History, politics, people of Oly WA

Initiative Reform: make the petition page size smaller

David at horesass.org has some good reforms for the initiative process:

  1. Ban paying per signature
  2. Restrict editorial content on petitions
  3. Allow legal challenges prior to the ballot to prevent blatantly unconstitutional or illegal initiatives from making it to the ballot
  4. Create incentives for filing initiatives to the legislature to encourage democratic deliberation
  5. Charge a reasonable filing fee to prevent frivolous filings

The only idea I don’t like is increasing the filing fee because it restricts the process to folks that can afford it. Tim Eyman and money interests otherwise won’t have a problem coming up with any fee, even if you put it in the thousands of dollars. It won’t restrict them from filing frivolous initiatives. What is will do is restrict less-moneyed folks from coming forward.

My dream reform would be to simply change the size of the petition page sheet from “not less than eleven inches in width and not less than fourteen inches in length,” to “not less than 8.5 inches in width and not less than 11 inches in length.” (Here is the RCW)

Right now, hardly anyone can print petitions out on a home printer (unless you have a really nice printer with some large paper). If you allow a petition size small enough to print out at home, you potentially make a much larger group of people signature gatherers. If you want to blunt the effect of paid gatherers in general (David notes that you can’t make it illegal for people to get paid, just paid per signature) you make everyone a signature gatherer.

Imagine printing off a signature page, signing it yourself, and then walking around with it for the next few days asking your family and friends to sign it too. It changes signature gathering for an initiative from a commercial process outside a Mariners game to something more regular and everyday.

Instead of a paid signature gatherer asking for your support, its a friend of yours. Speading out the ability of gathering signatures makes it less likely that people will sign initiatives supported by bands of paid gatherers. They will seem shrill and base compared to honest friends that ask for your support.

And, its only changing two numbers in one line of law.


  1. Mike Kretzler

    Excellent idea! I’ve always wondered why the page sizes have to be so weird. Your comments suggest a good reason to change them.

  2. Farnsworth68

    I agree, an excellent idea. Can we get Brendan Williams to sponsor this RCW change?
    Or should we — ironically and emblematically — gather signatures on our own supersized petition, to put it before the voters?

  3. Anonymous

    Have you seen the “McGavick for Pope” flyers around Olympia? This morning I had a flyer on my car and I saw a couple glued to garbage cans.

    It’s really funny =). You should find a copy and post it.

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