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Originally published October 16, 2014 at 3:31 PM | Page modified November 2, 2014 at 9:21 PM

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The measures on your 2014 ballot explained

If you’re still not sure how you plan to vote in this election — or if you’re not even sure what some of the measures would do — this is the guide for you. Here are all the ballot measures for Washington state and the city of Seattle, in plain English. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 4.

Seattle Times staff


Initiative 1351: K-12 education

Proposes reducing class sizes and increasing staffing in K-12 schools. The initiative does not specify how the Legislature would pay for these changes, estimated to cost $4.7 billion total through 2019.

The context: Washington has some of the largest class sizes in the country. The average elementary-school classroom in Washington has 24 students. For upper grades, the number is 30. The state Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to spend more money on public schools.

What a Yes vote does

Class-size limits would be phased in over four years, first in high-poverty schools.

The limits:
• Grades K-3: an average of 15-17 students per class.
• Grades 4-12: an average of 22-25 students per class.

In addition to hiring about 7,400 teachers to reach those limits, the initiative also calls for adding 18,000 or so school employees, from principals to counselors to custodians. That number is based on school-funding formulas recommended by a bipartisan legislative committee in 2010.

What a No vote does

Average class sizes would not be subject to the proposed limits.

Initiative 594: Background checks for gun purchases

Expands background checks for gun sales.

The context: Under present federal law, background checks are required only for sales by licensed firearms dealers.

What a Yes vote does

I-594 would expand background checks to private transfers or sales, including some transactions online and at gun shows.

Criminal-background checks would be required for almost all gun sales and transfers, including online and at gun shows. Someone selling a gun would need a licensed dealer to run the background check.

Some transfers would not need a background check: antique weapons, gifts within an immediate family or situations where there is imminent danger.

Note: I-594 conflicts with another measure, I-591, so if both pass, the courts likely would have to sort out what happens.

What a No vote does

Background-check rules stay the same. Only licensed dealers would be required to run background checks. Anyone could still buy a gun from a private seller at a gun show without being run through a background check.

Initiative 591: Background checks for gun purchases

Background checks on gun sales could not go beyond federal rules.

The context: Licensed dealers still must do a background check when selling a gun. The checks are not required for private transfers or sales online or at gun shows.

What a Yes vote does

The state would be barred from enacting background-check laws beyond the federal standard.

The state could not confiscate guns without due process. No laws allow the state to confiscate guns now, so this just prevents such a law from being passed in the future.

Note: I-591 and I-594 conflict, so if both pass, the courts likely would have to sort out what happens.

What a No vote does

The state could still choose to strengthen background-check rules at some point.

Advisory Vote 8 (on SB6505): Marijuana taxes

Lawmakers decided marijuana grown in Washington is not eligible for tax breaks that apply to other crops, such as wheat. This asks voters to say whether that was a good idea.

The context: Whenever the Legislature raises taxes, voters are asked to weigh in.

What a ‘Repeal’ vote does

This tells lawmakers you think cannabis should still get agricultural tax preferences — in other words, you disagree with what they did.

A “repeal” vote does not actually repeal what the Legislature did. It just tells lawmakers that voters want them to repeal it. What they do with that knowledge is up to them.

What a ‘Maintain’ vote does

This tells lawmakers you think agree with the change, estimated to raise almost $25 million in the next 10 years.

Advisory Vote 9 (on ESHB1287): Tribal property tax

State and local governments pay an excise tax when they privately lease land they own. Lawmakers decided federally recognized tribes that privately lease land they own would be subject to that same tax. This asks you to say whether that was a good idea.

Context: Whenever the Legislature raises taxes, voters are asked to weigh in on it.

What a ‘Repeal’ vote does

This tells lawmakers you think they should not have imposed this tax.

A “repeal” vote does not actually repeal what the Legislature did. It just tells lawmakers that voters want them to repeal it. What they do with that knowledge is up to them.

