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years ago which nonsensically ask whether already-passed bills increasing state revenue should be “maintained” or “repealed.”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.