supporters of Tim Eyman’s I-1366:

Matt Shea, Ed Orcutt, Chad Magendanz, Jeff Holy, Bob McCaslin, Matt Manweller, Elizabeth Scott, Pam Roach, Don Benton, Michael Baumgartner, Brian Dansel, Doug Ericksen

It is important to understand that Eyman developed I-1366 to give militant Republican legislators like these more power. I-1366 is not aimed at the Legislature as a whole. I-1366 is aimed specifically at Democratic legislators. It is intended to put them in a bind, giving Republicans leverage to push through an amendment to require a two-thirds vote to raise or recover revenue forever.

The notion that Eyman’s elected Republican co-conspirators would voluntarily give up their leverage so that Washington State can have progressive tax reform is ludicrous. These are not reasonable people. They’re militant extremists who are totally opposed to progressive tax reform. Progressive tax reform would reduce the appeal for Eyman initiatives in the future, result in the Republicans’ wealthy benefactors having to pay more in dues to the state, and possibly also increase public confidence in state government. That’s about the last thing they want.

Their endgame is to sabotage our state Constitution, which requires a majority vote to pass bills. Republicans, again taking their cues from Eyman, want to mess with Article II, Section 22 (the majority vote provision) to require their consent for any revenue bills to pass. They intend to achieve this by requiring a two-thirds vote for all such bills, in violation of the principles our state was founded upon.

Keep in mind that when a two-thirds supermajority is required, it means a submajority is in charge of the outcome. The inverse of two-thirds is one-third. Normally, as stipulated by Article II, Section 22, it takes fifty votes in the House to pass a bill, and twenty-five in the Senate. When the threshold is two-thirds, the number changes to sixty-seven in the House and thirty-three in the Senate. As few as seventeen senators or thirty-three representatives can block majorities in both houses from taking action when a two-thirds vote is required.

Don't mess with our Constitution

Click on the pictogram above to understand how our founders intended for our Legislature to work.

Republicans figure they’ll always have at least seventeen seats in the Senate, and/or thirty-three in the House (which has historically been the case). Passage of the amendment they’re demanding would give them the ability to forever veto any revenue bill they didn’t like. They’re very hungry to have that kind of power.

But, ironically, any proposal to change how our plan of government works needs to get a two-thirds vote to pass. Our founders wisely believed in majority rule for passage of legislation while obtaining minority consent for any changes to our plan of government. Or, to put it more simply: Majority rule with minority rights.

It would take a two-thirds vote to impose a two-thirds vote threshold and sabotage Article II, Section 22. Eyman and the Republicans do not have the votes to do this. So Eyman developed I-1366 to coerce Democratic lawmakers into voting against their values, and their will, by a certain date (April 15th, 2016).

Judging by his emails, it is Eyman’s expectation that Democrats will capitulate and give him what he wants. After all, they have in the past. Gary Locke and Democratic legislators agreed to reinstate I-695 in 2000 after the Supreme Court struck it down. Chris Gregoire and Democratic legislators likewise reinstated I-747 in 2007, in a one-day special session, after the Supreme Court struck it down, even though we warned them that doing so was a terrible, awful, no good idea.

But what Eyman does not seem to realize is that times have changed. Elected Democrats nowadays feel the same way about him that the party’s grassroots base does. Long-serving Democrats have gained an appreciation of just how destructive his initiatives are, having spent many, many years trying to mitigate their harm, while Democrats elected more recently simply think of Eyman’s initiative factory as a cancer on the state that needs to be fought, no matter what.

If both houses of the Legislature were controlled by progressive Democrats, comprehensive tax reform would have been on the table last session. All of Jay Inslee’s bold ideas from last December would have gotten at least a fair hearing, and many of them might have become law. But Democrats failed to win the Senate in 2014 and lost crucial seats in the House. It was a bad midterm.

Elections have consequences, as the saying goes. The 2014 elections produced divided government. A consequence of those elections is that Republicans can kill Democratic policy proposals with relative ease in the Senate.

And they have been doing just that.

Anyone who thinks their attitude will be any different next year needs a reality check. Republicans do not care that the Supreme Court is fed up with the Legislature’s reluctance to speedily comply with its January 2012 McCleary decision requiring the state to fully fund K-12 education.

They have nothing but contempt for the Court right now. Consider their rhetoric.

