New Eyman initiative would protect petitioners

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Initiative promoter Tim Eyman turned in signatures Thursday for his latest effort, a measure that would set penalties for harassment of signature gatherers and signers and allow more time for signatures to be collected.

Eyman's initiative also would require that voters be allowed to vote on any initiative that qualifies for the ballot, even if a lawsuit has been filed against the measure.

"We always thought that there were ways to make the process better, and we think that these improvements will help it a lot," Eyman said.

He turned in about 345,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office for his Initiative 517. An initiative to the Legislature requires at least 241,153 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state's office suggests at least 320,000 as a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures.

I-517 would give initiative supporters a year instead of the current six months to collect signatures. It also would make it a misdemeanor crime to try to interfere with or harass signature gatherers and signers.

The element requiring a vote on any initiative that qualifies for the ballot, regardless of a lawsuit, was sparked, in part, by a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year. The court said city laws allowing for red-light traffic cameras are not subject to repeal by voters. Eyman had pushed an initiative in Mukilteo that would have forbidden the city from allowing red-light cameras unless approved by two-thirds of the City Council and a majority vote by city residents. Seventy percent of voters had approved his measure.

Eyman cited other lawsuits, including one that led to a court ruling out of Bellingham that blocked an initiative opposing coal trains from appearing on the ballot last November.

"We want to have a stop to the lawsuits and a beginning of having the citizens having a chance to vote," he said.

Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute, who has long opposed Eyman's initiatives, issued a statement Thursday criticizing the measure, saying that the aim of I-517 "is to make it easier and cheaper for Tim Eyman to run initiatives."

The secretary of state's office plans to randomly sample the signatures that were submitted, and officials will know by the end of the month whether the measure qualifies to move on to the Legislature. Once the initiative goes to the Legislature, lawmakers have three options: vote on the measure; take no action, meaning I-517 will appear on the November ballot; or recommend an alternate measure to run alongside I-517 on the ballot.


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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.