Washington "Protect the Initiative Act", Initiative 517 (2013)

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Washington Initiative 517
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Type:Initiative to the Legislature
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Direct democracy
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
Washington "Protect the Initiative Act," Initiative 517, was on the November 5, 2013 ballot in Washington as an Initiative to the Legislature. It was defeated.

The measure would have implemented penalties for intimidating, harassing, interfering with or retaliating against petition drive efforts for a ballot initiative.[1] The measure was sponsored by Tim Eyman.[1]

In addition, the measure would have required that all initiative efforts that obtained the valid amount of signatures have their proposals placed on the ballot.

Other provisions included:

  • Limited pre-election legal challenges: If any initiative, including those at the local level, received enough signatures, it was automatically placed on the ballot. Any legal challenges to the measure would have had to wait until after the election.[2]
  • Extending the time given for signatures to be collected for the ballot: At the time the ballot initiative was introduced, measures had to be filed with the secretary of state within 10 months before the election at which the measure would be voted on. I-517 would have changed the number to 16 months, allowing citizens an extra six months to collect signatures.[3]

Election results

Below are the official election results. Washington is a mail-in ballot state and does not have polling places. All ballots postmarked November 5 were counted. Results were certified on November 26, 2013 by the Secretary of State.

Initiative 517
Defeatedd No1,058,57262.71%
Yes 629,584 37.29%
These results are from the Washington Office of the Secretary of State.

Text of measure

Ballot text

The following was the ballot text on file with the Washington Secretary of State's office:[1]

Initiative Measure No. 517 concerns initiative and referendum measures.

This measure would set penalties for interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition-signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures appear on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ][4]


The following was the ballot measure summary of the proposal:

"This measure would define terms concerning interfering with or retaliating against petition-signers and signature-gatherers, and would make such conduct a criminal misdemeanor and subject to anti-harassment laws. The measure would require that all state and local measures receiving enough signatures be placed on the ballot, limiting pre-election legal challenges. The measure would also extend the time for filing initiatives and gathering signatures from ten to sixteen months before the election when the vote would occur."[1]

Read the full text here.[3]

Fiscal impact

According to the official statement put out by the Washington Office of Financial Management, "I-517 has no revenue, expenditure or cost impact on state government. There is no revenue impact on local governments from I-517. However, the expenditure and cost impacts to local governments are indeterminate."[5]


Washington I-517
The measure was sponsored by Tim Eyman. The campaign that supported the measure was run by Yes on 517.



The arguments presented in favor of Initiative 517 in the official voter guide were constructed by supporters of I-517, including: Shawn Newman, Washington Director of Initiative and Referendum Institute, attorney; Erma Turner, testified in Olympia against bullying of petition-signers; Nick Sherwood, numerous red-light camera initiatives blocked from votes; Stonewall Jackson Bird, city blocked public vote on his Bellingham initiative; Eddie Agazarm, veteran petitioner, initiative organizer, and civic activist; Paul Jacob, president of Citizens In Charge, longtime initiative activist. The arguments featured included:[7]

  • "Opponents of initiatives too often use bullying to prevent citizens from signing initiatives they support. Voters who want to sign a petition – liberal or conservative – deserve protection from bullying and retaliation. I-517 establishes penalties to discourage such bad behavior. Peaceful discussion is legal under I-517; bullying is not."[7]
  • "Initiative 517 makes citizen participation safer and guarantees the people’s right to vote on initiatives. Without I-517, entrenched politicians and special interests will continue bullying citizens from expressing their free speech rights and blocking voters from exercising their initiative rights."[7]
  • "I-517 “Protect Your Right To Vote On Initiatives” is about Letting the People Vote on...qualified initiatives. In recent years, 16+ citizen-sponsored initiatives – liberal and conservative – were blocked from a public vote by powerful special interests even though local citizens followed all the rules. I-517 establishes a new state law that prevents interference by special interests, guaranteeing the people’s right to vote. If the initiative qualifies, let the voters decide."[7]
  • Rebuttal of Argument Against: "Even our opponents agree I-517 protects free speech and encourages more grassroots participation by making the initiative process more affordable. Regarding petitioning, I-517 simply reinforces what the courts have already said: petitioning at places open to the public is guaranteed under the First Amendment. Without I-517, initiative opponents will continue bullying, preventing citizens from expressing themselves and voting on issues they care about. Protect your right to speak out and vote on initiatives – vote yes!"[7]

