CarbonWA’s Initiative 732, a supposedly “revenue neutral” proposal to levy a statewide tax on carbon emissions while lowering Washington’s sales and B&O taxes, has narrowly qualified as an initiative to the 2016 Legislature following a random sample check, says the chief spokesman for Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
In an early evening press release, Wyman’s Communications Director David Ammons explained why I‑732 nearly failed its random sample check despite having been submitted with a large cushion of extra signatures. He wrote:
It was a close call, though, despite sponsors turning in 363,126 signatures, nearly 120,000 more than the bare number of valid voter signatures required (246,372).
That’s because there an unusually high error rate was discovered when election crews checked a 3 percent random sample of 11,061 signatures. The error rate was 27.59 percent, well above the historic average of 18 percent. That was due primarily to duplicate signatures, but also reflected invalid signatures, primarily those of people not found on the Washington voter rolls.
In fact, if a few more duplicate signatures had turned up in the random check, the Elections Division would have had to check all 363,126 signatures. Initiatives cannot be rejected the random sample method.
As it was, the signature check projects that sponsors brought in only a slim cushion of 16,568 signatures, or 262,940.
The error rate was the highest in at least 25 years.
I can’t say we’re surprised. When you hire associates of Tim Eyman to run your signature drive, as CarbonWA did, you can expect to run into problems.
PDC data shows CarbonWA paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Brent Johnson’s Your Choice Petitions, LLC to collect signatures for I‑732.
What many people don’t know is that Brent Johnson is a prime subcontractor for Tim Eyman’s pals Roy Ruffino and Eddie Agazarm, who run the troubled signature gathering outfit Citizen Solutions. Citizen Solutions has gotten into trouble with Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries for failing to properly comply with the state’s worker protection laws, as we have previously reported.
Johnson’s crews helped get Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 on the ballot earlier in 2015, and Eyman & Co. will no doubt be relying on Johnson again to help with the new initiative Eyman that has planned for this year.
Progressive campaigns ought to know better than to do business with shady signature gathering outfits that enable the likes of Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. Unfortunately, CarbonWA went into business with the wrong people. By hiring Brent Johnson, they not only risked the success of their own signature drive, they helped sustain a business that provides support to Tim Eyman’s initiative factory.
Though I‑732 has qualified, it faces uncertain prospects. Nonpartisan legislative staff have calculated that the initiative isn’t really revenue neutral, a conclusion CarbonWA’s proponents heatedly dispute.
The polling that’s been done to date has shown extremely poor support for I‑732 (the ballot title starts out with around 39%, according to one poll).
I‑732 proponents concede that the ballot title is an Achilles’ heel, but believe that the initiative can muster enough support to win nonetheless.
We think that optimism is misplaced. NPI has worked for and against Washington State ballot measures every year since its inception, and we know a weak, flawed proposal when we see one. All opponents will have to do to win is fertilize the existing seeds of doubt, and I‑732 will go down to defeat.
And there will be a campaign, because Senate Republicans like Doug Ericksen have no intention of giving I‑732’s proponents a victory in the Legislature.