Preview of The Eymallot
Preview of The Eymallot

Last Fri­day, Wash­ing­ton’s House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives took up the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute’s leg­is­la­tion to clean up our bal­lots and remove a bar­ri­er to vot­ing in the Ever­green State by abol­ish­ing what for­mer ini­tia­tive pro­mot­er Tim Eyman calls “advi­so­ry votes,” but which are real­ly push polls or anti-tax messages.

The pas­sage of Sen­ate Bill 5082 is an impor­tant vic­to­ry for vot­ing jus­tice that’s sup­port­ed by thou­sands of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans, edi­to­r­i­al boards from every cor­ner of the state, and dozens of orga­ni­za­tions that work with voters.

In the imme­di­ate after­math of SB 5082’s approval in the House, Tim Eyman had noth­ing to say — at least not pub­licly. Eyman did not react to the vote on his Face­book page or his mail­ing list or his web­site until Mon­day morn­ing when he shared a meme (specif­i­cal­ly, the Darth Sid­i­ous Unlim­it­ed Pow­er meme) and accused Democ­rats of want­i­ng “unlim­it­ed pow­er,” in line with the meme.

The pas­sage of SB 5082 does­n’t, how­ev­er, give Democ­rats new pow­ers or change Wash­ing­ton’s plan of gov­ern­ment in any way. What it does do is replace the tax­pay­er-fund­ed right wing mes­sag­ing that had been appear­ing on Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ bal­lots for years with truth­ful, use­ful fis­cal infor­ma­tion that is always avail­able online and ref­er­enced in the print­ed voter’s pamphlet.

Yes­ter­day, Eyman respond­ed at greater length.

In a reveal­ing rant, he not only crit­i­cized Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors for pass­ing Sen­ate Bill 5082, but offered what he called a “belat­ed defense” of his push polls, in a tac­it acknowl­edg­ment by Eyman that peo­ple increas­ing­ly see them for what they real­ly are: pieces of pro­pa­gan­da that sim­ply do not belong on any­one’s ballot.

Wrote Eyman:

Final­ly, let me offer a belat­ed defense of the word­ing of the short descrip­tion for a Tax Advi­so­ry Vote — it is 100% accurate:

The leg­is­la­ture imposed, with­out a vote of the people, …”

Absolute­ly cor­rect. That’s exact­ly what hap­pened that caused a Tax Advi­so­ry Vote.

” … [iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tax and descrip­tion of increase] …”

This por­tion is writ­ten by the Attor­ney General.

” … cost­ing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection)] …”

The cost of the tax increase is deter­mined by the Governor’s bud­get office.

… for gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

Once the mon­ey starts flow­ing in from a tax increase, the Leg­is­la­ture is with­in its pow­er (and 99% of the time does) divert the mon­ey to what­ev­er pet project or pro­grams they want.

Famously/infamously, the vot­ers passed a tobac­co tax increase to fund cer­tain gov­ern­ment pro­grams. But with­in a cou­ple of months, the Leg­is­la­ture declared “an emer­gency” and they and Demo­c­rat Gov­er­nor Gary Locke divert­ed that mon­ey toward oth­er things.

So the word­ing in a Tax Advi­so­ry Vote (” … for gov­ern­ment spend­ing.”) is the only thing the vot­er knows for sure will hap­pen to the mon­ey from a tax increase.

This isn’t “loaded” lan­guage — its word­ing reflects exact­ly how tax increas­es and Olympia works.

To our team’s knowl­edge, this is the first time that Tim Eyman has devot­ed this many words to a defense of the word­ing of his push polls, at least in one of his email mis­sives. It fig­ures that he would claim the word­ing is “100% accu­rate,” but it’s inter­est­ing that he felt the need to elab­o­rate and com­ment on each part of the for­mu­la that he cre­at­ed many years ago for these push polls at this juncture.