When the Supreme Court began fining the Legislature for not complying with its orders back in August, the response of many Republicans was to once again attack the Court. State Representative and I-1366 backer Matt Manweller, for instance, declared it was time to start drafting articles of impeachment against the justices.

(And no, I’m not making this up… follow the link above.)

So, again… the notion that I-1366 can be salvaged to produce a “win-win-win” is wishful thinking. I-1366 was conceived to enable militant Republicans in the Legislature to push through an amendment giving them permanent veto power over revenue bills. These militant Republicans campaigned with Eyman to pass I-1366; they are the intended beneficiaries of the blackmail scheme it contains. They are not going to give up their leverage so we can all have progressive tax reform.

We can certainly dispense with the idea that the Legislature can use CarbonWA’s Initiative 732 to avert the consequences of Scenario 1 of Tim Eyman’s I-1366. Smith, Reifman, and Westneat all made this suggestion in their respective commentaries. Here is how Westneat laid it out in his column:

OK then, how about this: A group of climate activists called Carbon Washington has more than 300,000 signatures for their measure that, by cosmic coincidence, would cut the sales tax by the exact amount as Eyman does. Except it would replace that cut with a carbon tax. The purpose of Initiative 732 is to curb greenhouse gases while being revenue neutral.

By a fluke, the Eyman initiative and this climate change initiative are complementary. The Legislature must deal with both, this spring. There are timing issues to be worked out, but if lawmakers embraced the spirit of both they could combat climate change, make the tax code smarter and solve the Eyman problem, all in one fell swoop.

The nice-sounding outcome Westneat describes above is utterly implausible.

To begin with, I-1366 and I-732 are not complementary initiatives. As I’ve already explained in this post, I-1366 is a malicious hostage-taking scheme conceived by Tim Eyman to help militant Republicans in the Legislature push through a constitutional amendment giving them veto power over revenue bills forever. It is narrowly passing now and due to become law next month.

If the Supreme Court this winter rules that I-1366 is beyond the scope, or unconstitutional, or both, I-1366 will become unenforceable (null and void), and the Legislature will not need to deal with it in the spring.

I-732, meanwhile, is a well meaning but fatally flawed initiative to the Legislature to tax pollution and use the proceeds to lower existing taxes like the sales tax. I-732 is supposed to be revenue neutral, but we’re not convinced that it actually is. Our assessment is that it is poorly written.

Contrary to what Danny Westneat says above, the Legislature doesn’t necessarily have to deal with I-732 in the spring either. The Legislature can simply ignore I-732 if it chooses, and it will proceed to the November ballot for voters’ consideration. This is what happened with I-594, I-591, I-517, and I-522.

The Washington State Constitution is very explicit about what the Legislature may do with both initiatives to the Legislature (following qualification) and initiatives to the people (following passage). Initiatives to the Legislature may be adopted as-is, passed on to the people, or passed on to the people with an alternative. Those are the only options. Initiatives to the Legislature can’t be amended by the Legislature.

Initiatives passed by the people, meanwhile, cannot be amended or suspended by the Legislature within two years of adoption — except by a two-thirds vote. Until and unless the Supreme Court does its job and strikes down I-1366, I-1366 will thus enjoy protection from the very Constitution it seeks to undermine.

For the scenario proposed above by Westneat to work, the Legislature would need to amend I-732 to remove the language in I-732 that lowers the state sales tax. Otherwise, the sales tax would get lowered twice: Once by I-1366, starting April 15th, 2016 and then again starting July 1st, 2017 by Section 14 of I-732. The initiative’s other effective dates, meanwhile, would need to be moved up.

But, as I just explained, the Legislature can’t amend initiatives to the Legislature. The Constitution doesn’t allow it. I-732 could only be adopted by the House and Senate as written. Otherwise, it goes to the ballot… with or without an alternative.

To suggest that the Legislature could use I-732 to get around I-1366, as Don, Jeff, and Danny have, demonstrates a lack of understanding of how initiatives work in Washington State, and how the legislative process works.

Now, we saw a few months ago that, despite their anti-tax rhetoric, not all Republicans are not opposed to raising revenue in all circumstances. A number of the Republicans in both houses voted to raise the gas tax as well as vehicle fees to pay for highway projects that some of them wanted.

