I-517 ballot title is misleading

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A few minutes ago I got the Voters’ Guide and picked it up for a cursory review, thinking that I had a good idea of the issues. I was shocked when I read the material on Initiative 517.

The ballot title seems OK: “ ... (S) et penalties for interfering with signature gathers ...” Nothing wrong with that.

Then I look at the explanatory statement prepared by the Attorney General’s Office and it appears this is a reasonable measure, but then I read on through more blah, blah. But being a good citizen, I kept plowing ahead.

Then on the last page I find “argument against” and I couldn’t believe what I read. Read it yourself as I did.

Here is the essence of the argument against: “ ... Courts have ruled that petitioners must respect private property rights when collecting signatures, but 1-517 prevents property owners from having control over signature gathering on their own property. Infringing on their constitutionally guaranteed property rights. Under 517, law enforcement would be directed to vigorously protect petitioners collecting within a 25-foot zone. Business owners would not be able to stop aggressive petitioners from blocking and harassing customers who are trying to enter or exit a store. Instead their property rights would be disregarded ...”

“ ... Sponsor Tim Eyman is a full-time initiative proponent who makes money off the measures he promotes. Under 517, it would be easier and cheaper for Eyman to qualify future initiatives to the ballot, meaning he could double his output and increase his profits ...”

“ ... A provision tucked away in I-517 forces cities and counties to put local initiatives on the ballot even if they are illegal or invalid, wasting taxpayers dollars on unnecessary election ...”

The argument against that I quoted above was signed by former Secretaries of State Ralph Munro and Sam Reed, prepared by Rob McKenna, the former attorney general, and Brian Sontag, former state auditor, among others.

I was absolutely gobsmacked, as a young Australian exchange student of ours used to say. The smell of dead fish in the preparation of the ballot title and explanatory statement is strong.

I invite everyone to ask the current Attorney General’s Office how this apparently biased and misleading ballot title and explanatory statement can be justified. I await the reply with interest. It may be another good piece of creative writing.

Jim Swayne

Walla Walla

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