We pub­lished our first break­down of the word­ing of Eyman’s push polls a decade ago. Today, I’m once again going to offer a detailed cri­tique of Eyman’s push polls as well as an expla­na­tion of how legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research is con­duct­ed. I’ll show you why Eyman’s push polls are defec­tive by design and thus inca­pable of serv­ing as mech­a­nisms for feed­back in which peo­ple can express an opinion.

Let’s start with a dis­cus­sion of how pub­lic opin­ion research dif­fers from elec­tions, and define a few terms that will appear repeat­ed­ly lat­er in my analysis.

Elections & public opinion research: Two complementary, different aspects of a functioning democracy

An elec­tion is an event in which the peo­ple make deci­sions about who should rep­re­sent them or what laws their soci­ety should have (or both). The bal­lot is the mech­a­nism by which the qual­i­fied elec­tors of the soci­ety record their votes. It is the way in which a vot­er par­tic­i­pates in the elec­tion, in oth­er words.

Our team at NPI con­sid­ers the bal­lot a sacred space. Our research strong­ly sug­gests Wash­ing­to­ni­ans of all dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal ori­en­ta­tions share this view.

Research by polit­i­cal sci­en­tists has found that the design, con­tents, and com­plex­i­ty of a bal­lot are of great impor­tance. Unnec­es­sar­i­ly com­plex bal­lots can lead to unwant­ed con­se­quences, as Patrick Schoettmer, a Seat­tle Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor, has explained to the Leg­is­la­ture in tes­ti­mo­ny for our legislation:

“We find that when bal­lots are unnec­es­sar­i­ly com­plex, that dis­cour­ages par­tic­i­pa­tion. Bowler, Dono­van, & Happ find that bal­lot com­plex­i­ty increas­es infor­ma­tion­al costs, which increas­es vot­er fatigue. Fatigue has lots of con­se­quences, includ­ing roll-off (which means vot­ers stop vot­ing on issues) inat­ten­tion (vot­ers engage ran­dom­ly instead of delib­er­ate­ly) and dropout (they decide not to vote at all).”

— Elec­tion admin­is­tra­tion researcher Patrick L. Schoettmer, PhD, of Seat­tle Uni­ver­si­ty, tes­ti­fy­ing in sup­port of Sen­ate Bill 5182 on Jan­u­ary 20th, 2021

Putting any­thing on the bal­lot that is not a can­di­date elec­tion or a real bal­lot mea­sure is a vio­la­tion of a sacred space. It can lead to con­fu­sion and cyn­i­cism and hin­der vot­ing. That is why legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research is not done through the bal­lot, but sep­a­rate­ly, through sur­vey instru­ments. The bal­lot just isn’t an appro­pri­ate place for polling, adver­tis­ing, or cam­paign-style messaging.

The goal of legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research is to find out what peo­ple think about a top­ic. The top­ic could be an issue, a cur­rent event, or some­body’s idea, or… an upcom­ing elec­tion! Cred­i­ble elec­toral polling is espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar and inter­est­ing to many peo­ple because it pro­vides data to help peo­ple dis­cern which poten­tial out­comes could be more prob­a­ble than others.

Legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research also helps elect­ed offi­cials take the pulse of the peo­ple in between elec­tions. Elect­ed offi­cials can be more respon­sive to their con­stituents’ needs and wish­es if they have access to cred­i­ble polling.

The key to legitimate public opinion research: Neutral questions asked of representative samples

It’s pos­si­ble to attempt to sur­vey an entire uni­verse of peo­ple (like the adult pop­u­la­tion or qual­i­fied elec­tors of a giv­en juris­dic­tion), but it’s expen­sive, which is why pret­ty much every firm that does pub­lic opin­ion research relies on samples.

For a poll to return sound data, the respon­dents in the sam­ple must col­lec­tive­ly be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive group. They must look like the uni­verse they’re from, in oth­er words. And the ques­tions the respon­dents are asked must be neu­tral­ly word­ed. Ask­ing loaded ques­tions or fail­ing to recruit a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple will skew the results of the sur­vey instru­ment, yield­ing worth­less data.