Other arguments for the measure included:

  • According to Yes on 517's campaign website, among other arguments in favor of the measure, "Collecting signatures on initiative petitions is protected by our state and Federal Constitutions. The First Amendment says the people are guaranteed the right to “petition their government.” Nonetheless, people who collect voter signatures are regularly harassed. I-517 sets penalties for anyone who interferes with or retaliates against signature-gatherers or petition-signers. I-517 makes it safe for people to exercise their right to participate in the initiative process."[8]
  • The Yes on I-517 dismissed the opposition's concerns regarding private property rights, saying, "I-517 supports democracy, promotes respectful speech, and stops bullying. I-517 would deter initiative opponents from doing this [harassment]. The courts have already ruled that signature collection, including on sidewalks and walkways, is subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions and I-517 doesn't change that. It simply discourages bullying. I-517 doesn't say that initiative bullies have to stand 25 feet away; it simply says if they maintain a presence within 25 feet of the signature gathering process, they need to be civil and respectful."[9]
Official I-517 petition


In March 2013 the Public Disclosure Commission announced an investigation into complaints that the initiative's supporters violated campaign finance laws. The complaint alleged that the campaign did not register on time and failed to deliver timely and detailed finance reports. The complaint was filed by Sherry Bockwinkel, a former director of a signature-gathering company.[10][11]

Campaign contributions

The "No" campaign outraised the "Yes" campaign by $296,704 or 196%. The "No" campaign outspent the "Yes" campaign by $296,173 or 196%. Up to October 30, 2013, all contributions to the "Yes" campaign were in-kind. This data was obtained from the Public Disclosure Commission and was current as of October 30, 2013. The following were committees registered in support of Initiative 517:

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Protect Your Right to Vote on Initiatives $305,454 $305,454
Yes on I-517 $2,885 $2,885
Total $308,339 $308,339

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of October 4, 2013
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $308,339
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $620,043

Top 4 contributors:

Donor Amount
Citizens in Charge $182,806
Peoples Petitioning LLC $42,712
Edward Agazarm $13,886
American Voter Drives $11,332

The sponsor of the measure, Tim Eyman, is a prominent political activist in the sate of Washington. After launching his first initiative in 1997, Eyman has been involved in sponsoring and/or promoting several dozen ballot measures in the state. He is an advocate for small government, and many of his initiatives involve lowering taxes and protecting taxpayers.[12] Of initiatives, Eyman has said, "Initiatives aren’t just about passing laws, they’re about lobbying your elected officials for policies that you want. And like all lobbying, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the people are asking for something the city council just can’t give them. But, that’s not an excuse to prevent them from asking. That is simply squelching their First Amendment right."[13] In 2008, a feature length documentary film called The Battles of Tim Eyman was released. The film follows the "notorious tax rebel" as he addresses political issues in the state.[14]


The campaign in opposition to the measure was No on I-517.
Washington I-517


The following were opponents listed on the website of No on I-517:[15]



  • 26th District Democrats
  • 29th District Democrats
  • 34th District Democrats
  • 36th District Democrats
  • 41st District Democrats
  • 45th District Democrats
  • 46th District Democrats
  • Action Solutions
  • Association of Washington Business
  • Avista
  • First and Goal, Inc.
  • Greater Spokane Incorporated
  • King County Democrats
  • Kitsap County Democrats
  • Mainstream Republicans of Washington
  • Northwest Grocery Association
  • Northwest Progressive Institute
  • Safeway
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Seattle Sounders FC
  • Skagit County Democrats
  • Snohomish County Democrats
  • Spokane Home Builders Association
  • Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce
  • Transition 2030
  • Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Washington State Democratic Party
  • Washington Food Industry Association
  • Washington Retail Association
  • Whatcom County Democrats
  • Whatcom County Young Democrats


