Yes on I-1922: End the War on Drugs Campaign Logo
Yes on I-1922: End the War on Drugs Campaign Logo

An ambi­tious statewide ini­tia­tive that sought to decrim­i­nal­ize drug pos­ses­sion in Wash­ing­ton State and replace fail­ing drug laws with a pub­lic health approach won’t be on the Novem­ber 2022 bal­lot, orga­niz­ers announced this week.

Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton, which is backed by a coali­tion led and finan­cial­ly sup­port­ed by the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU), said in an email on Mon­day and in a sub­se­quent arti­cle repub­lished yes­ter­day that they have made “the dif­fi­cult deci­sion to cease sig­na­ture gath­er­ing efforts this weekend.” 

We will not be mov­ing for­ward to qual­i­fy Wash­ing­ton State Ini­tia­tive Mea­sure No. 1922 to the Novem­ber 8th gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot,” the cam­paign said. “Sig­na­ture gath­er­ing proved more chal­leng­ing and pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive than projected.” 

I‑1922 faced a dead­line of 5 PM on July 8th to turn in about 405,000 sig­na­tures. The min­i­mum num­ber of valid sig­na­tures is 324,516 and a cush­ion of about 25% is rec­om­mend­ed to off­set dupli­cate and invalid sig­na­tures. Mea­sures sub­mit­ted with a sig­na­ture cush­ion are usu­al­ly val­i­dat­ed with a ran­dom sam­ple check by tem­po­rary elec­tions staff hired by the Office of the Sec­re­tary of State.

Accord­ing to reports filed with the PDC, the effort to qual­i­fy I‑1922 had raised $3,509,246.62, with $2,685,185.56 spent and out­stand­ing debt of $669,413.21.

Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton’s announce­ment did not say how many sig­na­tures had been gath­ered since its dri­ve began ear­li­er this year.

I‑1922 is the sec­ond ini­tia­tive effort to founder before this year’s sig­na­ture dead­line. A few weeks ago, an effort to repeal the state’s cap­i­tal gains tax col­lapsed, though unlike I‑1922, that cam­paign did­n’t gath­er a sin­gle signature.

“This is espe­cial­ly hard news for us, because we were going to win,” Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton’s email to sup­port­ers declared.

“A recent poll by Data for Progress found that Wash­ing­ton vot­ers sup­port­ed I‑1922 by a very wide mar­gin – upon read­ing the bal­lot lan­guage, 67% said they’d vote for the mea­sure and only 22% against it, with 11% undecided.”

That poll, con­duct­ed from June 3rd to 9th, was released by Data For Progress on the same day that Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton announced the demise of I‑1922. The sam­ple con­sist­ed of 462 respon­dents, all of whom par­tic­i­pat­ed online. The respon­dents were asked the fol­low­ing question:

Some groups in Wash­ing­ton are propos­ing a bal­lot mea­sure that reads as follows:

This mea­sure con­cerns drug use, treat­ment and penal­ties, and relat­ed fund­ing. This mea­sure would fund sub­stance use dis­or­der pre­ven­tion, out­reach, recov­ery, train­ing, study and pub­lic edu­ca­tion; decrim­i­nal­ize drug pos­ses­sion but allow seizure and for­fei­ture; autho­rize vaca­tion of cer­tain drug-relat­ed con­vic­tions; and amend relat­ed laws.

If the elec­tion were held today, would you vote for this mea­sure or against this measure?

The 67% sup­port Data For Progress found is far high­er than what Fair­bank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Asso­ciates (FM3) found when the firm test­ed the I‑1922 bal­lot title in March of 2022. In FM3’s poll, 53% indi­cat­ed sup­port (26% def­i­nite­ly, 20% some­what, 6% unde­cid­ed but lean yes), while 39% indi­cat­ed oppo­si­tion (26% def­i­nite­ly, 11% prob­a­bly, 2% unde­cid­ed but lean no.)

You can see the find­ing here in this slide deck pro­vid­ed by the cam­paign.

Our team at NPI also recent­ly test­ed the I‑1922 bal­lot title (NPI’s board took a posi­tion sup­port­ing I‑1922 last month), and the results we got were pret­ty sim­i­lar to the results that FM3 got. We found 52% total sup­port and 33% total oppo­si­tion. That indi­cates that the actu­al lev­el of sup­port is about what FM3 orig­i­nal­ly found, rather than the much high­er 67% found by Data For Progress.

Here’s the exact text of the ques­tion we asked, and the respons­es we received:

QUESTION: This Novem­ber, there may be an ini­tia­tive on the statewide bal­lot con­cern­ing drug use treat­ment and penal­ties and relat­ed fund­ing. The offi­cial descrip­tion is as fol­lows: This mea­sure would fund sub­stance use dis­or­der pre­ven­tion, out­reach, recov­ery, train­ing, study, and pub­lic edu­ca­tion; decrim­i­nal­ize drug pos­ses­sion but allow seizure and for­fei­ture; autho­rize vaca­tion of cer­tain drug-relat­ed con­vic­tions; and amend relat­ed laws. If the elec­tion were being held today, would you def­i­nite­ly vote yes in favor, prob­a­bly vote yes in favor, prob­a­bly vote no against, or def­i­nite­ly vote no against this initiative?


  • Yes: 52%
    • Would def­i­nite­ly vote yes: 29%
    • Would prob­a­bly vote yes: 23%
  • No: 33%
    • Would prob­a­bly vote no: 13%
    • Would def­i­nite­ly vote no: 20%
  • Not sure: 14%

Our sur­vey of 1,039 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, June 1st through Thurs­day, June 2nd, 2022.

It uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

More infor­ma­tion about the survey’s method­ol­o­gy is avail­able here.

Since I‑1922 won’t appear on the bal­lot, we will nev­er know how it would have fared with vot­ers had it qual­i­fied. Although the bal­lot title did not per­form as well in our test­ing this month and in FM3’s ear­li­er research as it did in Data For Progress’ poll, all three sur­veys did find major­i­ty sup­port for the measure.

That is strong evi­dence that most Wash­ing­to­ni­ans do favor a shift from “crim­i­nal­iz­ing peo­ple who use drugs and focus instead on pub­lic health strate­gies we know are more effec­tive at address­ing the root caus­es of sub­stance use dis­or­der,” as Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton’s cam­paign update put it.

The coali­tion now plans to refo­cus its efforts on the leg­isla­tive process.

“We know our work must con­tin­ue; Wash­ing­ton State’s cur­rent drug pos­ses­sion penal­ties are set to expire July 1st, 2023, and we expect the leg­is­la­ture to take up the mat­ter in the 2023 ses­sion that begins Jan­u­ary 9th,” the cam­paign said.

We thank Com­mit to Change Wash­ing­ton for their work on I‑1922 and will be sup­port­ing the efforts to pre­pare for next year’s leg­isla­tive session.

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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