Any­one or any orga­ni­za­tion that’s gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed in what peo­ple think can car­ry out legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research. It isn’t nec­es­sary for the com­mis­sion­ing enti­ty to be “non­par­ti­san” — sub­jec­tive orga­ni­za­tions such as NPI are per­fect­ly capa­ble of under­tak­ing objec­tive research, and do so regularly.

NPI is a leader in pub­lic opin­ion research in the Pacif­ic North­west, with a strong track record of excel­lence in polling that dates back a decade.

Neutrality is nonnegotiable

Neu­tral­i­ty in ques­tion word­ing is not a lux­u­ry, it’s a necessity.

You can’t find out what peo­ple think if you’ve told them what to think first. This is a mantra that the NPI staff and I have been repeat­ing to Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, right wing media com­men­ta­tors, and Tim Eyman fans a lot recently.

It is telling that in their attempts to amend our leg­is­la­tion to keep Eyman’s push polls, Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors did not pro­pose replace­ment word­ing that would remote­ly qual­i­fy as neu­tral. The fur­thest that Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tors want­ed to go was engag­ing in a lit­tle bit of tin­ker­ing around the edges.

How­ev­er, when some­thing is defec­tive by design, tin­ker­ing is not a solution.

If neutrality is lacking, a poll can easily become a push poll

Push polls got their name because they attempt to influ­ence pub­lic opin­ion rather than mea­sur­ing it. They look like polls, yet they are not legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research sur­veys. They improp­er­ly push peo­ple towards a cer­tain point of view, fre­quent­ly with mis­in­for­ma­tion or dis­in­for­ma­tion. William Safire char­ac­ter­izes them in his indis­pens­able Polit­i­cal Dic­tio­nary as a form of dirty trick:

A push poll is a nefar­i­ous tele­mar­ket­ing tech­nique designed to spread neg­a­tive infor­ma­tion about an oppo­si­tion can­di­date. Dur­ing the South Car­oli­na pri­ma­ry of 2000, a caller from the George W. Bush cam­paign asked 300 poten­tial voters:

John McCain calls the cam­paign finance sys­tem cor­rupt, but as chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee, he rais­es mon­ey and trav­els on the pri­vate jets of cor­po­ra­tions with leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als before his com­mit­tee. In view of this, are you much more like­ly to vote for him… or much more like­ly to vote against him? 

A push poll is not a legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey because its pur­pose is not to obtain an opin­ion but to influ­ence it, which qual­i­fies the device as a dirty trick.

— From the Dirty Tricks entry of Safire’s Polit­i­cal Dic­tio­nary, 2008 edi­tion (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press | New York, New York)

Legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research fol­lows a core set of prin­ci­ples for achiev­ing neu­tral­i­ty, prin­ci­ples that are dis­cussed in David Har­ris’ book The Com­plete Guide To Writ­ing Ques­tion­naires (which is worth a read if you’re inter­est­ed in polling):

  1. First Guide­line: Do not intro­duce ideas or opin­ions that will influ­ence responses.
  2. Sec­ond Guide­line: Make sure that no answer choice is more loaded than any other.
  3. Third Guide­line: Make clear that either a pos­i­tive or a neg­a­tive answer is equal­ly acceptable.

— David F. Har­ris: The Com­plete Guide to Writ­ing Ques­tion­naires, Chap­ter 9 (I&M Press | Durham, North Carolina)

What Tim Eyman calls “tax advi­so­ry votes” are in real­i­ty push polls, since the ques­tions are pur­pose­ly word­ed to sug­gest their own answers. Even the answer dichoto­my is arranged so as to invite peo­ple to respond in the way Eyman wants.

Let’s take a look at each ele­ment of Eyman’s push poll formula.

Breaking apart Eyman’s push polls

Breaking down Tim Eyman's "advisory votes"
Break­ing down Tim Eyman’s “advi­so­ry votes”: A slide from NPI’s deck explain­ing why push polls don’t belong on our ballots

Above, I’ve includ­ed a slide from the deck we first made back in 2019 to make the case for our bill. This deck made a big impres­sion on the State Gov­ern­ment Com­mit­tee in the Wash­ing­ton State Sen­ate: all three of the com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can mem­bers vot­ed for the bil­l’s 2019 ver­sion after hear­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion, which just goes to show that there are some Repub­li­cans who get it. 

