From taxes to tapeworms, initiatives welcome here
More voter initiatives have been filed this year in Olympia than ever. The Times editorial board likes the mechanism but not necessarily all the proposals.
THE electorate is bubbling with ideas: 77 statewide ballot initiatives have been filed in Olympia so far this year. It is a record. The grand political significance is not clear, but there seems to be an exuberant quality to it.
Voters are being offered initiatives to legalize liquor drinks at 19 and marijuana at 18. One initiative would create an income tax and another would stop an income tax. There is an initiative to have private liquor stores and another to have workers' compensation insurance.
There is an initiative to remake the Washington State Seal into a tapeworm in a three-piece suit.
All it takes to file an initiative is an active imagination and five dollars. But to make the November ballot, an initiative needs 241,153 valid signatures — and that is a much higher hurdle. Probably that means spending $400,000 on paid signature gatherers and, for those starting late in the game, maybe double that.
Initiatives can be focus-group tested, special-interest mechanisms or they can be homemade legislation.
Some, like the one that would exempt all Washington products from sales tax, or the one that would make welfare available to citizens only, are probably unconstitutional.
Some are plumb crazy. Most of the goofy ones will fall aside, and only a few proposals will make the ballot. The record, in 1914, was seven.
This year, The Seattle Times is almost sure to oppose some of the initiatives that make the ballot. But we support the initiative mechanism. It is part of the political culture of our state and part of the grist of daily journalism. It brings issues to the fore. It is the stuff of democracy.