HB 1727 would eliminate the statewide general election in odd-numbered years. It would effectively take away people’s constitutional right to propose and repeal laws via initiatives and referendums in odd-numbered years. We testified against it at the House committee public hearing on January 19, 2022. Below is our testimony:
Thank you, Chair Valdez and members of the committee. I oppose HB 1727 because it would take away people’s constitutional right to propose and repeal laws via initiatives and referendums in odd-numbered years.
I want to read the Washington State Constitution, ARTICLE 2, SECTION 1 LEGISLATIVE POWERS, WHERE VESTED to you. “The legislative authority of the state of Washington shall be vested in the legislature, consisting of a senate and house of representatives, which shall be called the legislature of the state of Washington, but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.”
After Washington Territory was established in 1853, there was a legislative election and session every year from 1854 to 1867. After 1867, elections and sessions were held only every other year. When Washington became a state in 1889, the WA Constitution ARTICLE 2 SECTION 12 SESSIONS, WHEN — DURATION — says “The first legislature shall meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in November, A. D., 1889. The second legislature shall meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January, A. D., 1891, and sessions of the legislature shall be held biennially thereafter…” This remained the WA Constitution till voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for annual sessions of the State Legislature in 1979. Note that 1979 was an odd-numbered year. By contrast, the first odd-numbered year election in Washington State’s history was held in 1973, 6 years before the annual legislative session was approved by the people.
If the legislature does not want the people to exercise their constitutional right to propose and repeal laws in odd-numbered years, then the legislature should not have that power either. WA Constitution ARTICLE 1, SECTION 34, SAME says “That the authority hereby conferred upon the legislature shall not be construed to grant to the legislature any exclusive power of lawmaking nor in any way limit the initiative and referendum powers reserved by the people.”
We believe HB 1727 violates the WA Constitution by not only stripping away people’s initiative and referendum rights in odd-numbered years, but also limiting people’s legislative power to every two years while allowing the legislature to continue passing laws every year.
In 2019, many of you voted to overturn voter-passed I-200 and deny voters’ right to have a say on whether I-200 should be repealed or not. Through the WA Constitution authorized referendum process, voters were able to overturn your decision and vote to reaffirm I-200, i.e. Washington Civil Rights Act.
Proponents of this bill argued that voter turnout in odd-numbered years was low. True or not, the fact is that nearly 2 million voters voted in the 2019 general election. Their voices and votes should not be suppressed only because some voters decide to not participate in odd-numbered year elections. If odd-numbered year voter turnout is indeed low, then the effort should go into turning out voters, NOT to take away others’ right to vote. To take away those 2 million voters’ constitutional rights to vote in odd-numbered years would be voter suppression.
We urge you to vote NO on HB 1727, or amend it to preserve the people’s constitutional right to propose and repeal laws via initiatives and referendums in odd-numbered years.
Finally, I want to read another section of the Washington State Constitution: “ARTICLE 1, SECTION 1 POLITICAL POWER. All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
Statistics of the 1/19 Public Hearing on HB 1727:
Among “Pro” positions, 14 signed up to testify, 224 did not sign up to testify. Among “Con”positions, 25 signed up to testify, 508 did not sign up to testify. Among “Other’ positions, 1 signed up to testify, 3 did not sign up to testify.