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January 3, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Washingtonians have a history of confronting controversial issues head-on through ballot measures.
Voters in recent years have affirmed same-sex marriage and legalized recreational marijuana. This past November, the city of SeaTac’s electorate raised the minimum wage for airport workers to the highest level in the nation.
On deck: Gun control. Not just one initiative. Two!
Expect the dueling measures to spark a passionate, attention-grabbing and expensive debate, which will begin during the legislative session and likely extend through the November elections. Here’s Seattle Times reporter Brian Rosenthal’s latest news story on the signature-gathering process. The secretary of state’s office reports both initiatives have more than enough signatures to qualify for a place on the November ballot.
Initiative 594 would require background checks for all sales. Initiative 591 would limit mandatory checks to sales by licensed dealers and prohibit government officials from removing guns from citizens without due process. (more…)
November 18, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Really, Washington? I know ballots are still being counted, but the latest results as of Saturday evening indicate a 46 percent voter turnout in this year’s elections — statewide and in King County. As Seattle Times news reporter Jim Brunner pointed out in this Friday news story (when state turnout was reported at 44.5 percent and King County turnout was 47 percent), we’re seeing the lowest voter participation numbers in a decade.
Washington voters are not exactly living up to their reputation as the 13th most active electorate in the nation in 2012 with a 65 percent voter turnout rate, according to this March 2013 report in The Washington Post’s ‘The Fix’ blog.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect between voters and the issues, and that’s too bad. People either don’t care or don’t believe they have a voice in the democratic process.
Or maybe they agree with British comedian Russell Brand, who delivered a stinging criticism of voting (seen in the video below) in an October interview with BBC’s “Newsnight.” It went viral on the Internet. I suspect that’s because many subscribe to his view that he never votes “out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit from the political class that’s been going on for generations now.”
Brand is always charming, but there’s just no excuse to not vote. Citizens are still responsible for putting good — and, yes, sometimes very bad — people in public office. Indifference allows those bad apples to stay in power.
Here in Washington, counties send those ballots right to our mailbox. Each name printed on those sheets of paper has the power to change the way we live. (more…)
November 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM
We should listen to what they have to say. Then we must do something about it.
Last Friday, Bill Moyers interviewed the pair about those issues for his show on PBS:
In Seattle this week to promote their new book, “Dollaracracy,” the pair argue that our elections are increasingly influenced by money from the country’s richest individuals and corporations. Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation, and McChesney, a communications professor at the University of Chicago at Urbana-Champaign, also warn that broadcast media companies are now more focused on amassing stations and profits from political advertising than serving the public interest through robust local journalism. (Read my previous Opinion NW blog post with a visual of what media consolidation looks like.)
On Monday evening, the two spoke at Town Hall. They’ll continue their tour of Seattle Tuesday evening at the University of Washington at 7 p.m. in Kane Hall (Room 130). Here’s a link to more information about the UW event.
If you don’t get a chance to hear them in person in Seattle, watch our editorial page’s Nov. 4 Google+ Hangout On-Air with Nichols, McChesney, Seattle Times editorial writer Lance Dickie and Free Press President/CEO Craig Aaron. They offered their fascinating insights into the state of the media, big money’s influence on elections, growing concerns over privacy in the digital age, and how political campaigns have started to mine voter data. (more…)
November 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Mayor-Elect Ed Murray has promises to keep. This Seattle Times news story suggests the powerful Service Employees International Union Healthcare 775 NW, which endorsed Murray over Mike McGinn, won’t let their man forget a SeaTac Prop 1-like citizen initiative could come to Seattle if leaders don’t take legislative action to increase the minimum wage to $15. The groundswell movement around socialist firebrand Kshama Sawant adds another voice to the debate over income inequality. (ICYMI: Read my colleague Bruce Ramsey’s column on the Sawant effect on Seattle liberal politics.)
But what about the rest of Seattle’s less-vocal voters? Between Oct. 14 and 16, consulting firm Strategies 360 released a survey based on 400 interviews among likely voters in Seattle.
