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

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Washington Initiative 517, also known as the "Protect the Initiative Act", is an Initiative to the Legislature on the ballot in Washington that will be decided in the general election on November 5, 2013. The measure would implement penalties for intimidating, harassing, interfering or retaliating against petition drive efforts for a ballot initiative.[1]

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

Other provisions include:

  • Limit pre-election legal challenges
  • Extend the time given for signatures to be collected for the ballot.

Text of measure

Ballot text

The following is the ballot text on file with the Washington Secretary of State's office and provided by the initiative's supporters:[2]

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 [ ][3]


The following is 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."[4]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • The campaign behind the measure is Yes on 517.
    • According to the 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."[5]
Official I-517 petition


In March 2013 the Public Disclosure Commission announced an investigation into complaint's that the initiative's supporters violated campaign finance laws. The complaint alleges 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.[6]


The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:


  • According to Jan Gee, of the Washington Food Industry Association, argues that the measure violates stores' private property rights because it makes it a crime to harass canvassers or disrupt them.[7]
  • Steve Gano, a lobbyist for Wal-Mart, argued that customers deserve protection from petitioners who are harassing them.[7]

Path to the ballot

The supporting group, according to reports, planned to turn in signatures a day before the deadline on January 4, 2013. Ballotpedia contacted the Washington Secretary of State's office on January 3, 2013, learning that the initiative turned in signatures at 10:00 a.m. PST that day. Reports out of the state said that the initiative's sponsors turned in about 345,000 signatures. Signatures needed to be reviewed by the Washington Secretary of State's office.[8]

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

Reports say that a total of 246,372 signatures are needed to place the measure before Washington Legislature. If the legislature does not enact the measure, it would then be sent to the ballot.

According to reports, signature verification began on January 15, 2013.

Then, on January 23, 2012, 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.[9]

Action from the legislature

The initiative was approved by the Senate Committee on Governmental Operations on February 19 and passed to the Rules Committee.[10]

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

See also

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