Our schools remain underfunded, but nothing is too good for our cars, it seems.

(Ironically, one of these Republicans was I-1366 booster Michael Baumgartner, who could easily contend for the title of the Legislature’s biggest hypocrite.)

However, when Governor Jay Inslee proposed levying a capital gains tax and instituting a cap and trade system — both ideas that Washington voters support, as documented by NPI research from two months ago — Republicans reacted with scorn and derision. They wouldn’t give either idea a fair hearing in the Senate.

For Smith, Reifman, and Westneat’s dream of 1366-catalyzed progressive tax reform to come true, Senate Republican leadership would need to do an an abrupt about-face in 2016 and agree to put a capital gains tax, as well as a cap and trade system, on the Senate floor for a vote. We just don’t see that happening.

Why capital gains and cap and trade, you might ask? Because those are the most feasible options for replacing billions in lost sales tax revenue. Capital gains alone would not generate enough funding to address I-1366 and McCleary.

Both ideas already have the support of Governor Jay Inslee and most House Democrats. House Democrats could probably move the necessary legislation through the Legislature’s lower chamber if Senate Republicans would agree to allow the legislation through committee and on the floor of the upper chamber for a vote, where Democrats would supply the bulk of the votes needed for passage, and Republicans would provide the rest.

The capital gains tax would need to go into effect very quickly, so it could start offsetting hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales tax revenue in 2016. Cap and trade would need to kick in not long after.

America’s supposed to be a free country and Washington is supposed to be a free state, so any progressives who would like to are welcome to mount a grassroots lobbying effort to try and persuade Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler and his deputies John Braun, Ann Rivers, Linda Evans Parlette, Joe Fain, and Jim Honeyford to get on board. We rather doubt that any of them will respond favorably.

The few Republicans in the Legislature who are not in Eyman’s pocket will probably be praying that the Supreme Court strikes down I-1366 very soon, so they don’t have to get into a game of chicken over the budget with Democrats.

Failing that, if Democrats refuse to capitulate to Eyman and the Republicans, and Republicans refuse to give up their leverage, the sales tax will be cut by default in a matter of months, and the fallout will be disastrous. Every community everywhere in the state will feel the pain of devastating cuts to public services.

The best outcome would be for the Supreme Court to do its job and temporarily restore the status quo by striking down Tim Eyman’s I-1366.

The Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, to which NPI belongs, is preparing an initiative to the people for 2016 to create a cap and trade system. Assuming that initiative is successful, it will solve one piece of the puzzle. To address the rest, Washington voters will need to elect a progressive Legislature prepared to work cooperatively with Governor Inslee to fully fund public education.

There is no organization in this state that wants to see progressive tax reform happen more than NPI. It’s been the focus of our advocacy since NPI’s inception. But to get anywhere in the Legislature, we need progressive majorities in both houses. And the soonest we could have such majorities is January 2017.

Happy Veterans Day 2015!

Today we pause to thank the many brave men and women who have valiantly served our country in the armed forces, defending this great nation so that the rest of us may go about our lives freely and peacefully.

We at NPI are especially grateful for the service of our own Rick Hegdahl (U.S. Navy Retired), who served two tours of duty in the Iraqi theater a decade ago, and to all friends and supporters of NPI who are veterans, like Matt Isenhower, Chad Lupkes, Andy Ribaudo, Joel Ware, Jay Clough, and many more.

President Barack Obama commemorated the occasion with a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where he was joined by many veterans, including America’s oldest known female World War II veteran, Army Lieutenant Colonel Luta C. McGrath, who is turning one hundred and eight this month.

Obama made a pitch during his remarks for employers to hire veterans, saying:

Our tributes today will also ring hollow if we don’t provide our veterans with the jobs and opportunities that you need when you come home. That’s why we’ve helped more than 1.5 million veterans and their families pursue an education under the Post-9/11 GI bill.

That’s why we worked to make sure that every state now provides veterans and their families with in-state tuition. It’s why we’re fighting to make it easier for our veterans to get the licenses and certifications to transition the outstanding skills they gained in the armed services to civilian jobs. It’s why we’re helping more veterans and military spouses find jobs. And today, the veterans’ unemployment rate is down to 3.9 percent — even lower than the national average.