The first ele­ment is the open­ing phrase:

“The leg­is­la­ture imposed, with­out a vote of the people…”

Eyman char­ac­ter­izes this as “absolute­ly cor­rect.” But it’s not enough for a ques­tion to con­tain word­ing that is cor­rect. The word­ing must also be neu­tral.

If I say, “Tim Eyman, the admit­ted chair thief…,” I am mak­ing an “absolute­ly cor­rect” state­ment: Eyman plead­ed guilty to a mis­de­meanor after he stole an office chair from the Lacey Office Depot in 2019. It’s a fact.

But it’s also prejudicial.

Prej­u­di­cial state­ments are fine in com­men­tary, like this blog post, but not in offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tions of leg­is­la­tion shown to vot­ers on a bal­lot, and not in sur­vey ques­tions unless bal­anced out by a coun­ter­vail­ing view­point for neutrality.

The state­ment “The leg­is­la­ture imposed, with­out a vote of the peo­ple” invokes an anti-rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy frame, which is total­ly inappropriate.

It’s actu­al­ly the Leg­is­la­ture’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to make deci­sions on the peo­ple’s behalf. It’s what we elect our rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors to do.

The peo­ple have reserved to them­selves the right of ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum (the lat­ter being a right Eyman con­tends has been sab­o­taged through the use of the emer­gency clause) but the Leg­is­la­ture remains pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for leg­is­lat­ing. It is nor­mal for bud­gets to be approved with­out a vote of the peo­ple and it is nor­mal for rev­enue to be raised with­out a vote of the people.

Tim Eyman hap­pens to dis­like tax­es as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy, so when the Leg­is­la­ture votes to raise rev­enue, he gets very, very upset. It’s like a dou­ble wham­my for him. So that’s why this word­ing is part of his push poll for­mu­la. It is a delib­er­ate choice. Eyman is try­ing to acti­vate his fram­ing in vot­ers’ heads, rather than giv­ing them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to “express their opinion.”

The sec­ond ele­ment is a fill-in-the-blank:

” … [iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of tax and descrip­tion of increase] …”

This part has to be sup­plied by the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office.

The third ele­ment is a ten year cost estimate:

” … cost­ing (most up-to-date ten-year cost projection)] …”

This is extreme­ly misleading.

Eyman states: “The cost of the tax increase is deter­mined by the Gov­er­nor’s bud­get office,” mean­ing, the Office of Finan­cial Management.

But he fails to admit that the ten-year peri­od was dic­tat­ed by him to make the num­bers big­ger. It’s an exam­ple of decep­tion through manip­u­lat­ed sta­tis­tics: Any­thing sounds more impres­sive when you take it out over ten years.

Eyman knows that gov­ern­ments don’t bud­get in decade-long incre­ments and rev­enue fore­casts decline in accu­ra­cy and use­ful­ness beyond a cou­ple of bien­ni­ums. It is dif­fi­cult to know what even the short-term future holds.

Eyman likes to bring up that many tax increas­es are indef­i­nite or open-end­ed, mean­ing they don’t have an expi­ra­tion date.

How­ev­er, by that log­ic, there could be a twen­ty-year pro­jec­tion or a hun­dred-year one that’s even more use­less. Nobody knows what state rev­enue is going to look like in the long term. Rev­enue pro­jec­tions shown to the pub­lic should not devi­ate from accept­ed best prac­tices, but in Eyman’s push polls, they do.

The fourth ele­ment is anoth­er prej­u­di­cial statement:

“… for gov­ern­ment spending.”

When­ev­er the Leg­is­la­ture pass­es a rev­enue increase, it’s always for a rea­son and a pur­pose. Eyman’s push polls delib­er­ate­ly omit what that rea­son and pur­pose is, because he wants to acti­vate a right wing frame about tax­es in vot­ers’ minds.

