Eyman’s paradox

As many readers know, this blog is named after Tim “Biggest Lie of My Life” Eyman, Washington state’s own professional initiative huckster and admitted liar. Today, that Horsesass submitted signatures for new initiative.

Initiative 517 is supposed to

[establish] protections for citizens exercising their First Amendment rights by participating in the initiative and referendum process

How does the initiative propose to protect First Amendment rights?

By preventing “non-participants” in the initiative and referendum process from exercising their first amendment rights.

Sure…there are a bunch of good things that would be prohibited by the initiative. It would change the RCW to make “pushing, shoving, touching, spitting, [and] throwing objects [at]” a signature gatherer or signer a disorderly conduct. Of course, these things are already assault, a rather more serious crime, so that’s pretty stupid.

Also in the laundry list of disorderly conduct includes: “yelling, screaming, being verbally abusive, blocking or intimidating, or other tumultuous conduct or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet of any person gathering signatures or any person trying to sign any initiative or referendum petition.” Blocking, sure. And being “verbally abusive” is already in the RCW as disorderly conduct. But “other tumultuous conduct”? Or maintaining an intimidating presence within twenty-five feet. What the fuck?

In other words, if you come within 25 feet of a signature gatherer or signer, the law enacted by this initiative would pretty much prevent you from expressing anything negative about the initiative. No more arguing the merits. No more trying to persuade people to not signing a petition. Paid signature gathers could try to persuade people to sign the petition, and you can’t offer counterarguments, or protests, even if the petition is being misrepresented by the signature gatherer.

Because, you know, participating in a public debate about a public petition to our lawmakers, in public is a less important First Amendment right than a signature gatherer’s First Amendment right to ask, beg, plead, trick and coerce people into signing their petition(s).

In other words, “We will ENFORCE The People’s First Amendment rights by suppressing The People’s First Amendment rights! It’s Eyman’s paradox.

The initiative has two other marginally related sections (bringing up questions of multi-topic unconstitutionality, a recurring problem for Eyman initiatives). One section would give signature gathers six more months to collect signatures. This, obviously, reflects the fact that many of Eyman’s initiatives fail to qualify for the ballot because of an insufficient number of signatures.

The other marginally-related section tries to circumvent a court ruling that local governments can ignore petitions that can’t legitimately be put to a public vote under the RCW. Eyman simply cannot stand the fact that courts have told him to fuck off. So now he wants to change the law to force invalid initiatives onto the ballot.

Great use of public resources, huh?


  1. 2

    rhp6033 spews:

    This has bothered me since I first heard about it. Generally it leaves the definition of “intimidating presence” or “verbally abusive” to the signature gatherer. If police are called, they will simply tell the other person to move on or cite him/her, and the initiative gatherer would have achieved his purpose.

    So if I put on a sandwich sign and stand within twenty-five feet of the signature gatherer, which says “Ask me why you shouldn’t sign Tim Eyman’s initiative”, with an arrow pointed in the direction of the signature gatherer, is that an “intimidating presence”? What if I simply stand at the table of the initiative gatherer and ask him detailed questions about every sentence and clause of the initiative, and it’s practical effects – for the next couple of hours or so?

    Probably not in the eyes of a judge, but I’ll bet Eyman’s goons would be taking pictures and preparing to “document” their case, and insisting on my full prosecution by the authorities – if not trying to personally cause problems for the person at their job, etc.

    Besides, test cases are all well and good, but in today’s climate of difficult employment options and background checks, who wants to gamble with their jobs & careers to be a test case?

    I think this is something which certainly should be challenged in a court, either if it makes the ballot or is passed. Since the objectionable conduct is already prohibited, and the new prohibited conduct is too subjective in interpretation, then I don’t see it passing the First Amendment test.

    Which begs the question once again – considering Tim Eymans’ years of experience in the initiative process, how come he can’t write one which would survive a court challenge? And why does he recently always seek to slip in zingers such as this under apparantly non-innocuous provisions such as extending the period of time for gathering signatures?

  2. 3

    Politically Incorrect spews:

    “…considering Tim Eymans’ years of experience in the initiative process, how come he can’t write one which would survive a court challenge?”

    Probably because the members of the court are government employees who don’t like having their power and perks challenged by an upstart like Eyman. After all, Eyman is an anti-government guy!

  3. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I can tell you right now, with less than 10 seconds of legal analysis, that to the extent this initiative attempts to define and criminalize certain conduct, it’s unconstitutionally vague.

    In fact, nearly all of Timeh’s initiatives are unconstitutional, for one reason or another. You’d think that with years of initiative writing experience Timeh would have learned how to do this by now. Or hired a lawyer to do it for him. Nope.

    Which makes me wonder: Does Timeh write unconstitutional initiatives intentionally, or because he’s stupid?

  4. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @3 Don’t worry, PI, you can’t possibly trash your credibility any more than it’s already trashed — your cred is zero — so please feel free to post horseshit like this to your heart’s content.

  5. 6

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 3: The judges which have rejected Eyeman’s initiatives as unconstitutional have – so far – all been elected. So if Eyman’s initiatives are as popular as he claims, he wouldn’t have anything to fear from those judges, would he?

    The Rule of Law has been a problem in Washington for Republicans for some time. Even Republican judges in Republican counties have rejected Repubican attempts to manipulate the process. They couldn’t even convince one of them to do a “do-over” of a govenatorial election – because there was no basis for it in the State Constitution!

  6. 7

    rhp6033 spews:

    Ever notice that in Washington state, Republicans are the ones wearing the “victimhood” mantle?

    Polls prove their predictions wrong. Judges consistently rule against their flawed attempts to fashion initiatives to give them an advantage. And all you hear from them is “Wah! Wah! Wah! Those mean judges are just so biased against me! Make them stop, Mommy!”

  7. 8

    don spews:

    The extra six months to collect signatures is the sugar daddy clause. With that, Timmy can make a full time go of it and quit his day job.

  8. 9

    don spews:

    Where was PI when Goldy’s Horses Ass initiative was thrown out by some mean government employee?

  9. 10



    Yep, that’s it. Eyman has always been all about the signature-gathering, which is his personal cash cow. Except maybe for the patently unconstitutional 2/3 vote initiatives, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass whether the thing passes … there’s no money for him in that.


    That mean government employee was named Christine Gregoire.

  10. 14

    Richard Pope spews:

    Wow, read the text of I-517. Very poorly written language in most places. If Eyman got some folks to give over $300,000 to successfully get enough signatures, could he have found a couple grand to get a lawyer to help with drafting the language?

    My take —

    The additional conduct prohibited regarding signature gatherers — such as “maintaining an intimidating presence” — would definitely get thrown out as vague, overbroad, and otherwise in violation of the 1st amendment, not to mention 14th amendment (due process, etc.).

    Having six extra months to get signatures? Give me a break! Six months is enough already, January to July, for the November election that same year. If next year, someone is collecting signatures in, let’s say in July 2014, for something that won’t be on the ballot until November 2015 — INSANE!

    I actually like some of the intent behind Section 4, which clumsily tries to allow more initiative and referendum rights at the county and city level. Right now, the state legislature can pass a law which allows the local legislative authority to do something — such as increase taxes or install red light cameras — and the magical words “local legislative authority” prevent the local PEOPLE from using any initiative or referendum powers at all. Unfortunately, Section 4 doesn’t really restore local initiative and referendum powers, but instead requires all local initiative and referendum petitions to be voted on if there are enough signatures submitted — and they will still be invalid, even if passed by the voters, if the legislature has taken away local initiative and referendum rights in that area.

    I wonder how I-517 will stack up against the single subject rule?