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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.

Friday, August 19th, 2022

Tim Eyman’s lawsuit to force more anti-tax propaganda onto 2022 ballots gets quashed

A pro se law­suit recent­ly filed by right wing provo­ca­teur Tim Eyman that sought to load up Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ 2022 bal­lots with addi­tion­al anti-tax pro­pa­gan­da has end­ed in fail­ure after the State Supreme Court issued a spe­cial order deem­ing Eyman’s legal chal­lenge untime­ly, thus putting the kibosh on his scheme.

Eyman filed the law­suit after Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office deter­mined that only two bills passed in the 2022 leg­isla­tive ses­sion would be sub­ject­ed to Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes,” which are anti-tax bal­lot pro­pa­gan­da, this year.

Statewide “advi­so­ry votes,” for read­ers who are unaware, are a form of fake bal­lot mea­sure con­coct­ed by Eyman years ago which non­sen­si­cal­ly ask whether already-passed bills increas­ing state rev­enue should be “main­tained” or “repealed.” Though they are meant to look like ref­er­en­da, they are actu­al­ly a form of pro­pa­gan­da dressed up in the form of a bal­lot mea­sure. Eyman’s goal with them is to under­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in gov­ern­ment and whip up anti-tax sentiment.

This sum­mer, Eyman want­ed addi­tion­al leg­is­la­tion (specif­i­cal­ly, a bill updat­ing the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act) to be sub­ject­ed to his anti-tax pro­pa­gan­da this year, so he filed a law­suit to make that hap­pen. Iron­i­cal­ly, the case was assigned to the same Supe­ri­or Court judge, James Dixon, who found against Eyman in the land­mark cam­paign finance enforce­ment case filed by Ferguson.

After Dixon grant­ed Eyman a pre­lim­i­nary win in the form of a tem­po­rary restrain­ing order, Fer­gu­son and Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs filed an emer­gency appeal with the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court. The Court respond­ed with a short order which instruct­ed Dixon to dis­miss Eyman’s case.

The Court not­ed that the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act orig­i­nal­ly passed in 2021 and that Eyman did not chal­lenge the AGO’s con­clu­sion that it did not need to be sub­ject­ed to Eyman’s anti-tax pro­pa­gan­da last year.

Supreme Court order in Eyman v. Fer­gu­son, No. 101153–9

Respon­dent in 2021 did not chal­lenge the attor­ney general’s fail­ure to refer E2SSB 5126 for place­ment on the 2021 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot for an advi­so­ry vote, and respondent’s action first seek­ing a declara­to­ry judg­ment requir­ing place­ment of the mea­sure on the 2022 gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot is untime­ly. Though the mea­sure was amend­ed in 2022, those amend­ments do not affect the pro­vi­sions respon­dent con­tends con­sti­tute a tax in order to pro­vide a basis for now sub­mit­ting the mea­sure to an advi­so­ry vote,” the order reasoned.

Dixon, observ­ing that his hands were tied, did as instruct­ed while Eyman wailed.

“It is absolute­ly mad­den­ing that the Attor­ney Gen­er­al and the supreme court con­spired to block the peo­ple from learn­ing about and vot­ing on the Democ­rats’ $3.9 bil­lion Cap & Trade bill,” Eyman groused in a mis­sive to his email list.

That’s non­sense, of course. If Eyman had won his law­suit, the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton would­n’t have been vot­ing on the Cli­mate Com­mit­ment Act. Rather, they would have been shown some anti-tax pro­pa­gan­da writ­ten by Eyman.

Yes, writ­ten by Eyman. You see, unlike with real bal­lot mea­sures, which have bal­lot titles draft­ed by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office, the for­mat of “advi­so­ry votes” and their word­ing is dic­tat­ed by an old ini­tia­tive that Tim Eyman sponsored.

Thus, the item Eyman want­ed would have read some­thing like this:

The leg­is­la­ture imposed, with­out a vote of the peo­ple, a new tax on pol­lu­tion cost­ing ____ in its first ten years, for gov­ern­ment spending.

This tax increase should be

[ ] Repealed
[ ] Maintained

Regard­less of whether peo­ple vote Repealed or Main­tained on these things, noth­ing hap­pens… because “advi­so­ry votes” are fake bal­lot mea­sures.

A real bal­lot mea­sure changes the law, as a vot­er would right­ly expect.

If an ini­tia­tive pass­es, a new law is cre­at­ed. If a ref­er­en­dum is suc­cess­ful, a pre­vi­ous­ly approved law is repealed. If a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment gets more yea votes than nays, our plan of gov­ern­ment gets changed.

But with “advi­so­ry votes,” 95% of vot­ers vot­ing could check the oval for “Repealed,” as goad­ed by Eyman’s inflam­ma­to­ry, prej­u­di­cial ques­tions, and absolute­ly noth­ing would hap­pen. The law would not change.

Eyman’s gripes about the process that result­ed in this out­come are also hilarious.

The Sec­re­tary of State and Attor­ney Gen­er­al have every right to appeal a tri­al court deci­sion they think is wrong, even if it’s not a “final” decision.

There is no con­spir­a­cy here and no one is depriv­ing Wash­ing­to­ni­ans of their cher­ished right to vote, or their right to know. It is essen­tial to under­stand that “advi­so­ry votes” are not bal­lot mea­sures. They are instead pieces of pro­pa­gan­da being print­ed at tax­pay­er expense to advance an anti-tax agenda.

The demise of Eyman’s law­suit sim­ply means that there will be few­er of them on this year’s bal­lot. That is a good out­come for vot­ers and for democracy.

NPI has worked for years to get rid of “advi­so­ry votes,” and that effort will con­tin­ue in the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion. A grow­ing num­ber of law­mak­ers, led by Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er and Sen­a­tor Sam Hunt, rec­og­nize that “advi­so­ry votes” are mali­cious and harm­ful and need to be repealed. We’ll keep work­ing with them and the Sen­si­ble Bal­lots coali­tion to replace “advi­so­ry votes” with truth­ful, use­ful infor­ma­tion about the Leg­is­la­ture’s fis­cal deci­sions in the voter’s pamphlet.

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