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Initiative 917 faces count of signatures
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington voters might experience a campaign season without Tim Eyman.
His Initiative 917, to cut car-tab taxes to $30, has failed to qualify for the November ballot, based on a random sample of petition signatures, Secretary of State Sam Reed announced Friday.
Next is a complete count of all 266,606 signatures Eyman submitted. Results won't be known until September.
Based on the sample, Reed's office projects that 18 percent are invalid — because they came from people who are not registered voters or from people who signed more than once.
At that rate, the measure would be 6,650 signatures short of the 224,880 valid signatures required, said Trova Heffernan, a spokeswoman for Reed.
Eyman told supporters via e-mail: "In nine years of doing initiatives, we've never faced a situation like this. As a result, it's hard for us to know what to say, what to do and how to act because there's no road map to follow."
If approved, the initiative would cancel weight fees that help pay for state highways and ferries and would limit future rail projects by Sound Transit, which relies on a car-tab tax for one-fifth of its local income.
For more on I-917: The Secretary of State's office has posted its "Most Frequently Asked Questions" about the tax-cut initiative and its signature counts, at www.secstate.wa.gov.
In June, Eyman failed to qualify Referendum 65, which would have repealed legislation that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
State Elections Director Nick Handy said the last time a full signature count occurred was 1996, when Initiative 655, a ban on bear-baiting, fell short in the sample but qualified during the full count.
Eyman has said on July 7 he turned in 300,353 signatures for I-917, saying that "sometime while in possession of the Secretary of State's office, 34,000 signatures disappeared." He kept a piece of notebook paper, which he called "a state receipt" with the handwritten figure "300,353."
Handy said, "We did not generate that piece of paper." He said Eyman handed it to a receptionist, insisted she stamp it, then displayed it to news cameras.
Mark Funk, manager for the anti-917 organization Keep Washington Rolling, said he will continue to prepare as if there will be a full campaign. Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the anti-Eyman group Permanent Defense, said activists might even ring doorbells and plant yard signs during the next few weeks of limbo.
Seven years ago, voters passed Eyman's Initiative 695, to cut a state car tax to $30, followed in 2002 by Initiative 776, which repealed a car tax for county roads. I-776 also targeted Sound Transit, but the agency has preserved its car-tab tax through the courts.
Eyman has won campaigns to create state performance audits and to cap certain property-tax increases.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company