  • Safeway[16]
  • Kroger
  • Wal-Mart
  • Lowe’s Home Improvement
  • Autozone
  • Recreational Equipment Inc.
  • First & Goal


The arguments presented in opposition to Initiative 517 in the official voter guide were constructed by opponents of I-517, including: Rob McKenna, former Washington State Attorney General; Brian Sonntag, former Washington State Auditor; Jan Gee, Washington Food Industry Association (independent/ family-owned grocers); Frank Ordway, League of Education Voters; Andrew Villeneuve, activist and founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute. The arguments featured included:[7]

  • "I-517 violates Washingtonians' property rights: Courts have ruled that petitioners must respect private property rights when collecting signatures, but I-517 prevents property owners from having control over signature gathering on their property, infringing upon their constitutionally-guaranteed property rights. Under I-517, law enforcement would be directed to vigorously protect petitioners collecting within a twenty-five foot zone. Business owners would not be able to stop aggressive petitioners from blocking and harassing customers who are trying to enter or exit a store. Instead, their property rights would be disregarded."[7]
  • "I-517 would make petitioning more intrusive: I-517 allows out of state petitioners to be active in Washington year-round – both inside and outside public buildings. Petitioners could go inside sports stadiums like Safeco Field or Comcast Arena, public libraries, and even public school events like high school football games to ask Washingtonians to sign stacks of petitions."[7]
  • "I-517 benefits Tim Eyman: Sponsor Tim Eyman is a full-time initiative proponent who makes money off the measures he promotes. Under I-517, it would be easier and cheaper for Eyman to qualify future initiatives to the ballot, meaning he could double his output and increase his profits."[7]
  • Rebuttal of Argument For: "Former Secretary of State Sam Reed said that most complaints received in his office were from citizens and businesses who were being harassed by signature gatherers and that laws already exist to protect signature gatherers’ safety. Local governments should not be forced into costly legal battles when an initiative is found to be unconstitutional. Former Supreme Court Justice Phil Talmadge says I-517 is unconstitutional as it takes away private property rights of others. Vote No."[7]

Other arguments against the measure included:

  • On July 8, 2013, Assistant Director of Policy for the Secretary of State’s Office Katie Blinn, said, "We do receive many calls each spring from voters who are complaining about signature gatherers harassing them, and signature gatherers misstating the text of the measures. We also receive inquiries from store owners/managers asking how they can remove the signature gatherers from their property."[17]
  • Jan Gee, of the Washington Food Industry Association, argued that the measure violates stores' private property rights because it makes it a crime to harass canvassers or disrupt them.[18]
  • Steve Gano, a lobbyist for Wal-Mart, argued that customers deserve protection from petitioners who are harassing them.[18]
  • The No on I-517 campaign said, "Initiative 517 takes away the right of customers to enter and exit a retail store without the interference of a petition signature gatherer. The store owner will no longer have the right to control this activity and provide a safe and enjoyable experience for customers on their private property within a 25ft. buffer of the signature gatherer. Further, public sports stadiums including high school stadiums, convention centers and other facilities that host public events are also stripped of their rights to provide a safe and orderly environment within this 25ft. buffer zone protecting signature gatherers. Property owners and people attempting to shop and attend public events should not be stripped or their rights to say NO to a signature gatherer and voters should say NO to I-517."[9]

Campaign contributions

Shaded map of donations by county

The "No" campaign outraised the "Yes" campaign by $296,704 or 196%. The "No" campaign outspent the "Yes" campaign by $296,173 or 196%. This data was obtained from the Public Disclosure Commission and was current as of October 31, 2013. The following were committees registered in opposition to Initiative 517:

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
No I-517 $611,942 $596,410
Stop Tim Eyman's Profit Machine: No on 517 $8,101 $8,101
Total $620,043 $602,511

Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Washington Retail Association $105,000
Safeway $103,000
Washington Food Industry Association $80,350
Kroger $78,000
Wal-Mart $50,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Washington ballot measures, 2013


  • Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal said, "I’ve always been a strong supporter of the initiative process and will be voting for I-517 because I think it’s just common sense to preserve one of the few hammers citizens have to make Olympia listen."[19]


