There is a hearing in Olympia this morning before the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs on HB 1087, which would prohibit paying initiative petition signature gatherers on a per-signature basis.
Word is that the hearing room is packed with opponents of the bill, a crowd organized by Tim Eyman and his signature gathering contractors at Citzens Solutions. Of course they’re crowding the hearing room. This isn’t democracy or free speech that’s at stake for them, it’s their livelihood.
I’d thought about heading down to the hearing myself, but it’s hard to make an 8:00 AM hearing in Olympia when my daughter doesn’t walk out the door to school until 9:00 AM. Besides, I already know what the Eyman folks are going to say, so why not just refute them here?
There are really only two arguments against HB 1087. 1.) There is no evidence of signature fraud in WA state, and thus this bill is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech; and 2.) this bill is intended to destroy the initiative process.
Both arguments are complete and utter loads of shit.
As to the first argument, a similar Oregon law was recently upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, precisely because the state of Oregon presented gobs of evidence of signature fraud conducted by signature gatherers, incentivized by their pay-per-signature compensation.
That’s Oregon. Just across the border. Does anybody really believe that Washington state is somehow immune to the same sort of shenanigans, especially when you consider that most paid signature gatherers are mercenary migrant workers traveling from state to state during the signature gathering season? Gimme a break.
Some have argued that our Secretary of State has reported no fraud of this sort here in WA, but just because the SOS hasn’t found this fraud (or even looked for it) doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And it is more than a touch ironic that these people who would vociferously argue against simple safeguards protecting the integrity of the initiative process, are the same people who vociferously argue for requiring photo ID at the polls… when they can provide absolutely no evidence of polling place voter fraud! What a bunch of fucking hypocrites.
Signature fraud was rampant in Oregon, and they just got away with it until watchdog organizations did their own investigations and presented their evidence to the government and the press. No doubt similar fraud occurs annually in WA state and across the nation… which, um, could explain the extraordinarily high signature rejection rates here and elsewhere. Eyman himself, the grand defender of the initiative process that has so lavishly supported him and his family, has filed petitions with a rejection rate pushing 20 percent, and I’m told that at least one petition in another state last season was thrown out after the signature rejection rate exceeded 50 percent!
As for the second argument, that this bill is intended to kill the initiative process, well that is simply refuted by reality. A similar bill is law in Oregon, and the same folks who fought it in court there are still managing to qualify initiatives for the ballot. Perhaps it’s a touch more expensive, I don’t really know. But nobody ever said that qualifying an initiative for the ballot should be easy.
Hell, if it was up to me, I’d lower the signature threshold in exchange for banning paid signature gathering altogether. This would make it harder for self-interested professionals like Eyman to qualify an initiative simply on the merits of a big check from Michael Dunmire, while at the same time making it easier for initiatives with real grassroots support to come before voters.
But, well, anything that takes the profit motive out of the initiative process is sure to draw opposition from initiative “champions” like Eyman.