Washington State lawmaker proposes new requirements to the initiative process

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January 24, 2011

By Kyle Maichle

OLYMPIA, Washington: State Senator Sharon Nelson (D-West Seattle) is introducing a bill that would place restrictions on signature gatherers and increase the filing fee for initiatives.[1]

Senate Bill 5297 would require paid signature gatherers to register with the Secretary of State, prohibit any signature gatherer from collecting signatures for five years if convicted with fraud or forgery, increase the filing fee from $5 to $500, and requiring gatherers to sign an affidavit on the back of the petitions attesting that the signatures were collected legally.[1] With the increased filing fee, there is a $450 refund when the initiative qualifies on the ballot. Also, the $500 fee would be waived if initiatives are filed with 1,000 valid signatures.[1]

Kristina Logsdon of the Ballot Initiative Network supports the new requirements. Logsdon said: "because paid signature gatherers are paid by volume, it provides incentive for abuse...This legislation is about bringing basic transparency and accountability processes to our system in Washington state so we can ensure that our process has integrity." However, ballot initiative activist Tim Eyman questioned the bill's constitutionality. Eyman described the bill as: "one, big smorgasbord of anti-initiative legislation.”[1]

The bill has been referred to the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations, and Elections Committee.[2]

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