  • The Seattle Times said, "It reads as if Tim Eyman wrote it to expand his initiative-manufacturing industry... The state, at times, has been well-served by initiative s, because those measures pushed lawmakers to recognize the will of the people. But it should be a tough process. This initiative doesn’t come close. Vote no on I-517."[20]
  • The Columbian said, "While the initiative process is vital to a thriving democracy, Initiative 517 would go too far in expanding protection for signature gatherers at the expense of other's rights. We urge a "no" vote on this statewide ballot measure."[21]
  • The Olympian said, "The measure is misleadingly titled “Protect the Initiative Act,” because the name implies there is some threat to our well-functioning initiative process. That is not the case. Popular, well-organized statewide initiatives almost always make it on to general election ballots... Don’t be fooled. Initiative entrepreneur Eyman uses I-517 to pose imaginary concerns, and then overreaches for unnecessary solutions. It serves only his personal interests. Vote no."[22]
  • The Spokesman-Review said, "Vote no. This Tim Eyman favorite infringes on private property rights, hands special rights to petition gatherers and removes the discretion of cities in how they deal with questionable initiatives."[23]
  • Tri-City Herald said, "If you propose an initiative that the people want, they will put their signatures on the list. They will seek it out. It doesn't have to be rammed down their throats. As it is, voters sometimes sign a petition just to get out of the uncomfortable cross-hairs of a petition advocate. Providing further routes for aggressive signature gatherers to bully folks into signing something they might not fully understand would just make things worse."[24]
  • The News Tribune said, "The right to petition the government is a vital one. But all rights have limits. I-517 overreaches, giving signature gatherers privileges that infringe on those of private property owners and the public."[25]
  • The Wenatchee World said, "First Amendment rights are for all, signature seekers no more than others. Vote no."[26]
  • The HeraldNet said, "Think metaphorically. I-517 is 90 percent pig, 10 percent lipstick. The pig (substitute your least-favorite barnyard critter) is an invasive beast who tramples over property and can't be challenged. I-517 permits paid signature gatherers to accost citizens inside public facilities such as Woodland Park Zoo, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. The sanctuary of the downtown Everett Public Library? You'll need to navigate the gantlet."[27]
  • Longview Daily News said, "Among other things, I-517 would force local governments to put measures on the ballot if they receive enough signatures, even if they appear to be illegal. This would only add to the expense of futile elections and cities’ legal costs of defending measures that eventually get thrown out by a judge. Though I-517 includes some good ideas, it goes too far and we suggest a “no” vote."
  • The Stranger said, "And I-517 is Eyman's most self-serving initiative yet: It makes it cheaper and easier for him to run even more initiatives!... It's stupid, it's unnecessary, and it will just lead to more stupid, unnecessary Eyman initiatives making it onto your ballot. Vote no on I-517."[28]


See also: Polls, 2013 ballot measures
  • A survey by Elway Poll conducted September 3-5, 2013, found that 19% would "definitely" vote for the amendment, 39% would "probably" vote for it, 22% would vote against it and 20% were undecided. A total of 406 likely voters were polled with margin of error at +/-5%.[29]
Washington Initiative 517 - Support v. Opposition
Poll Support OppositionUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Elway Poll (September 3-5, 2013)
Moore Information (October 23-24, 2013)
AVERAGES 45.5% 31% 23.5% +/-4.5 453
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

On September 10, 2013, The Elway Poll put out the following information regarding the two Washington 2013 Initiatives to the Legislature:[30]

Washington 2013 ballot measures

Path to the ballot

See also Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington

In 2013, a total of 246,372 signatures were needed to place a measure before the Washington Legislature. If the legislature does not enact a measure, it is then sent to the ballot. The deadline for the submission of those signatures to the Washington Secretary of State was January 4, 2013.