The results indicate minimum wage as a standalone issue is not at the top of peoples’ agendas. Seattleites care more about the economy, jobs, education, public safety and road infrastructure. Here’s the chart:
View the complete survey on Strategies 360′s web site. With a 4.9 percent margin of error, the results also showed 48 percent of respondents think Seattle is heading in the right direction. Perceptions of the local economy are 73 percent positive — with 64 percent saying it’s in “good shape.”
Of course, none of those rosy numbers equaled votes for Mayor Mike McGinn. Voters found him to be a “more divisive figure” than Murray.
Here’s another telling visual: (more…)
October 16, 2013 at 7:58 AM
The public financing concept that became Seattle Proposition 1 on the November ballot initially intrigued me. Of course, the devil’s in the details.
On Wednesday, the editorial board formally opposed Prop 1 and recommended voters pass Charter Amendment 19, a ballot measure that would move the city council from nine at-large elections to a hybrid system of seven districts and two at-large positions.
The biggest contrast between Charter Amendment 19 and Proposition 1 is cost. District elections are cheaper to run than citywide races. But with public financing, taxpayers foot the bill and have no choice where their money goes.
As we dug deeper, it became clear why Seattle Ethics and Election Commissioner Bruce Carter is a vocal opponent of Prop 1. In this Monday Seattle Times news report by reporter Bob Young, Carter called the public financing measure a “remedy in search of a problem.”
Yes, money influences politics but…
Data, however, doesn’t confirm that big money’s grip on City Hall is growing stronger.
Seattle limits contributions in council races to $700, far less than the $1,800 limits facing Metropolitan King County Council and state legislative candidates. The average contribution to City Council members in the 2011 election was $223, according to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC), the city’s watchdog group.
While that average has increased over time, it hasn’t climbed every year. In 2009, the average contribution dropped to $178 from $213 in 2007. There were more contributions under $100 in 2009 city races than in any election since 2001, the SEEC reported, and fewer contributions over $600.
SEEC staff members believe the 2009 numbers were driven downward by the recession.
Still, total contributions to council candidates in an election year have never topped the $1.95 million collected in 2003. To date this year, the total amount is $795,000.
Do you plan to vote for or against Prop 1? Scroll down to vote in our poll.
As much as I appreciate the high-minded sentiment behind Prop 1, it has several flaws: (more…)
March 27, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Well, this is disappointing.
A Senate panel heard testimony Tuesday on the Washington Voting Rights Act, but already the panel’s leader says HB 1413 — which passed the House without a single Republican vote — doesn’t stand much of a chance of getting out of her committee.
From Tuesday’s news story by Associated Press reporter Jonathan Kaminsky:
The Washington Voting Rights Act, as supporters call it, would encourage court challenges to cities, counties, school districts and others to push them to switch from at-large to district elections in areas where large minority groups are present.
Sen. Pam Roach, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Operations Committee, said it was not likely the bill would advance from her panel.
“It’s a long reach,” she said, noting that her committee consists of four Republicans and three Democrats. “These haven’t traditionally been Republican issues.”
C’mon, Sen. Roach. Let’s not make this a party issue. Focus on what’s fair to those Washington residents who’ve not traditionally had a voice in Olympia.
Again, the Senate Government Operations Committee is made up of four Republicans and three Democrats. Hard to believe one vote could kill this bill. This shouldn’t be an issue championed only by Democrats. Members of minority groups are Republicans, too. It’s in the interest of both parties to level the election playing field.
In February, The Seattle Times editorialized in support of HB 1413:
Washington’s voting history shows a pattern of lopsided outcomes because the vast majority of local elections are for at-large positions — meaning citizens vote citywide instead of for their specific neighborhood or section.
As a result, minority candidates often have a hard time getting elected.
Though Latinos make up more than 33 percent of the population in 10 counties across Central Washington, they hold less than 4 percent of local elected offices in those areas…
Reforms might be inconvenient, but they are necessary.
Earlier this month, The Herald also came out in support of the bill:
The impetus is straightforward: Washington’s political class doesn’t mirror the state’s evolving demographics.
Want to see the Washington Voting Rights Act pass? Then write your legislator. Here’s a link to their contact information.
Watch the public hearing at this link, courtesy of TVW.