But this can’t just be a job for government. We all have a role to play. I realize that with less than 1 percent of Americans serving in uniform, the other 99 percent of folks don’t always see and appreciate the incredible skills and assets that our veterans can offer. On this Veterans Day, here’s what I want every American to know: Our veterans are some of the most talented, driven, capable people on Earth.

Good on you for saying this, Mr. President.

The full speech is available for on-demand viewing at

Again, Happy Veterans Day, and thanks to all those NPI supporters and Cascadia Advocate readers who have served. We are forever grateful.

Washington State will likely set a new record low for general election turnout this year

As of this evening, it’s been one week since Election Night 2015, and the number of ballots still awaiting processing by county elections officials has dwindled to less than thirty-three thousand statewide. Turnout currently stands at 37.44%, and it looks like it will end up under forty percent, well below Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s optimistic forecast of forty-six percent from last month.

Anyone who follows politics, including Cascadia Advocate readers, is probably already aware that turnout so far this year has been poor. But as county elections officials run out of ballots to add to the count, we got to wondering: Just how bad is this year’s turnout compared to past years?

The disturbing answer is that this year’s low general election turnout is absolutely unprecedented. It could be the worst in state history.

We’re not sure whether it is or not, because the historic turnout data kindly furnished to us by the fine folks who work in Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office only goes back to 1936. But this much we know: Turnout in 2015 will likely be at least the worst general election turnout in over seventy-five years.

That is a truly sobering thought. So much for vote-by-mail being a turnout booster.

It is worth noting that, for much of Washington’s history, statewide general elections were only held in even-numbered years. In the early 1970s, state law was changed to provide for state-level general elections in odd-numbered years, too. Before 1973, only local offices were contested in odd-numbered years.

The first few such elections had midterm-like turnout above a majority: 57.78% in 1973, 55.47% in 1975, 52.47% in 1977. Beginning in 1979, turnout in odd-numbered years started regularly dipping below fifty percent.

General election turnout previously reached a low of 40.18% thirty years ago, in 1985, rebounding to 42.32% in 1987 and 48.11% in 1989.

Since then, odd-numbered general election year turnout has fluctuated. It’s been above a majority in certain years and below it in others.

But never has it been as bad as this year.

The kind of turnout we’re seeing in this year’s general election is the kind we usually expect to see in a Top Two election. Voter turnout in the 2012 Top Two, for instance, was 38.48%, a whole percentage point higher than the current 2015 general turnout (which will rise slightly before certification on November 24th).

Here is a turnout table showing all odd-numbered general elections since 1973:

Year Registered Voters Ballots Counted % Voted
2013 3,914,786 1,772,290 45.3
2011 3,658,413 1,936,950 52.9
2009 3,583,278 1,823,364 50.9
2007 3,288,642 1,645,652 50.0
2005 3,374,541 1,850,017 54.8
2003 3,212,043 1,300,602 40.5
2001 3,291,103 1,464,891 44.5
1999 3,099,553 1,790,518 57.8
1997 3,032,992 1,718,307 56.7
1995 2,834,181 1,397,039 49.3
1993 2,780,033 1,542,599 55.5
1991 2,266,617 1,539,034 67.9
1989 2,221,407 1,068,721 48.1
1987 2,171,365 918,816 42.3
1985 2,239,900 900,078 40.2
1983 2,109,096 1,238,395 58.7
1981 2,029,631 948,359 46.7
1979 1,902,047 923,237 48.5
1977 1,890,287 991,844 52.5
1975 1,803,422 1,000,427 55.5
1973 1,821,514 1,052,526 57.8

Note that percentages in this chart have been rounded to one decimal place.

As you can see, in the more than forty years since we have held state-level general elections in odd-numbered years, we have never had turnout fall below forty percent. But it looks like it’s going to happen this year.

Historical voter turnout in Washington

Historical voter turnout in Washington (Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute | Data: Secretary of State)

Above is a chart showing voter turnout in Washington from 1936 to the present day. The high peaks are presidential election years. The valleys are initially midterms, and then, starting in 1973, they are odd-numbered years, after the state started tacking ballot measures and special elections onto local elections.

The highest and lowest turnout in modern times and the highest and lowest turnout in the state’s younger years are noted on the chart.