The Washington Secretary of State's office reported that supporters submitted about 345,000 signatures on January 3, 2013. The secretary of state then began the process of determining how many signatures were valid.[31]

Signature verification begins as Elections Division worker checks signatures for I-517

On January 23, 2013, the Washington Secretary of State's office stated that the initiative cleared signature verification, sending the proposal to the state legislature. In addition to enacting it or sending it to the ballot, the legislature can also send the measure to the ballot with a competing measure. This would allow voters to choose which of the two measures to approve.[32]

The initiative was approved by the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations on February 19 and passed to the Rules Committee.[33]

The 2013 state legislative session ended on April 28, 2013, with no resolution from the legislature, therefore the measure went before voters in the 2013 general election.

Signature collection costs

See also: 2012 ballot measure petition signature costs
  • Signatures to qualify I-517 for the ballot were collected by various groups, including Peoples Petitioning LLC, Citizens in Charge and American Voter Drives.[34]
  • The CPRS for I-517 - given that $305,454 was spent on signatures versus a minimum requirement of 246,372 signatures - came to $1.24 per required signature.

See also

Suggest a link

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Washington Secretary of State, "2013 initiatives to Legislature launched this week," January 2, 2013
  2. The Seattle Times, "Tim Eyman’s I-517 would help community activists take the initiative," February 26, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 Yes on I-517, "I-517 Facts," accessed September 30, 2013 (dead link)
  4. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Fiscal Impact Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
  6. The Seattle Times, "Guest: Initiative 517 on initiatives offers voters protection," October 5, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Washington Secretary of State, "Voters' Guide2013 General Election," accessed September 16, 2013
  8. Yes on 517, "517 Facts," accessed January 17, 2013 (dead link)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Washington Policy Center, "Does I-517 interfere with private property rights?" July 22, 2013
  10. Seattlepi.com (blog), "Eyman campaign investigated by Public Disclosure Commission," March 15, 2013
  11. Washington State Public Disclosure Commission, "Complaint Form," accessed October 10, 2013
  12. Sky Valley Chronicle, "THE EYMAN FILE: On Monroe’s robo-ticket cameras, government that’s not listening, Arizona players and how you get your municipal fine turned into a consumer debt," February 1, 2011
  13. The News Tribune, "Quote of the Day: Tim Eyman," February 5, 2013
  14. IMBD.com, "The Battles of Tim Eyman," accessed October 1, 2013
  15. No on I-517, "Our Coalition," accessed October 11, 2013
  16. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Retailers fighting Eyman’s I-517," October 28, 2013
  17. NO517.org, "Official Voter’s Guide Statement Against I-517," accessed September 30, 2013 (dead link)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Washington State Wire,"After Years of Assaults on Initiatives, Senate Now Casts a Friendly Eye — Eyman’s ‘Initiative on Initiatives’ Passes Committee and Heads to Floor," February 20, 2013
  19. Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal, "Pot, I-517, and...," September 30, 2013
  20. The Seattle Times, "Editorial: Vote no on Initiative 517," October 7, 2013
  21. The Columbian, "In Our View: Initiative 517 Goes Too Far," October 11, 2013
  22. The Olympian, "I-517 creates new problems; initiative process working," October 10, 2013
  23. The Spokesman-Review, "Editorial: The Spokesman-Review’s choices for Tuesday’s election," November 3, 2013
  24. Tri-City Herald, "Our Voice: Initiative 517 -- Vote no," October 17, 2013
  25. The News Tribune, "I-517’s protections aren’t needed, go too far," October 4, 2013
  26. The Wenatchee World, "Initiatives: No," November 2, 2013
  27. HeraldNet, "Vote no on Eyman's I-517," October 15, 2013
  28. The Stranger, "The Stranger's Voters' Guide!," October 16, 2013
  29. Seattlepi.com, "Poll: Big lead for food-labeling initiative," September 10, 2013
  30. Seattle Met, "Elway Poll: Eyman Initiative, GMO Labeling Measure Hold Big Leads," September 10, 2013
  31. The Republic, "Initiative 517 would set penalties for harassment of initiative petition signers, gatherers," January 3, 2012
  32. Washington Secretary of State, "I-517 signature check completed," January 23, 2013
  33. Initiative 517 (status)
  34. Public Disclosure Commission, "Inkind Contributions for: PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES," accessed October 1, 2013