Afternoon Jolt: Eyman Loses.

By Afternoon Jolt February 10, 2011

Today's Loser: Tim Eyman

When initiative hawker Tim Eyman testified against then-Rep. Joe McDermott's (D-34) initiative reform bill last year, he had the ACLU on his side. Not so this year.

Today, Eyman testified (watch here) against a Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle, Vashon) bill that, like last year's (which died in the house), would make firms register with the state and require paid signature gatherers to provide basic info on the back of the signature sheet to prevent fraud.

State Sen. Sharon Nelson

Eyman said the legislation would put a chill on the initiative process.

Right now, both volunteers and paid petitioners print their name on the back of petitions -- volunteers have trouble even with that, [the bill] requires printed name, signature, address, city, state, zip code, and date. With that, fewer volunteers would collect signatures, fewer sheets would be turned in, and valid voter signatures would thrown away and disenfranchised.

He concluded: "All these additional burdens on everyone to find people collecting bad signatures which isn't happening," pointing out Washington's recent (non) history of fraud: "twelve years [going back to when he got started], 12.7 million signatures, one problem with one SEIU volunteer last year," he said.

Eyman's argument, though, is a bit of a tautology: There's no record of fraud because there's no record of fraud—i.e., as Joel Foster with the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington, D.C., told the committee: "Washington ballot integrity laws are so porous that Washington is unable to identify fraud."

However, you know who didn't testify against the bill today: The ACLU. Last year, the lefty group allied with Eyman because the bill would have invalidated signatures turned in by fraudulent firms and signature gatherers.

This year's bill does not allow the secretary of state to invalidate those signatures and the ACLU told PubliCola today that they are not against the bill.

Eyman argues that valid signatures will still be thrown out by the campaigns themselves (rather than by the secretary of state) because they won't turn in the sheets where signature gatherers didn't put all the required info on the back.

The obvious rejoinder: Follow the rules.

"I disagree with Tim Eyman that the bill pushes campaigns into throwing out petitions," bill sponsor Sen. Nelson told PubliCola. "Requiring that signature gathering firms have their [signature gatherers] sign the back of the form clarifies exisitng laws and ensures accountability. I find it illogical that this legislation will push campaigns to decide valid signatures should be thrown out."

Today's winner: City Council member Jean Godden

Godden now has four opponents in her race for reelection, meaning too many opponents to divide the supposed anti-Godden vote. The batch of challengers (all men) will prevent any one candidate from getting momentum and by the time she's one on one with whoever emerges after the primary, it'll be too late.
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