Considering how big the turnout disparity has gotten in modern times, it is worth discussing whether state-level elections should revert to being held solely in even-numbered years. This would mean that we would only consider initiatives and referenda every two years, as opposed to every year.

This is how it works in Oregon, which also has a vote-by-mail elections system.

From our perspective, it doesn’t make sense for a minority of the state’s registered voters to be making laws for the majority. Even in midterm cycles where turnout is unusually poor, like in 2014 or 2002, turnout has still been more than a majority, so if we only considered initiatives, referenda, and constitutional amendments in even-numbered years, we would not have the few making decisions for the many.

Recent presidential elections do compare more favorably to those from decades past. In 1944, Washingtonians turned out in large numbers to vote in the nation’s final wartime election, which pitted Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt against Republican Thomas E. Dewey. That record high turnout went unmatched until 2008, when Barack Obama squared off against John McCain.

But again, this year’s turnout is simply awful. It’s embarrassing. We don’t yet know what the exact figure will be, but we do think it’s reasonably safe to conclude it won’t be more 40.18%, the previous low. By bringing this up now, we hope to help foster a conversation about what we can do to bolster turnout in the future, while this year’s election is still fresh in the minds of those Washingtonians who follow politics.

Lisa Herbold, Shannon Braddock separated by only six votes in Seattle’s District #1

Talk about a razor-thin race: In the contest for Seattle City Council, District #1, Top Two finalists Lisa Herbold and Shannon Braddock are now separated by a mere six votes — out of over twenty-two thousand cast! That’s a margin of one household.

Take a look at the numbers following the latest tabulation:

City of Seattle Council District No. 1
(Precincts ( 151/ 151 )
Lisa Herbold: 49.70% (11,522)
Shannon Braddock: 49.73% (11,528 votes)
Write-in: 0.57% (133 votes)

The trend in the late ballots has been for Herbold, so there’s a good chance she overtakes Braddock tomorrow. But there simply aren’t all that many ballots left to count now, one week after Election Day, and this race may go to a recount.

Herbold and Braddock both have a significant degree of legislative experience, and each ran a strong campaign. Herbold has worked for Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata for many years; Braddock has worked for King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. Both are respected and well liked in West Seattle.

“Agonizing!” wrote former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, in a Facebook posting commenting on the tight race. He reflected: “I was in a couple of cliffhangers. I emerged victorious a week after election day in 2001 over Mark Sidran and the other came up a bit short in 1997 to Charlie Chong. No idea how this one will turn out but I am very appreciative that these two strong women ran effective campaigns, gave it everything they have and however it turns out Shannon Braddock and Lisa Herbold should be very proud of their efforts.”

This was a close race on Election Night and it has remained so. Braddock did build a more comfortable lead on the second day of counting, but that has simply evaporated. Take a look at how the results have evolved:

Lisa Herbold vs. Shannon Braddock

Chart: Northwest Progressive Institute. Data: King County Elections

The next count will be released in forty-eight hours, owing to tomorrow being Veterans Day. Both the Herbold and Braddock campaigns will no doubt be chasing ballots over the next two weeks, looking to ensure their supporters’ votes are counted ahead of certification on November 24th.

Opposition to Tim Eyman’s I-1366 climbs above 48% across Washington State

Nearly one week after Election Day 2015, opposition to Tim Eyman’s I-1366 is still rising as late ballots continue to be counted. Today, the NO vote statewide surpassed 48%, an important milestone, and now stands at 670,085 votes.

About 68,473 ballots remain to be processed by county elections officials, according to the latest estimate. The gap between Yes and No is currently 56,992 votes. Percentage-wise, the gap is likely to tighten a little more as counting goes on, though not enough to change the outcome, as we projected last Tuesday night.

King County has the lion’s share of the uncounted ballots… 48,306, according to today’s estimate. And in King County, the NO on I-1366 vote has been growing stronger by the day. It’s currently an impressive 61.06%.

I-1366 will need to be finished off in court, and a number of editorial boards have joined the chorus calling for the initiative to be given an expedient burial, including The Seattle Times, The Olympian, and the Spokesman-Review.

