Election Rarity: No Initiatives Qualify For November Statewide Ballot In Washington

Jul 7, 2017

For the first time since 1983, there will be no statewide initiatives on the November ballot in Washington state. More than 30 initiatives to the people had been filed in Washington since January.

Friday was the deadline to turn in qualifying signatures.

Veteran initiative promoter Tim Eyman was among those who struck out. He wouldn't specify how far he fell short on Initiative 1550, a proposal that sought to cut property taxes by 25 percent and cap annual increases. 


"We were probably one year too early," Eyman wrote in an email to supporters Friday. "Property taxes are about to go through the roof. We will certainly circle back to property taxes very soon."

Getting closer to qualifying for the ballot, but still falling short were the sponsors of a citizen's initiative to repeal Washington's transgender bathroom access rules. They made an appointment to turn in petition signatures to the state elections division, but canceled it at the last minute when it became clear the campaign had fewer than the minimum 260,000 registered voter signatures needed to get an initiative onto this November's statewide ballot. 

Initiative 1552 sought to overturn a 2015 rulemaking by the state Human Rights Commission, which said transgender people must be permitted to use the public bathroom that matches their gender identity. 


This was the second attempt by religious conservatives to reverse the bathroom and locker room rules.

"We exceeded last year’s total by over 20,000 signatures, and we know that so many more people throughout the state would be willing to sign if given the chance, but the truth is that we simply couldn’t reach them in time," read a mass-emailed statement from I-1552 sponsor Kaely Triller Haver. She wrote that a combination of volunteer and paid petition circulators gathered 240,000 signatures this year.

"We will not stop working to reverse this dangerous rule and restore the safety and privacy of women and girls in Washington. Whether that means trying again next year or working with the legislature in the upcoming session will be determined in the near future," Haver said.

Both this year and last a "decline-to-sign" group and major employers lined up in opposition to what they portrayed as a "dangerous, unnecessary" and "discriminatory" measure. 


“For months, our opponents attempted to garner enough signatures to put the fundamental civil rights of transgender people on the ballot," said Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign in a statement Friday. "Their failure is a victory for equality and validation of Washington’s non-discrimination laws that ensure fair and equal treatment for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodations."  


The initiative sponsors branded their campaign "Just Want Privacy." They gathered signatures with arguments and slogans built around themes such as "No men in women's locker rooms!" and "Keep girls safe!" 


Just Want Privacy raised slightly more than $257,000 for its 2017 initiative campaign.

The main opposition group that worked to keep Initiative 1552 off the ballot out-fundraised the sponsors by more than $100,000. Washington Won't Discriminate reported about $373,000 in contributions to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.