NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

Tim Eyman’s push polls are a rare glaring case of “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government

Yes­ter­day, the Sen­ate State Gov­ern­ment, Trib­al Rela­tions, & Elec­tions Com­mit­tee gave a thumbs up to Sen­ate Bill 6610, which would repeal the push polls that have need­less­ly clut­tered up our bal­lots for the past eight years.

This is great news for Washingtonians.

Sad­ly, none of the Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee were will­ing to give the bill a “do pass” rec­om­men­da­tion, even though it would save the tax­pay­ers money.

Repub­li­can State Sen­a­tor Hans Zeiger was sup­port­ive last year, but Tim Eyman’s cam­paign of harass­ment evi­dent­ly had an effect, as Zeiger opt­ed to refer this year’s bill to Sen­ate Rules “with­out recommendation”.

New Repub­li­can State Sen­a­tor Ron Muz­za­ll of Island Coun­ty gave the bill a thumbs down. State Sen­a­tor Brad Hawkins did not sign the boards at all.

It was up to the Democ­rats — Sam Hunt, Pat­ty Kud­er­er, Bob Hasegawa, and Dean Takko — to move Sen­ate Bill 6610 for­ward. And they did.

As we should all rec­og­nize, elec­tions are a pub­lic ser­vice, and no pub­lic ser­vice is free. All pub­lic ser­vices have a cost. All pub­lic ser­vices are sup­port­ed by our tax dol­lars. Until recent­ly, the Leg­is­la­ture has­n’t had much of a dis­cus­sion about what elec­tions cost, or how they are paid for. Thanks in part to the lead­er­ship of Sam Hunt, Pat­ty Kud­er­er, and Mia Gregerson, that has begun to change.

And we’re grateful.

With this bill, we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to save the tax­pay­ers a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey. Elim­i­nat­ing what are real­ly pro­pa­gan­da pieces from our bal­lot will save mil­lions of tax dol­lars at the state and local lev­els every biennium.

How do we know?

Because the Sec­re­tary of State and coun­ty elec­tions offi­cials have been turn­ing over data about the costs of recent elec­tions to the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute. From this data, we know that the 2017 elec­tion col­lec­tive­ly cost the coun­ties a total of $14.1 mil­lion, of which the state’s share was $2.7 million.

Most of the state’s share in 2017 was for the advi­so­ry votes push polls, because only four dis­tricts held spe­cial elec­tions for leg­isla­tive posi­tions and only one coun­ty held a spe­cial elec­tion for a state-lev­el judi­cial position.

If this leg­is­la­tion had been in place pri­or to the 2017 elec­tion, the state could have saved most of that $2.7 mil­lion dol­lars, as most coun­ties had no state-lev­el items on the bal­lot at all. These costs are in addi­tion to the cost of print­ing the voter’s pam­phlet state­ment. In the past, when the costs of the “advi­so­ry votes” were brought up, the only fig­ures that were pro­vid­ed per­tained to the costs asso­ci­at­ed with print­ing and mail­ing the pamphlet.

Sample King County ballot for 2019 with highlighting

The front page of the 2019 King Coun­ty bal­lot, with Tim Eyman’s push polls high­light­ed in yel­low (Graph­ic by NPI)

But of course, the main costs asso­ci­at­ed with an elec­tion have to do with the bal­lots them­selves.

They must be designed, pre­pared, print­ed, mailed, tab­u­lat­ed on their return, and stored secure­ly there­after. These costs are far greater than those asso­ci­at­ed with the voter’s pam­phlet statements.

For those unaware, in Wash­ing­ton State, the costs of elec­tions in even num­bered years are cur­rent­ly borne exclu­sive­ly by the coun­ties, while the costs of elec­tions in odd num­bered years are shared.

The coun­ties bill the state for its share under an arrange­ment orig­i­nal­ly agreed to in the 1970s. This means that after an odd year elec­tion, the coun­ties send the state a bill, while after an even year elec­tion, they don’t. There is a sep­a­rate bill under con­sid­er­a­tion to extend this cost shar­ing arrange­ment to even years.

For now, what we have is the data from the odd years.

The 2019 data is still rolling in, so we do not have a com­plete pic­ture of the costs yet. But some coun­ties have fin­ished and sub­mit­ted their invoice vouch­ers. For exam­ple, Pierce Coun­ty fin­ished theirs a cou­ple weeks ago.

The state’s share of the elec­tion costs in Pierce comes to $273,462, with the total cost for the 2019 elec­tion in Pierce Coun­ty com­ing to $1.2 mil­lion. In Thurston Coun­ty, the state’s share came to $286,071.45. In What­com Coun­ty, the state’s share came to $67,620.37, and in Wal­la Wal­la Coun­ty it was $26,284.35.

As you know, this past year, we had an unprece­dent­ed twelve push polls on the bal­lot. They rep­re­sent­ed eighty per­cent of the fif­teen bal­lot mea­sures. Only twen­ty per­cent of last year’s mea­sures were real bal­lot measures.

Fake or real, all bal­lot mea­sures cost mon­ey to consider.

In odd years, the costs of the push polls are borne at the state level.

In even years, the costs are borne by coun­ty taxpayers.

It makes absolute­ly no sense that pub­lic tax dol­lars are being spent to put push polls in front of vot­ers. Peo­ple who want to engage in elec­tion­eer­ing for or against a per­son or a posi­tion can do so on their own dime.

We implore the Sen­ate to pass wor­thy leg­is­la­tion and end a glar­ing case of what our Repub­li­can friends would call “waste, fraud, and abuse” in government.

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