This weekend, in his most excellent recurring column The Wrap, Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd did some quick math and put the vote for Eyman’s I-1366 in proper perspective, complete with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

All Hail Super-Minority Rule: Consider the actual voting numbers behind Initiative 1366, the Good-Government Prevention Act. The latest Eyman bank-account fluffer, which seeks to institutionalize minority rule by establishing a de-facto tax veto by 34 percent of legislators, as of Friday had garnered 640,717 statewide affirmative votes. In a state with nearly 4 million registered voters, that’s a ‘yes’ rate of 16 percent. Power to the people, baby.

Big props to Judd for pointing out how little support I-1366 is actually getting. Most Washington voters stayed home in 2015, and of those who did vote, nearly half said NO to I-1366, leaving only a small fraction who voted yes.

In the Legislature, it takes fifty votes in the House to pass a bill, and twenty-five in the Senate. That’s set forth in Article II, Section 22, the very provision of the Constitution Eyman wants to sabotage with I-1366.

If initiatives and referenda required a similar absolute majority to pass, I-1366 would be failing right now, owing to this year’s historically awful turnout.

Perhaps it’s time to add a minimum turnout requirement to our Constitution for passage of initiatives and referenda, specifying that an absolute majority of registered voters is needed for state law to be changed at the ballot by the people. A similar requirement could be added for passage of constitutional amendments.

Either that, or return to the practice of only placing measures on the statewide ballot in even-numbered years, when turnout is reliably above fifty percent. This is how it works in Oregon. It’s also how it used to work here until state law was changed to provide for state-level general elections in odd-numbered years.

With fewer than 70,000 ballots remaining to be counted, it appears statewide turnout will remain below 40%, which would set a new modern record for low turnout. We haven’t had a general election with so little participation in decades. I’ll have more data and reflections on the awful turnout in a follow-up post tomorrow.

RE: Some campaign tactics to rethink

This morning, The Spokesman-Review’s Olympia correspondent and political columnist Jim Camden filed a “Sunday Spin” column commenting on the unsuccessful NO on I-1366 campaign that we were a part of, suggesting that the coalition relied on old tactics that have not worked in the past. He writes:

Opponents of Tim Eyman’s regular ballot measures for tax controls went to their standard playbook of denouncing the supermajority for tax increases plan, then filing a lawsuit to keep it off the ballot (which history showed was doomed to fai [sic], and it did), then excoriating it as undemocratic and unconstitutional, trashing Eyman and pointing to polls that showed the initiative was trailing.

“Standard playbook”? I know sports metaphors are popular with journalists and pundits, but let’s face it: Politics is not a game. If I-1366 isn’t stopped, it will have grave ramifications for the future of our state.

Denouncing a bad idea is inherently what a NO campaign does, so I’m not sure why that’s included in the list of “tactics”. With respect to the lawsuit, the legal challenge to I-1366 was a scope challenge that even defendant Kim Wyman acknowledged was properly brought, unlike past challenges. We did not get an injunction blocking I-1366 from the ballot, but that doesn’t mean the challenge wasn’t worth it. We did win a ruling in King County Superior Court that 1366 was beyond the scope.

As for excoriating I-1366 as undemocratic and unconstitutional, this year was the first time an effort was made to emphasize that argument with voters.

In 2007, when Eyman’s I-960 was on the ballot, the opposition campaign portrayed I-960 as a measure that would “tie Washington up in red tape”, as can be seen from watching the television spot that the campaign aired back then.

The TV spot did not assert that I-960 was undemocratic or unconstitutional. It did not explain how requiring a two-thirds vote would transfer power from the majority to a submajority. Neither did the con voter’s pamphlet statement.

In 2010 and 2012, when Eyman’s I-1053 and I-1185 were on the ballot, Washington progressives failed to organize strong opposition campaigns, and the results were absolutely disastrous. We didn’t win a single county.

Very little money was spent against I-1185 (less than $100,000) and nearly all of the larger sum spent against I-1053 was spent too late to make a difference.

This year, in the campaign against I-1366, Washington progressives finally ran a disciplined campaign explaining that Tim Eyman wants to sabotage the plan of government our founders gave us. That effort has been yielding results. A much larger percentage of the electorate is opposing I-1366 than opposed I-1053 or I-1185… in a year when far fewer progressive voters are turning out.

Having spent little more against against I-1366 than we did against I-1185, we’re holding Eyman to a slim margin of victory in a year when we were at a structural disadvantage, turnout-wise. That is a big improvement. We did not defeat I-1366, but we clearly ran a much better campaign this time around.