What a ‘Maintain’ vote does

This tells lawmakers you agree with the change, which would raise about $1.3 million in the next 10 years.


Proposition 1A and Proposition 1B: Early learning, pre-K education

These dueling measures are about improving early childhood education, boosting pay and training for teachers and making preschool more affordable.

The context: This is actually a twofer, with competing proposals.

The city is proposing a pilot program for 3- and 4-year-olds. Schools must meet certain quality standards to receive tax support to subsidize preschool costs for most families. Two unions have their own plan, with a wider scope than the city’s.

A judge ruled the two proposals would go on the ballot as competing measures. This means voters will be asked first whether they want a preschool program at all and then they’ll be asked to choose between the two proposals.

What approving
Proposition 1A does

Salaries of at least $15 an hour would be phased in for all child-care workers, faster than the city’s planned increase to the minimum wage.

Child-care workers would not need to have or be working toward a bachelor’s degree, but they would be required to get certain training and certification.

A goal would be set to limit the price of child care to no more than 10 percent of family income.

Proposition 1A does not set up a funding source for these changes, or set a timeline for when the cost limit would go into effect.

What approving
Proposition 1B does

The owner of a $400,000 home would pay about $43 a year for four years.

This would raise $58 million in property taxes to help fund voluntary preschool for 2,000 children ages 3 and 4 by 2018.

The money would go to high-quality preschools. Low-income families would pay nothing. Others would pay on a sliding scale.

Lead teachers in the programs would be required to have, or be working toward, a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education. They would be paid about as much as kindergarten teachers in Seattle Public Schools.

What choosing neither does

This would keep things the way they are. No city-funded preschool program would be set up, and Seattle’s early-childhood education policies wouldn’t change.

Proposition No. 1: Metro Transit funding in Seattle

Metro bus service would get a boost in Seattle.

Context: In April, King County voters rejected a measure to raise money from sales taxes and car tabs, for streets and transit. Metro said it would have to make deep cuts without that money. Seattle officials — noting that two-thirds of voters inside the city supported the county’s April measure — responded by proposing a city-only ballot measure to prevent losses of bus service. But in recent weeks, the County Council decided to cancel most of the cuts, suddenly transforming Seattle’s Proposition 1 into a proposal to add Metro service.

What a Yes vote does

Some Seattle bus routes that have been cut might be restored, and more bus service could be added.

It would impose a car-tab fee of up to $60 a year in Seattle, with a $20 rebate for people with low incomes. The sales tax in Seattle would rise 0.1 percent. The fee and tax would expire by the end of 2020. This is expected to raise about $45 million a year.

Some of the money also would support regional buses that start or end in Seattle, and better access for low-income riders.

What a No vote does

Bus service in Seattle would stay at present levels.

Twenty-eight routes with relatively low ridership, such as in Leschi and Greenwood, were cut in September and would not be restored.

Citizen Petition No. 1: Monorail planning

This ballot measure would fund planning by a board of activists for a monorail route, from Ballard through the central waterfront to West Seattle.

Context: This is the sixth time Seattle has voted on a monorail-related measure since the Seattle Center Monorail was built in 1962. Voters approved car taxes for a monorail project linking Ballard to West Seattle in 2002, then killed it three years later, after revenues fell far short of financing a $2.1 billion corridor. Taxpayers lost $124 million. Light rail is being built elsewhere, but not from West Seattle to Ballard, although Sound Transit is studying light-rail options for that area.

What a Yes vote does

Starting in May, a $5 fee would be added to car tabs for vehicles in Seattle that are at least a year old. This money would fund the planning of a monorail line from Ballard to the central waterfront to West Seattle.

A follow-up tax measure would be needed to fund the estimated $2.4 billion in construction costs.

A government body called the Century Transportation Authority, or “CenTran,” would be created. A 21-member council would be created to advise the CenTran board.

What a No vote does

A monorail wouldn't be planned.