Tim Eyman signs Initiative 947
Tim Eyman becomes the first signer of Initiative 947 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

It’s Tim Eyman ver­sus Kim Wyman!

The dis­graced ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er has made Wash­ing­ton’s Sec­re­tary of State the tar­get of his lat­est cam­paign of online harass­ment after Wyman’s office removed Eyman’s Ref­er­en­dum 80 fil­ing from sos.wa.gov and replaced it with a mes­sage say­ing it and six oth­er iden­ti­cal ref­er­en­da filed by Eyman were “inval­i­dat­ed”.

Ref­er­en­dum 80 was an attempt to over­turn the new salary sched­ule for leg­is­la­tors and statewide elect­ed offi­cials approved by the Wash­ing­ton Cit­i­zens’ Com­mis­sion on Salaries for Elect­ed Offi­cials. Eyman filed it back on Feb­ru­ary 6th, 2019 and pro­ceed­ed to launch a sig­na­ture dri­ve for it short­ly thereafter.

How­ev­er, sub­se­quent to the fil­ing of Ref­er­en­dum 80, it was dis­cov­ered that there was an error in the text of the salary sched­ule the Com­mis­sion had approved (an incor­rect date had been includ­ed in the text).

The Code Revis­er fixed the error on Feb­ru­ary 27th, 2019, but Eyman neglect­ed to file a brand new ref­er­en­dum against the cor­rect­ed salary sched­ule, fig­ur­ing Ref­er­en­dum 80 was still a valid bal­lot measure.

Referendum 80: No longer valid
The mes­sage on the Sec­re­tary of State’s Ref­er­en­da page

But it isn’t, and Wyman’s office has appar­ent­ly now advised Eyman that it won’t accept any peti­tions for Ref­er­en­dum 80. Eyman claimed that when he inquired about the valid­i­ty of R‑80, he was told: “The Commission’s refil­ing inval­i­dat­ed these ref­er­en­da and we are unable to accept signed peti­tion sheets for them.”

Nat­u­ral­ly, that response left Eyman spit­ting mad. He’s ask­ing his fol­low­ers to bar­rage Wyman with emails, phone calls, and texts, includ­ing at her pri­vate (non-offi­cial) email address and her per­son­al (non-offi­cial) tele­phone numbers.

Eyman wants Wyman to reverse course and agree to accept peti­tions for Ref­er­en­dum 80 (pre­sum­ing he gets enough signatures).

How­ev­er, if Wyman won’t com­mit to accept­ing the R‑80 peti­tions, Eyman said he’ll pull the plug on his sig­na­ture dri­ve. From his April 10th email:

“[I]f the Sec­re­tary of State isn’t going to accept them [the peti­tions], then it’s not fair for all our sup­port­ers to con­tin­ue to col­lect sig­na­tures. There­fore, we need an answer from her right away. If she says she’ll accept them, we’ll keep work­ing on it. But if she says she won’t, then our sup­port­ers should­n’t con­tin­ue to col­lect sig­na­tures for a mea­sure the Sec­re­tary of State refus­es to process.”

Wyman does­n’t actu­al­ly have a choice in this mat­ter. She can’t accept peti­tions for Ref­er­en­dum 80 because the under­ly­ing salary sched­ule does­n’t exist any­more… and there­fore, by exten­sion, Ref­er­en­dum 80 does­n’t exist any­more either.

Eyman — who con­sid­ers him­self a bal­lot mea­sure expert and is some­times incor­rect­ly labeled an “ini­tia­tive guru” by reporters — should have real­ized that the with­draw­al and repub­li­ca­tion of the salary sched­ule by the Com­mis­sion would auto­mat­i­cal­ly neces­si­tate the need for a brand new referendum.

Instead, Eyman made a faulty assump­tion based on the out­come of lit­i­ga­tion sur­round­ing Ini­tia­tive 1639 (gun respon­si­bil­i­ty) last year. By his own admis­sion, Eyman fig­ured that since the I‑1639 peti­tions were processed and accept­ed by the Sec­re­tary of State’s office despite print­ing defects, he did­n’t need to start over.

But what Eyman failed to appre­ci­ate is that ini­tia­tives and ref­er­en­da are very dif­fer­ent. In the case of Ini­tia­tive 1639, the prob­lem was spe­cif­ic to the peti­tions; the text had not been cor­rect­ly trans­ferred onto them. There was no issue with the bal­lot mea­sure itself. The ques­tion was whether the mea­sure’s peti­tions could be accept­ed in spite of the peti­tion design and print job hav­ing been botched.

The Supreme Court ulti­mate­ly decid­ed that the peti­tions should­n’t be thrown out.

Here we have essen­tial­ly the reverse sit­u­a­tion. It may be that as Tim Eyman claims, he “strict­ly fol­lowed all statu­to­ry and con­sti­tu­tion­al require­ments” when print­ing up peti­tions for Ref­er­en­dum 80. But whether he did or did­n’t is irrel­e­vant, because Ref­er­en­dum 80 was a ref­er­en­dum, not an initiative.

Here, the peti­tions aren’t the prob­lem… the mea­sure itself is the problem.

Unlike an ini­tia­tive, a ref­er­en­dum is a vote on an action that has already been tak­en — usu­al­ly a bill passed by the Leg­is­la­ture, but in the case of Ref­er­en­dum 80, a salary sched­ule approved by a con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly-man­dat­ed cit­i­zens’ commission.

Were Ref­er­en­dum 80 to actu­al­ly appear on the bal­lot, vot­ers would be con­sid­er­ing whether to approve or reject some­thing that no longer exists. And that makes no sense. The cor­rect­ed salary sched­ule is the only salary sched­ule that vot­ers could poten­tial­ly over­turn. For that cor­rect­ed salary sched­ule to be sub­ject­ed to a vote, a ref­er­en­dum would need to be filed against it. That has yet to happen.

As usu­al, Eyman has only him­self to blame. He made a bad assump­tion and now it appears he’s lost what­ev­er chance he had of forc­ing a vote on the new salary sched­ule approved by the Com­mis­sion. Eyman’s odds to begin with were bad, since he lacked the funds to hire paid peti­tion­ers and was try­ing to qual­i­fy Ref­er­en­dum 80 exclu­sive­ly with vol­un­teer labor sup­plied by his followers.

Eyman could still attempt to start over, but it would in all like­li­hood be futile.

The Con­sti­tu­tion allots only a three month win­dow for ref­er­en­dum cam­paigns, and the clock on the cor­rect­ed salary sched­ule has been tick­ing since Feb­ru­ary 27th. To qual­i­fy a new ref­er­en­dum, Eyman would need to gath­er about 164,264 sig­na­tures in the span of about a month, or approx­i­mate­ly 32,853 sig­na­tures per week.

The only way he could man­age that is with paid petitioners.

With Ref­er­en­dum 80 kaput, it appears we can add a new entry to Tim Eyman’s Fail­ure Chart. R‑80 is the eleventh Eyman mea­sure that went to the sig­na­ture gath­er­ing stage, but implod­ed before it could qual­i­fy for the ballot.

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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