To jus­ti­fy this, Eyman argues:

“Once the mon­ey starts flow­ing in from a tax increase, the Leg­is­la­ture is with­in its pow­er (and 99% of the time does) divert the mon­ey to what­ev­er pet project or pro­grams they want.… So the word­ing in a Tax Advi­so­ry Vote… is the only thing the vot­er knows for sure will hap­pen to the mon­ey from a tax increase.”

Wrong. When the Leg­is­la­ture rais­es rev­enue, it spec­i­fies where that rev­enue should go by enact­ing a law, and vot­ers deserve to know this infor­ma­tion. With­hold­ing essen­tial details about what a law says and does is unacceptable.

Eyman’s push polls appeared on gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lots after the Leg­is­la­ture had adjourned Sine Die for the year. Changes to rev­enue bills rarely occur in between Sine Die and a gen­er­al elec­tions since the Leg­is­la­ture is out of ses­sion. There was nev­er even a fig­ment of a good excuse for fail­ing to con­nect the dots.

A future Leg­is­la­ture might change the law, but that does­n’t change the fact that the rev­enue was pre­vi­ous­ly raised for a declared rea­son and a pur­pose that was set forth in our body of laws — which is some­thing we can be sure of. Even on occa­sions when ded­i­cat­ed fund­ing is lat­er “divert­ed,” the mon­ey is still ben­e­fit­ing one or more pub­lic goods, and we can see which ones by look­ing at our RCWs.

For exam­ple, here is a law that says where mon­ey in the Edu­ca­tion Lega­cy Trust account must go. This is the account that pro­ceeds from our new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy are deposit­ed into. RCW 83.100.230:

Edu­ca­tion lega­cy trust account.
The edu­ca­tion lega­cy trust account is cre­at­ed in the state trea­sury. Mon­ey in the account may be spent only after appro­pri­a­tion. Expen­di­tures from the account may be used only for sup­port of the com­mon schools, and for expand­ing access to high­er edu­ca­tion through fund­ing for new enroll­ments and finan­cial aid, ear­ly learn­ing and child care pro­grams, and oth­er edu­ca­tion­al improve­ment efforts.

The law that cre­at­ed our new cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy, Engrossed Sub­sti­tute Sen­ate Bill 5096, was sub­ject­ed to an Eyman push poll in 2021.

The push poll did not explain who would pay the cap­i­tal gains tax, what the ratio­nale for it was, or what the rev­enue would benefit.

This is the lan­guage vot­ers saw:

The leg­is­la­ture imposed, with­out a vote of the peo­ple, a 7% tax on cap­i­tal gains in excess of $250,000, with excep­tions, cost­ing $5,736,000,000 in its first ten years, for gov­ern­ment spending.

Sen­ate Repub­li­cans have gone around crow­ing that most peo­ple vot­ed “Repealed” in response to this Eyman push poll, wav­ing the fig­ures around as if they meant some­thing. For the record, the fig­ures don’t mean any­thing. They’re worth­less. They can­not inform us how Wash­ing­to­ni­ans feel about the cap­i­tal gains tax.

The peo­ple were not asked a neu­tral ques­tion and there­fore were deprived of an oppor­tu­ni­ty to give feed­back to their elect­ed representatives.

Con­trast that with our legit­i­mate pub­lic opin­ion research. 

A few months before vot­ers saw that Eyman push poll, we asked this ques­tion:

QUESTION: Pro­po­nents say that Wash­ing­ton State’s new state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy will raise about $500 mil­lion a year in cru­cial fund­ing for edu­ca­tion in Wash­ing­ton State, includ­ing ear­ly learn­ing and child­care, and will help bal­ance our upside-down tax code by requir­ing the wealth­i­est 8,000 indi­vid­u­als to step up and pay their fair share in dues to our state. Oppo­nents say that the new state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy is an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and ille­gal income tax that will hurt job cre­ation and put the state at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage, hurt­ing the whole econ­o­my while fail­ing to address regres­siv­i­ty. Both sides agree that the text of the cap­i­tal gains tax law ful­ly exempts retire­ment accounts, fam­i­ly farms, and all real estate. Hav­ing heard the argu­ments for and against, do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose Washington’s new state cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy?


