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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, April 12th, 2019

Tim Eyman botches effort to overturn legislator pay increases; blames Kim Wyman

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 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Referendum 80: No longer valid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.

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