Well, I can gleam one great piece of news from Tuesday’s election, and that is that initiative campaigns in Washington state just got quite a bit more expensive.
To qualify an initiative for the ballot you need a number of valid signatures equal to 8% of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. For the past four years that number came to about 198,000 signatures. Due to fraud, duplicates and other errors, campaigns generally shoot for a cushion of about 20% over the minimum, so 240,000 has been the magic number.
The bar just got higher.
The final count isn’t in, but it looks like approximately 2.85 million votes were cast for governor on Tuesday, resulting in a qualifying threshold of about 228,000 signatures. Add a 20% cushion, and campaigns are looking at a qualifying target of over 273,000.
Long gone are the days when signatures are gathered by an army of energized volunteers. Tim Eyman pioneered reliance on paid petitioners in Washington state, and no campaign has successfully attempted an all volunteer effort in years.
My impression is that Tim’s core base of support is limited, and shrinking. There is a ceiling on the number of volunteer signatures the true believers will gather for him… so those extra 35,000 signatures are going to cost him $1.50 to $5.00 a pop.
It’s been three years since Voters Want More Choices has raised near enough money to qualify an initiative for the ballot — both I-807 and I-864 fell well short of the mark. Depending on the language, Tim’s proposed “performance audits” initiative may not actually be terrible policy… but it certainly won’t be exciting enough to generate the necessary influx of $200.00 contributions.
Throughout the I-864 signature drive Tim told his supporters he needed $400,000 to reach the ballot. He raised a little more than half that. Add the expense of another $100,000 in signatures, and it looks like Tim’s “populist” days are over.
I’m not writing Tim off. He’s done a great job selling himself as a professional initiative whore (and if you ask I-892’s major financial backers, they’ll tell you they’ve been royally screwed.)
But it is ironic that a man who made his career railing against powerful special interests is now entirely beholden to them.