  • Sup­port: 57% 
    • Strong­ly: 39%
    • Some­what: 18%
  • Oppose: 40%
    • Some­what: 10%
    • Strong­ly: 30%
  • Not sure: 3%

(For method­ol­o­gy infor­ma­tion, please read the post.)

See the dif­fer­ence? Our ques­tion is bal­anced — it pro­vides argu­ments from both sides. In fact, it uti­lizes Rob McKen­na’s argu­ments against the cap­i­tal gains tax pret­ty much word-for-word. It explains who pays and where the mon­ey is going.

Here, respon­dents were giv­en con­text and informed of the clash­ing per­spec­tives. They then had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to give their opin­ion. Had we pushed them to respond one way or anoth­er, we would have deprived them of that opportunity.

There’s one final ele­ment of Eyman’s push polls to break down: the answer dichoto­my. Eyman left this out of his “belat­ed defense,” but I’m going to dis­cuss it. Eyman’s for­mu­la spec­i­fies that vot­ers be giv­en two choices:

[  ] Repealed
[  ] Maintained

The for­mu­la dic­tates that the first choice that must be shown to vot­ers is “Repealed” and the sec­ond is “Main­tained.” That is the inverse of the nor­mal dichoto­my that vot­ers expect, which would be either “Yes” or “Approved” shown first, fol­lowed by “No” or “Reject­ed” shown sec­ond. Eyman flipped the order to encour­age “Repealed” respons­es by vot­ers, and chose a word that isn’t as strong as “Repealed” to be the oth­er choice — “Main­tained.”

Talk about stack­ing the deck!

With a real bal­lot mea­sure, vot­ing Yes or Approved pass­es the law; vot­ing No or Reject­ed defeats it. With Eyman’s push polls, regard­less of how peo­ple respond­ed, the law did­n’t change. “Main­tained” was the only pos­si­ble out­come one hun­dred per­cent of the time and there was no dis­claimer stat­ing this anywhere.

The only clue that Eyman’s push polls were fake ref­er­en­da was in their head­ings, which con­tained the word “advi­so­ry.” How many peo­ple incor­rect­ly inferred from the answer options that the push polls were bind­ing, when they actu­al­ly weren’t?

Eyman’s push polls con­sti­tut­ed fak­ery in the extreme, a con against the voters.

The Eymallot
This is “The Eymal­lot”… the gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot from 2019 that was packed to the brim with Tim Eyman push polls plus an Eyman ini­tia­tive and a ref­er­en­dum on an ini­tia­tive to amend an old Eyman ini­tia­tive. If our bill had passed in its first year, none of the twelve push polls would have appeared.

But not any­more, as Eyman said in bold­face in his email. At last, the Eyman push polls are hit­ting the dust­bin once Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee signs Sen­ate Bill 5082.

Eyman’s push poll scheme was also rigid and pre­scrip­tive with respect to what had to go into the voter’s pam­phlet. There were no pro and con state­ments facil­i­tat­ed by the Sec­re­tary of State and valu­able addi­tion­al con­text was not offered there either — only select­ed info that Eyman want­ed peo­ple to see.

That’s a lot of loaded lan­guage, both on the bal­lot and in the pamphlet.

Eyman’s denial of this truth is, as far as I’m con­cerned, an admis­sion of guilt.

Voters win with SB 5082; right wing operatives lose

Judg­ing by a com­men­tary that KTTH pub­lished yes­ter­day from often grumpy talk show host Jason Rantz, Eyman is not the only one who’s upset.

Right wing Repub­li­cans are tak­ing the elim­i­na­tion of Eyman’s push polls pret­ty hard. They’re already out of pow­er in Wash­ing­ton, hav­ing not won a guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion since 1980, a U.S. Sen­ate elec­tion since 1994, a state House leg­isla­tive major­i­ty since 1996, or a a state Sen­ate leg­isla­tive major­i­ty since 2016.

