Washington’s Initiative 517 to the rescue!
“The first power reserved by the people is the initiative.”
So promises the Washington State constitution. However, it is increasingly difficult for citizens to exercise their power to petition the government, as also provided for in the U.S. Constitution.
Initiative 517, which will turn in petition signatures next week in hopes of earning a place on the November 2013 ballot, seeks to protect the right of Washington State citizens to their initiative process.
The Evergreen State has an ever-high requirement on the number of signatures necessary to place an initiative on the ballot and a relatively short amount of time (only six months) to gather all those signatures. That makes Washington State’s initiative process hard enough. But add to the mix some well-funded opponents using aggressive tactics aimed at intimidation, hoping to scare potential signers away from signing a petition.
Now comes I-517 to the rescue!
The initiative sets out clear legal protections against harassment and coercion for signature gatherers as well as those wishing to sign a petition. The measure makes it a misdemeanor to engage in “tumultuous conduct” or maintain “an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures.”
Moreover, I-517 provides an additional six months for petitioners to gather the necessary signatures and turn them in to the Secretary of State – giving citizens a full year. This would put Washington’s process more in line with other states, and moreover, make it far easier for grassroots organizations to successfully gather the 320,000 signatures needed to place an issue on the state’s ballot.
I-157 also guarantees the right of citizens to vote on initiatives by mandating that any initiative, which has gained the required number of signatures, shall appear on the ballot. In recent years, a number of initiatives in the state, several dealing with red-light cameras, have been blocked by cities from receiving a vote. In some cases, courts have ruled that the measures, if passed, could not trump prior contracts entered into by those localities. However, voters still deserve a right to weigh-in on the issue at the ballot box. Where citizens have been able to vote, city councils have found ways to reverse their decisions on the red-light cameras.
Citizens in Charge has endorsed I-517 and contributed about $200,000 to the petition drive to place it on the ballot.
Link to an article on The Olympian