Beginning in 2017, the number of signatures required to secure a spot on Washington’s statewide ballot will be increasing to nearly 260,000, the Secretary of State’s office announced in an advisory today,
The increase is a consequence of turnout in the Washington’s 2016 gubernatorial election. The Washington State Constitution says that the signature requirement for initiatives shall correspond to 8% of the people who voted in the last election for governor. For referenda, the signature requirement is 4%.
“To qualify for a ballot spot, initiative sponsors for the next four years will need at least 259,622 valid signatures of registered Washington voters,” explained Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s communications director David Ammons. “That is 8 percent of the total 2016 vote for governor, 3,245,282. The old number was 246,372.”
“For referenda, the new requirement will be 129,811. That is 4 percent of the total vote for governor and compares with the current 123,186.”
Note that these requirements are for valid signatures. To qualify, a campaign must submit additional signatures beyond the minimum number to have a chance of making it in order to offset likely invalid or duplicate signatures. A cushion of at least twenty percent is needed, and more is better. 20% of 259,622 is 51,924, so future initiative campaigns will need to be able to gather around 312,000 signatures total in order to qualify for the 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 ballots.
The signature requirements are percentages, so they can fall or rise depending on how many people are on the voter rolls and how many turn out for a gubernatorial election. However, they’ve been rising steadily in four year intervals since 2000 due to robust turnout in presidential/gubernatorial years.
Turnout this year was down from 2004, 2008, and 2012, but the absolute number of voters voting went up, so the signature requirements will be higher.
This news won’t make Tim Eyman happy, as his business is qualifying initiatives, and the higher signature requirement means an increase in his costs.
But it may not matter. If Eyman doesn’t have his wealthy benefactors behind him pumping cash into his initiative factory next year — or any year in the future — he won’t be able to mount a signature drive anyway.