Con­se­quent­ly, they have become increas­ing­ly fond of Eyman’s push polls. These anti-tax ads, dressed up to look like bal­lot mea­sures, were cost­ing them noth­ing since tax­pay­ers have been foot­ing the mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar bill every year.

But now we’ve put an end to this total­ly inap­pro­pri­ate in-kind contribution.

Only one Repub­li­can broke with Eyman and the Wash­ing­ton State Repub­li­can Par­ty to vote for Sen­ate Bill 5082 in 2023: State Sen­a­tor Brad Hawkins.

How­ev­er, as I men­tioned above, is Hawkins is not the only Repub­li­can in Wash­ing­ton who sup­ports our leg­is­la­tion. He has company!

In our polling, we dis­cov­ered that many Repub­li­can vot­ers favor abol­ish­ing Eyman’s push polls because doing so saves mil­lions of dol­lars and elim­i­nates some­thing that def­i­nite­ly isn’t a core func­tion of government.

Hawkins’ for­mer col­league Hans Zeiger had this to say four years ago when he vot­ed yea on our leg­is­la­tion the first time it came up in the Senate:

Thank you, Mr Pres­i­dent. Ris­ing in sup­port of this bill… and although I add the caveat that there will be prob­a­bly a num­ber of peo­ple on this side of the aisle who oppose the bill.

But I’ll tell you why I sup­port it. Advi­so­ry votes are like polls after the Leg­is­la­ture has tak­en a vote on a tax issue, and here’s why I’m okay with remov­ing these kinds of votes from the bal­lot after we’ve had now over a decade of expe­ri­ence with these kinds of votes.

I get calls every elec­tion from peo­ple who are per­plexed by advi­so­ry votes since they have no effect on the out­come of a tax issue after the Leg­is­la­ture has already acted.

Polls cer­tain­ly have their place in our pol­i­cy process, but I believe that items that show up on the bal­lot should actu­al­ly enable vot­ers to make a dif­fer­ence in the out­come of an issue. It is the ref­er­en­dum and the ini­tia­tive enshrined in our state Con­sti­tu­tion that is the mech­a­nism by which cit­i­zens can uphold or over­turn an act of the Leg­is­la­ture on a tax issue, or any oth­er issue. That is a process that actu­al­ly ful­fills a leg­isla­tive function.

Indeed, the peo­ple of this state are just as much a part of the leg­isla­tive branch as we are. So, I hope that we’ll find new ways for peo­ple to give the Leg­is­la­ture feed­back on any num­ber of issues that we cast votes on by con­tact­ing us directly.

Face to face rela­tion­ships mat­ter great­ly in our demo­c­ra­t­ic process and the main way that I think that we’re going to rebuild trust in this process is by find­ing new ways for cit­i­zens to get per­son­al­ly involved. But for now, I think that… I don’t see that advi­so­ry votes fill that func­tion, and so ask­ing for a yes vote on the bill.

Dis­tin­guished Repub­li­cans like for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Sam Reed are also sup­port­ive. Here are Sec­re­tary Reed’s obser­va­tions from a few years ago:

The issue is about “advi­so­ry votes” on mea­sures with fees or tax increas­es. Since they are non-bind­ing and mean­ing­less, they are a total waste of mon­ey. Fis­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­cans object to such waste­ful spend­ing. It cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for the Sec­re­tary of State’s Office to put those mea­sures on the bal­lot and in the vot­ers’ pam­phlet. They are typ­i­cal grand­stand­ing by Eyman at the tax­pay­ers’ expense.

Not to men­tion the mil­lions of dol­lars coun­ties have incurred in added bal­lot design, print­ing, and tab­u­la­tion costs every year for a decade!

We are deeply appre­cia­tive to these Repub­li­cans for mak­ing our leg­is­la­tion bipar­ti­san. SB 5082 is good for vot­ers and good for democ­ra­cy. We are look­ing for­ward to its addi­tion to the Revised Code of Wash­ing­ton lat­er this year.

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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