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.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

NPI to Legislature: Let’s make voting in WA easier by abolishing Eyman’s “advisory votes”

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing is the writ­ten ver­sion of the tes­ti­mo­ny pre­pared by NPI’s founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor in sup­port of NPI’s 2023 bill to repeal Tim Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes.” To watch Andrew deliv­er the ver­bal ver­sion, check out this TVW record­ing of the hear­ing on Sen­ate Bill 5082

Good after­noon, Chair Hunt and Mem­bers of the Committee!

For the record, my name is Andrew Vil­leneuve. I’m the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, a 501(c)(4) non­prof­it work­ing to raise every­one’s qual­i­ty of life through insight­ful research and imag­i­na­tive advo­ca­cy. NPI is cel­e­brat­ing its twen­ti­eth anniver­sary this year and is based in Redmond.

On behalf of our team at NPI, includ­ing our board and staff, I thank you for hear­ing this bill today, and I thank Sen­a­tor Kud­er­er for prime spon­sor­ing it.

I also thank Sec­re­tary of State Steve Hobbs for his support.

The over­ar­ch­ing objec­tive of this bill is to make it eas­i­er to vote in Wash­ing­ton by elim­i­nat­ing “advi­so­ry votes” from our bal­lots. Con­trary to their name, “advi­so­ry votes” are not advi­so­ry. They are a form of dis­in­for­ma­tion invent­ed by Tim Eyman to pol­lute our bal­lots with anti-tax mes­sages that tax­pay­ers have to pay for.

Today, I’m delight­ed to have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sum­ma­rize the prin­ci­ples on which our bill has been writ­ten and explain why it’s crit­i­cal to the cause of vot­ing jus­tice to pass this leg­is­la­tion and repeal “advi­so­ry votes.”

There are four key prin­ci­ples under­pin­ning Sen­ate Bill 5082 and House Bill 1158:

Prin­ci­ple #1: The bal­lot is sacred and should be free of propaganda 

From our pol­i­cy brief:

“Advi­so­ry votes” are not bal­lot mea­sures. They are anti-tax mes­sages dressed up to look like bal­lot mea­sures. They can­not be used to mea­sure any­thing because they vio­late every sin­gle guide­line for ask­ing unbi­ased questions.

Ridicu­lous­ly, due to Tim Eyman’s for­mu­la­tion of the trig­ger that sets up “advi­so­ry votes”, bills that are not even tax increas­es but nev­er­the­less have the effect of increas­ing state rev­enue, like the Reusable Bag Bill or the rescis­sion of the Boe­ing tax breaks, are being pre­sent­ed to vot­ers as tax increas­es when they are not.

Prin­ci­ple #2: Dis­in­for­ma­tion cre­ates a bar­ri­er to vot­ing, sup­press­ing turnout

From our pol­i­cy brief:

At elec­tion time, we want every­body to vote a com­plete bal­lot and par­tic­i­pate ful­ly. Tim Eyman’s mali­cious­ly word­ed “advi­so­ry votes” are a bar­ri­er to secur­ing more robust par­tic­i­pa­tion because they con­fuse and mis­lead the elec­torate, negat­ing enthu­si­asm for vot­ing and acti­vat­ing an unhealthy, cyn­i­cal state of mind.

Research has shown that schemes like “advi­so­ry votes” inter­rupt the act of cast­ing a bal­lot. “Advi­so­ry votes” are not, to use a med­ical metaphor, benign. They are malignant.

Prin­ci­ple #3: Every­thing on the bal­lot should have mean­ing… can­di­date elections/ballot mea­sures and opin­ion polling don’t mix!

From our pol­i­cy brief:

Word­ing changes will not make “advi­so­ry votes” wor­thy of a place on our bal­lots. The bal­lot is sim­ply not an appro­pri­ate place to con­duct pub­lic opin­ion research of any kind. The only items on our bal­lots should be can­di­date elec­tions and bind­ing bal­lot mea­sures (ini­tia­tives, ref­er­en­da, and con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ments, with the local equiv­a­lent being propo­si­tions and char­ter amendments).

Every deci­sion we make when we fill in an oval on our bal­lots should influ­ence pub­lic pol­i­cy or our representation.

