The deadline to turn in ballots has passed in Washington state, which means results have started to become available. Initiative 976, Tim Eyman’s attempt to eliminate billions of dollars in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation funding, is ahead in early returns, with just four of thirty-nine counties in the no column.
The initial returns, taken together from all of the counties that have released tabulations thus far, resemble the initial results for Initiative 1366 four years ago. That was the last Tim Eyman measure that appeared on Washington’s ballot.
Keep Washington Rolling, the coalition that fought I‑976, is so far mustering a 58% no vote in Jefferson County, a 55% no vote in King County, a 52% no vote in Whatcom County, and a % no vote in San Juan County.
But to win, the coalition would need to perform better in the big swing counties, like Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, Kitsap, Whatcom, and Clark counties.
Right now, it’s losing all of them.
The yes vote in Snohomish County is currently 61%. In Pierce County, it’s 67%. In Spokane County, it’s 56%. Kitsap County is closer, with the yes vote there only 53%. In Thurston County, the vote on Initiative 976 is a virtual tie.
That all adds up to a lead of over one hundred thousand votes for Eyman.
That advantage will likely shrink in the days to come.
Late ballots often trend more progressive.
With early election turnout rather low this year and skewing conservative, there’s reason to believe the margins will narrow.
Many undecided voters voted late in this election and dropped off their ballots late Tuesday. We don’t know how those votes are going to break.
If those votes don’t break our way, or if they do but it’s not enough to change the result, there will almost certainly be a legal challenge.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson (whose office produced the I‑976 ballot title) will have to defend Initiative 976 in court while simultaneously prosecuting Eyman for breaking campaign finance laws. The plaintiffs will likely request an injunction to prohibit the initiative from taking effect while the challenge is considered.
The lawsuit will contend that I‑976 violates the Washington State Constitution.
To date, seven Eyman initiatives have been struck down in the by the Washington State Supreme Court — you can see our accounting of failed Eyman initiatives through NPI’s Permanent Defense’s handy Failure Chart.
Although I‑976 is ahead, there are other transportation-related measures on the ballot at the local level that are faring much better.
Duvall, in the Snoqualmie Valley, and Gig Harbor, on the Kitsap Peninsula, are both smaller towns on the edges of the Seattle metro area that are giving enthusiastic support to proposed tax increases to fund transportation improvements.
While each city’s demographics are changing, both jurisdictions are considerably more conservative than the Puget Sound region as a whole.
Both municipalities proposed transportation-related 0.2% increases to their municipal sales tax, taking advantage of their authority to form transportation benefit districts to raise revenue for road improvements.
Both levies are easily passing. Gig Harbor’s levy currently leads with 57% of the vote, while Duvall’s levy is favored by a whopping 68% of voters voting.
As ballots continue to be counted in the coming weeks, a reminder that you can keep track of results both state-wide and local as they come in via NPI’s elections engine on Pacific NW Portal. We’ll also publish additional analysis of key races at both the state and local levels here on the Cascadia Advocate.
Should I‑976 end up passing, the effort to defeat it will continue in the courts. Washington cannot afford for I‑976 to be implemented. The measure would increase traffic, eliminate good paying jobs, worsen pollution, lessen access to affordable housing, and make our tax code more inequitable.
On November 17th, NPI will host a panel discussion with legislative leaders centered on continuing the fight against I‑976 at our inaugural Postelection Brunch. Anyone who supports NPI’s work is welcome to join us.