Update from Secretary Wyman on signature gathering during coronavirus restrictions

By JASON MERCIER  | 
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Mar 27, 2020

I had a very encouraging phone call with Secretary of State Kim Wyman today. She is acutely aware of and concerned about the impact the current social distancing orders have on citizens’ ability to exercise their right of initiative and referendum. While the number of signatures required and deadlines for submission cannot be waived (set in state constitution), Secretary Wyman told me she will not reject ballot petitions that adhere to the spirit of what is required in the constitution.

She plans to limit rejections of petitions only for those that don’t adhere to the requirements affirmed by the State Supreme Court in its Ball v. Wyman ruling (2018). This means petitions only need to meet the requirements laid out in RCW 29A.72.170.

Under current law and circumstances, people may file initiatives and referendum online with the Secretary of State’s Office. Alternatives may include petition gathers emailing petition forms which can be printed on home computers and then coordinate on online campaign where they ask supporters to print off the petitions at home, sign, and then mail back to the campaigns to turn into the Secretary of State office.

Secretary Wyman told me:

“The framers of our state constitution deeply believed in securing the people’s right to make and remake laws, providing a repeal process over the decisions of their legislature. I take pride in my role as facilitator of the process, encouraging citizen participation but always operating within the parameters of the law. 

Despite the challenges our state is facing, I want to assure voters we will do everything in our power to mitigate barriers to the petition process that may arise. What cannot be modified are the deadlines by which referendum and initiatives must be submitted. These are defined in the state constitution and would, therefore require a constitutional amendment to change.”

We are very grateful for Secretary Wyman recognizing the need to provide flexibility during this time of emergency restrictions. Every effort must be made to help citizens practice the necessary social distancing to fight the coronavirus while not sacrificing their constitutional rights of initiative and referendum.

Additional Information
How do we exercise our right of initiative/referendum in era of social distancing?