WAmend volunteers celebrate the success of the I-735 signature drive
WAmend volunteers celebrate the success of the I-735 signature drive (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Prov­ing that there still is such a thing as a cit­i­zen ini­tia­tive, the staff and vol­un­teers of the Wash­ing­ton Coali­tion to Amend the Con­sti­tu­tion (WAmend) today made the hap­py trek to Wash­ing­ton’s cap­i­tal city of Olympia to sub­mit hun­dreds of thou­sands of sig­na­tures for Ini­tia­tive 735, which would for­mal­ly put the Ever­green State on record as call­ing for a fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment to end the legal fic­tion that cor­po­ra­tions are peo­ple and mon­ey is speech.

Spon­sored by Norm Con­rad, Ini­tia­tive 735 is an ini­tia­tive to the 2016 Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture. If Sec­re­tary of State Kim Wyman cer­ti­fies it, as expect­ed, it will go before the House and Sen­ate for con­sid­er­a­tion this win­ter. If the House and Sen­ate ignore it and fail to enact it into law, it will auto­mat­i­cal­ly appear on the Novem­ber 2016 bal­lot for the peo­ple to decide. (The House and Sen­ate also have the option of send­ing it to the Novem­ber 2016 bal­lot with an alternative.)

Statewide ini­tia­tives, whether to the Leg­is­la­ture or to the peo­ple, require at least 246,372 valid sig­na­tures to qual­i­fy (equiv­a­lent to 8% of the peo­ple who vot­ed in the last elec­tion for gov­er­nor). The Sec­re­tary of State rec­om­mends that cam­paigns sub­mit at least 320,000 sig­na­tures to off­set dupli­cate and invalid signatures.

WAmend and its part­ner Fix Democ­ra­cy First for I‑735 sub­mit­ted more than 325,000 sig­na­tures to the Sec­re­tary of State’s Elec­tions Annex this after­noon, with dozens of vol­un­teers on hand to cel­e­brate, so I‑735 will almost cer­tain­ly make it, which is fan­tas­tic news. The dead­line for sub­mis­sion of sig­na­tures for an ini­tia­tive to the peo­ple is tomor­row, New Year’s Eve, at the close of busi­ness (5 PM).

The vast major­i­ty of the sig­na­tures col­lect­ed for I‑735 (over 280,000 of the 325,000+ sub­mit­ted, to be pre­cise) were gath­ered by vol­un­teer peti­tion­ers, which is pret­ty much unheard of in this day and age.

As Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers know, Tim Eyman gets on the bal­lot near­ly every year because he has wealthy bene­fac­tors who sup­ply him with megabucks so he can pur­chase a vote on a scheme of his choos­ing. Eyman oper­ates as a mouth­piece for these wealthy indi­vid­u­als, though he false­ly mas­quer­ades as a fight­er for the lit­tle guy at the media events he stages. He’s always the star of his own show.

WAmend did­n’t have the check­books of hedge fund man­agers and real estate devel­op­ers at its dis­pos­al, but what it did have was a corps of deter­mined, moti­vat­ed activists who believe that democ­ra­cy belongs to We the People.

That was evi­dent from today’s turn-in event at the Sec­re­tary of State’s office, which fea­tured a large group of activists rep­re­sent­ing the many Wash­ing­to­ni­ans who cir­cu­lat­ed peti­tions. You could tell from observ­ing the scene that this was a true peo­ple-pow­ered sig­na­ture dri­ve that took a lot of grit and per­sis­tence to pull off.

WAmend volunteers celebrate the success of the I-735 signature drive
WAmend vol­un­teers cel­e­brate the suc­cess of the I‑735 sig­na­ture dri­ve (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

WAmend did raise mon­ey to pay staff to over­see its sig­na­ture dri­ve, but as men­tioned, most of its sig­na­tures were col­lect­ed by volunteers.

NPI Advi­so­ry Coun­cil mem­ber Steve Zemke, a vet­er­an of many past ini­tia­tive cam­paigns, served as WAmend’s State Field Direc­tor, work­ing with WAmend’s statewide offi­cers and coun­ty coor­di­na­tors to keep the cam­paign on track and in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with I‑735 sup­port­ers and sig­na­ture gatherers.

The WAmend Hon­or Roll lists the cam­paign’s most pro­duc­tive vol­un­teers. Top­ping the list is Lin­da Bock, who sin­gle­hand­ed­ly gath­ered some 21,000 sig­na­tures on over a thou­sand peti­tion sheets. Now that’s dedication.

Sixth on the list is WAmend Cam­paign Chair Diane Jones, a devot­ed friend and sup­port­er of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, who her­self gath­ered more than 5,000 sig­na­tures over the course of the last ten months. Jones head­lined the press con­fer­ence out­side the Sec­re­tary of State’s Elec­tions Annex.

“Our gov­ern­ment should not be for sale,” Jones said in a state­ment cel­e­brat­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of the I‑735 sig­na­ture dri­ve. “The flood of mon­ey into elec­tions frus­trates the rights of nine­ty-nine per­cent of citizens.”

Jones and fel­low grass­roots lead­ers like WAmend Sec­re­tary Cindy Black had pre­vi­ous­ly been involved in try­ing to qual­i­fy I‑1329 as an ini­tia­tive to the peo­ple in 2014. Though they came up short, to their cred­it, they resolved to try again, and com­mit­ted to lay­ing the ear­ly ground­work need­ed to win on a sec­ond attempt.

We hap­pi­ly pledged our sup­port when asked, and rec­om­mend­ed that they bring Steve Zemke aboard to plan and exe­cute the sig­na­ture dri­ve. Thank­ful­ly, they did, and today, many months of thought­ful plan­ning and hard work paid off with the sub­mis­sion of hun­dreds of thou­sands of sig­na­tures for I‑735.

Though pas­sage of I‑735 will not, by itself, bring about the fed­er­al con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment we need to reclaim our democ­ra­cy, it does move us clos­er to the goal­posts. This is a marathon, not a sprint, to use an old run­ning adage.

In The Lorax, one of my favorite books grow­ing up, Dr. Seuss reminds us that we must be the change we want to see in the world. “Unless some­one like you cares a whole awful lot, noth­ing is going to get bet­ter. It’s not.”

As activists and con­cerned cit­i­zens, we have a choice. We can whine and com­plain, or we can work for change. We at NPI believe in the lat­ter. Effec­tive activism has always been part of our ethos. It has been our plea­sure to pro­vide sup­port and assis­tance to WAmend over the past year, and we’re look­ing for­ward to par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cam­paign to pass I‑735 in 2016. Onwards, and con­grat­u­la­tions to every­one who made this great day pos­si­ble. We made it!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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