A week ago, I mentioned here on The Advocate that I was asked at the NO on I-1125 election night party what I thought final spread on I-1125 would be, and that my guess was that the no vote would eventually surpass 53%.
Today, with just under two weeks to go until the 2011 election is certified, that’s just what happened. NO on I-1125 managed to reach 53% of the vote in only a week thanks to the two factors I cited: the strong no vote in King County and the weak yes vote in many eastern Washington counties.
On election night, the vote against I-1125 in King County stood at an impressive 60.37%. Over the course of a week, it has climbed three whole percentage points, to 63.36%. And it’s still getting stronger!
At the same time, the vote for I-1125 has been weakening. Adams and Spokane counties joined the no column a week ago, Pierce has continuously been inching closer to the point where its voters will be evenly split, and key swing counties like Whatcom and Snohomish have become more solidly NO.
In most eastern Washington counties (excluding the three that are against I-1125), the vote in favor is not particularly lopsided, as has been the case with past Eyman initiatives. For instance, in Ferry and Stevens counties, which are among the most conservative places in Washington, I-1125 is only receiving 54% of the vote.
I-1125’s defeat leaves Eyman zero for four in trying to rewrite state transportation policy. In 2000, he tried to convince voters that it would be a good idea to forcibly require ninety percent of our transportation budget to go to roads. The people said no. Eyman didn’t listen; in 2002, he attempted to run a similar initiative to the Legislature but the effort ran out of gas (pun intended) and Eyman did not submit the necessary signatures to get it before the House and Senate.
In 2008, Eyman proposed Initiative 985, which, like I-1125, contained tolling restrictions. It also would have opened high occupancy vehicles to solo drivers during most hours of the day. Voters resoundingly rejected it.
Now I-1125 has fittingly joined that pile of failures.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped Eyman from trying to spin it as a success. In emails to his followers, he’s been claiming that by forcing a vote on I-1125, he’s made tolls “more radioactive”. In reality, he accomplished just the opposite.
If anything, I-1125 has made tolling a less contentious policy direction in Washington State… because it failed. In defeating I-1125, the voters have put their stamp of approval on the Legislature’s plans to improve our highways.
Those plans do not, as we pointed out during the campaign, call for a sudden and immediate imposition of tolls everywhere, on every state route or interstate.
Rather, the shift to tolls as a major revenue source for projects will happen gradually, on a facility by facility basis.
As we’ve repeatedly noted, only two facilities in Washington State are currently tolled: SR 16, which crosses the Tacoma Narrows and SR 167, home to the experimental HOT lanes project. Tolls have been authorized on a third facility, the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, but that’s it.
There’s been talk of tolling other facilities as well, but talk is not the same as authorization. Talk doesn’t even translate to intent… it just means discussion.
And when the time does come for action, it will happen within the legislative process. That’s because sate law prohibits WSDOT or the Transportation Commission from imposing tolls where there are none now. Only the Legislature can authorize an expansion of tolling. So that list of tolled facilities isn’t going to get any longer until the Legislature votes to make it longer.