Prin­ci­ple #4: We need real tools for mak­ing the Legislature’s work more transparent

From our pol­i­cy brief:

In addi­tion to repeal­ing “advi­so­ry votes”, our bill would make use­ful infor­ma­tion about the fis­cal deci­sions leg­is­la­tors have made avail­able online so that vot­ers can under­stand what bud­get­ing deci­sions are being made on their behalf. Each mea­sure that increas­es or decreas­es state rev­enue would receive a short fis­cal impact state­ment no longer than a let­ter to the edi­tor. Infor­ma­tion sum­ma­riz­ing the state’s finances and pro­vid­ing con­text from past fis­cal years would also be pro­vid­ed in graph­i­cal and tab­u­lar format.

NPI is a rec­og­nized leader in the field of pub­lic opin­ion research, with a decade of expe­ri­ence design­ing and exe­cut­ing sur­veys. Our polling is cred­i­ble and accu­rate because we rig­or­ous­ly fol­low the sci­en­tif­ic method. We often explain the impor­tance of neu­tral­i­ty in ques­tion word­ing to peo­ple who are inter­est­ed in know­ing how to gauge the cred­i­bil­i­ty of polling. Neu­tral word­ing is essen­tial: you can’t find out what peo­ple think if you tell them what to think first.

Because Eyman designed “advi­so­ry votes” to be prej­u­di­cial­ly word­ed, they can’t be used as a means of mea­sur­ing how vot­ers feel about the Leg­is­la­ture’s fis­cal deci­sions. “Advi­so­ry votes” are akin to the nefar­i­ous push polls that crop up at elec­tion time from oper­a­tives try­ing to bring down a can­di­date that they oppose.

There has nev­er been an advi­so­ry vote on “advi­so­ry votes” them­selves, but we know from our research that Wash­ing­to­ni­ans favor get­ting rid of them.

We’ve asked repeat­ed­ly in our statewide and local polls if vot­ers want “advi­so­ry votes” repealed, and they have con­sis­tent­ly said yes.

Here’s an exam­ple of a ques­tion that we have asked in our statewide polls:

ASKED STATEWIDE IN OCTOBER OF 2020 BEFORE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

QUESTION: The Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion that would abol­ish the non-bind­ing statewide advi­so­ry votes that are trig­gered when­ev­er a bill is passed that increas­es state rev­enue. Pro­po­nents of advi­so­ry votes say they allow vot­ers to vote on tax increas­es and trans­form the voter’s pam­phlet into a tax increase report card, enabling vot­ers to find out what Olympia is doing to them. Oppo­nents say that advi­so­ry votes are actu­al­ly cost­ly push polls designed to con­fuse the pub­lic, which ought to be elim­i­nat­ed to save valu­able tax dol­lars and pre­vent legit­i­mate mea­sures and can­di­date elec­tions from being pushed to the back of the bal­lot. Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose abol­ish­ing non-bind­ing advi­so­ry votes?

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port repeal (abol­ish): 42% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 22%
    • Some­what sup­port: 20%
  • Oppose repeal (keep): 22% 
    • Some­what oppose: 10%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 12%
  • Not sure: 35%

Our sur­vey of six hun­dred and ten like­ly 2020 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Wednes­day, Octo­ber 14th through Thurs­day, Octo­ber 15th, 2020.

It uti­lized a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respondents.

The poll was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 4.0% at the 95% con­fi­dence level.

And here’s an exam­ple of a ques­tion we asked in one of our local polls. This ques­tion was seen by vot­ers in King Coun­ty. The for­mat of this poll allowed us to offer a visu­al to go with the ques­tion, and we pro­vid­ed an image of what “advi­so­ry votes” look like, with­out any annotations:

ASKED COUNTYWIDE IN OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2022 BEFORE MIDTERM ELECTION

Tim Eyman's 2022 push polls

QUESTION: Each year since 2012, vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton State have been asked to respond to items on the bal­lot labeled “advi­so­ry votes” which con­cern rev­enue-relat­ed laws already passed by the Legislature.

Activist Tim Eyman, who wrote the 2007 ini­tia­tive that cre­at­ed “advi­so­ry votes,” says that they put tax increas­es on the bal­lot for the vot­ers to learn about and vote on, and are worth the cost because leg­is­la­tors have sab­o­taged the people’s right to ref­er­en­dum through the overuse of the emer­gency clause, bond­ing of tax rev­enue, and oth­er tac­tics. Eyman strong­ly favors con­tin­u­ing “advi­so­ry votes” and has filed law­suits request­ing that the courts order state offi­cials to put more of them on the ballot. 

