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Originally published Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Eyman plans to sue to change ballot title

A lawsuit to be filed today by an associate of initiative promoter Tim Eyman will argue that the ballot title for a proposed King County charter amendment should tell voters it would double the number of signatures needed for future citizen-initiated amendments.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The ballot title for a proposed King County charter amendment should tell voters it would double the number of signatures required to qualify future citizen-initiated amendments, initiative promoter Tim Eyman said Wednesday.

A lawsuit has been drafted with Eyman associate Michael Dunmire as plaintiff asking that King County Superior Court order the Charter Amendment 7 ballot title rewritten. Eyman said the suit will be filed today.

Dunmire, an investment adviser from Woodinville, has contributed to past Eyman initiatives and has joined Eyman and Chris Van Dyk in writing the voters-pamphlet argument against the charter amendment.

"If the voters are being asked to screw themselves over and take away their rights, you do have a responsibility to tell them," Eyman said.

The amendment, proposed by the county Charter Review Commission, would increase the number of petition signatures required for a citizen-initiated charter amendment from 10 percent to 20 percent of votes cast in the most recent county executive election.

It would also require that amendments by initiative be put to popular vote only once, rather than twice as is now required.

The ballot title drafted by the Prosecuting Attorney's Office says Amendment 7 would establish a new process and set the signature threshold at 20 percent. It does not tell voters the threshold is now 10 percent.

Chief Civil Deputy Kevin Wright said the title language meets legal muster. "We think that the important points of the measure are that it establishes a new process and that it establishes the 20 percent threshold," he said.

Wright also said that, technically speaking, comparing the 10 percent and 20 percent thresholds is "a little bit apples and oranges" because the 10 percent standard was originally adopted for the purpose of amending the county code, not the charter.

Charter Amendment 7 would create King County's first locally written process for citizen-initiated amendments since the state Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that citizens have the right to amend county charters by initiative. That ruling was the result of a successful initiative promoted by jail guards and Eyman to reduce the Metropolitan King County Council from 13 members to nine.

Proponents of Amendment 7 say the charter shouldn't be amended too easily. Opponents say it requires so many signatures it would make citizen-sponsored amendments virtually impossible.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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