Lastly, with respect to the polling: There was one Elway Poll that showed I-1366’s level of support at under fifty percent and its opposition at an equivalent level, but that same poll showed that a significant number of voters were undecided.

That poll suggested that we were making some headway in the campaign, which was encouraging. It did not predict victory.

Elway himself noted in his memo, “Previous late polls on initiatives to require a 2/3 vote to raise taxes have tended to underestimate support.”

Camden next asserted:

The outcome was the same as previous initiatives.

No, it wasn’t. I-1366 is not enjoying anything close to the level of support that I-1185 and I-1053 got, because I-1366 had organized opposition from the beginning. We likely could have beaten I-1366 had our campaign had $3 million at its disposal, as the incredibly successful NO on I-1033 campaign had in 2009.

Camden then claimed:

Eyman’s supermajority plans are 6-0 at the ballot box.

This is simply factually inaccurate. Prior to this year, Eyman had sponsored four initiatives to require a two-thirds vote to raise revenue. Three of those passed.

We often call these Eyman’s I-601 clones, because they are successor initiatives to I-601 from 1993, which Eyman was not involved with. Here is the list:

  • Initiative 807, 2003: Did not qualify for the ballot
  • Initiative 960, 2007: Passed by voters
  • Initiative 1053, 2010: Passed by voters
  • Initiative 1185, 2012: Passed by voters

This year’s I-1366 does not restore the two-thirds vote scheme struck down by the Supreme Court. It instead threatens a huge sales tax cut ($8 billion over six years) if the Legislature refuses to pass a constitutional amendment permanently sabotaging Article II, Section 22, which the I-601 clones all violated.

As long as we’re on the topic of the electoral history of supermajority vote requirements, let’s not forget that in 1993, at the same time they were narrowly approving I-601, voters were also voting down I-602, a similarly draconian measure to require a three-fourths vote to raise revenue — and that, in 2007, at the same time they were passing Eyman’s I-960, voters also narrowly passed a constitutional amendment to allow majorities to pass school levies.

Those votes conflict with the narrative Eyman peddles, so he conveniently never talks about them, but journalists and columnists ought to talk about them in order to provide proper context. It is simply not the case that Washington voters have always voted to make it harder to raise taxes.

Back to Camden, one last time:

On Friday opponents were touting the fact that King County had voted 60 percent against the measure, and thanking voters there and in three other counties for recognizing the initiative is “bad public policy.” What, like voters in the other 35 counties are too stupid to understand?

Hardly. In this campaign, we worked to earn as many votes as we could, but we didn’t secure enough to prevail. We should have gone to greater lengths to reach out to voters about the consequences of I-1366, particularly in swing counties like Spokane, Snohomish, Pierce, or Clark. Winning progressive campaigns simply must look outside of King County for votes. We’ve preached that here for a long time. Nevertheless, we are pleased that we were able to win convincing majorities in four counties. Winning in four better than winning in zero.

In a statewide election, every Washingtonian’s vote counts the same as every other Washingtonian’s. One woman, one vote. One man, one vote.

As of Friday evening, there were 670,085 votes cast against I-1366 from all thirty-nine of Washington’s counties. We are grateful to all the Washingtonians who voted down I-1366, no matter where they live.


They are now preparing for a court challenge. Eyman’s record isn’t as good in the courts, but without a change in the opponents’ playbook, that’s likely where they will continue to end up after voters pass them.

We already have one challenge pending with the Supreme Court pertaining to I-1366. A second challenge may be filed, but as the Court made clear in its order of September 4th, the previous suit remains active (The first line of the order reads, “The appeal is retained by this Court for a decision on the merits.”)

Since NPI’s Permanent Defense was founded in 2002, Tim Eyman has had no consecutive victories at the ballot. Prior to PD’s founding, Eyman had been winning every year. Now he wins at the ballot far less often. We consider that a significant improvement. Unfortunately, Eyman only needs to win occasionally to stay relevant. And that is why the work of Permanent Defense is ongoing and vitally important. We want to be able to defeat Eyman every time he qualifies something.

We also need to get better as a movement about going on offense. Next year, we will be supporting initiatives to implement a cap and trade system to reduce pollution in Washington State, increase the minimum wage, and put our state on record as supporting a constitutional amendment to get big money out of elections.

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