Vot­ing jus­tice advo­cates say that “advi­so­ry votes” are a bar­ri­er to vot­ing because they are poor­ly and prej­u­di­cial­ly word­ed, lead­ing to con­fu­sion and neg­a­tive­ly impact­ing vot­er par­tic­i­pa­tion. They’re cham­pi­oning leg­is­la­tion that would elim­i­nate “advi­so­ry votes” and replace them with detailed, unbi­ased infor­ma­tion about the Legislature’s fis­cal deci­sions to the voter’s pam­phlet. These advo­cates say this would pre­vent “advi­so­ry votes” from clut­ter­ing up future bal­lots and save tax­pay­ers mil­lions of dol­lars on bal­lot design, print­ing, and tab­u­la­tion each year.

Do you sup­port or oppose replac­ing “advi­so­ry votes” with detailed, unbi­ased infor­ma­tion about the Legislature’s fis­cal deci­sions in the voter’s pamphlet? 

ANSWERS:

  • Sup­port replac­ing “advi­so­ry votes”: 59% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 39%
    • Some­what sup­port: 20%
  • Oppose replac­ing “advi­so­ry votes”: 25% 
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 14%
  • Not sure: 16%

Our sur­vey of 740 like­ly 2022 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers was in the field from Fri­day, Octo­ber 28th until Thurs­day, Novem­ber 3rd, 2022.

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research and has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.0%.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the survey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll.

Impor­tant­ly, Sen­ate Bill 5082 (and its House com­pan­ion, House Bill 1158) do not just repeal “advi­so­ry votes.” Our leg­is­la­tion also replaces them with truth­ful, accu­rate infor­ma­tion pre­pared by the Office of Finan­cial Management.

Part III of the bill requires fis­cal impact state­ments to be pre­pared for any bills that change state rev­enue after a ses­sion ends and requires those state­ments to be made avail­able from the front page of leg.wa.gov for easy access.

The state­ments are required to employ neu­tral language.

The print­ed voter’s pam­phlet pub­lished for state gen­er­al elec­tions would also con­tain instruc­tions on how to access the fis­cal impact statements.

In Wash­ing­ton, we believe that vot­ing should be as easy as pos­si­ble. We’ve enact­ed laws pro­vid­ing for same-day vot­er reg­is­tra­tion, pre­paid postage on bal­lot return envelopes, and more drop box­es, for exam­ple. But bar­ri­ers to vot­ing still remain, and “advi­so­ry votes” are one of the most glaring.

By pass­ing this leg­is­la­tion, we can elim­i­nate a bar­ri­er to vot­ing and pro­vide truth­ful, use­ful infor­ma­tion about the Legislature’s fis­cal deci­sions to vot­ers through the Office of Finan­cial Man­age­ment and leg­isla­tive websites.

We ask that you give SB 5082 a “do pass” recommendation.

Thank you for your ser­vice to the peo­ple of the State of Washington.

Adjacent posts

  • Enjoyed what you just read? Make a donation


    Thank you for read­ing The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s jour­nal of world, nation­al, and local politics.

    Found­ed in March of 2004, The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate has been help­ing peo­ple through­out the Pacif­ic North­west and beyond make sense of cur­rent events with rig­or­ous analy­sis and thought-pro­vok­ing com­men­tary for more than fif­teen years. The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate is fund­ed by read­ers like you and trust­ed spon­sors. We don’t run ads or pub­lish con­tent in exchange for money.

    Help us keep The Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate edi­to­ri­al­ly inde­pen­dent and freely avail­able to all by becom­ing a mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute today. Or make a dona­tion to sus­tain our essen­tial research and advo­ca­cy journalism.

    Your con­tri­bu­tion will allow us to con­tin­ue bring­ing you fea­tures like Last Week In Con­gress, live cov­er­age of events like Net­roots Nation or the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and reviews of books and doc­u­men­tary films.

    Become an NPI mem­ber Make a one-time donation

One Ping

  1. […] NPI extends its most pro­found thanks to the State Gov­ern­ment & Elec­tions Com­mit­tee for quick­ly advanc­ing SB 5082 for­ward for fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion in the Sen­ate. This is leg­is­la­tion that will ben­e­fit all Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, knock­ing down a prob…. […]

Submit a Comment

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our Commenting Guidelines. If you submit any links to other websites in your comment or in the Website field, these will be published at our discretion. Please read our statement of Privacy Practices before commenting to understand how we collect and use submissions to the Cascadia Advocate. Your comment must be submitted with a name and email address as noted below. We will not publish or share your email address. *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  • NPI’s essential research and advocacy is sponsored by: