Initative 517 undermines property rights

It’s pitched as a way to protect the initiative process, but it allows signatures to be gathered against business owners’ wishes. I-517 should be rejected.

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Initiative 517 — billed as the initiative protection initiative — is unnecessary and an affront to private property rights.

I-517 (as stated in the state voters’ guide) “would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.”

While the official patter sounds as if serious problems will be squelched, that’s not possible since these problems do not exist.

How frequently are signature gatherers harassed, if they are harassed at all? And why would more time be needed for signature gathering, the ballot in Washington already has many initiatives to vote on year after year?

However, one legitimate concern is trying to be addressed in this initiative. Initiatives with enough signatures have been blocked from the ballot by legal maneuvers. That is wrong.

We firmly believe that every initiative with the required support should go to a vote. If there are legal or constitutional concerns, those can be sorted out if the measure is approved.

And we are also strong supporters of the initiative system because it serves as a safety net for citizens. If the Legislature does not respond to the needs of the people, the people can go around legislators to make law.

The state Supreme Court already agrees. In its rulings, it has saod legitimate initiative shouldn’t be witheld from the ballot.

So when attempts are made to block initiatives with legal antics at the local or state level, the courts or Legislature could get involved.

Backers of the initiative have focused their effort to gain public support with claims that opponents of initiatives use bully tactics to stop signatures from being gathered.

It’s more likely business owners get grief for not wanting signature gatherers to block entrances and harass customers. Courts have backed property owners right to shoo away signature gatherers if they choose.

I-517, according to the voters’ guide, does this: “Initiative or referendum petition signing and signature gathering would be legally protected on public sidewalks and walkways and all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrians, including those in front of entrances and exits to stores, and inside or outside public buildings.”

Signature gatherers are given the green light to bully.

Store owners shouldn’t have to endure political activity at their business, and neither should their customers.

Plenty of signatures are now gathered, so blocking sidewalks, stores and public buildings is just not necessary. Nor is extending the time allowed to gather signatures from 10 months to 16 months.

We strongly urge voters to reject I-517.

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