This midterm election, Washington voters made their voices heard on four big-issue initiatives that drew national attention.
Early results show 20- and 18-point advantages in favor of the gun reform initiative and the initiative to institute changes to Washington’s police deadly use of force laws. The initiative banning local grocery taxes has a nearly 10-point lead, but the carbon fee initiative is falling behind by over 12 points.
Here’s our rundown on the initiatives’ backgrounds and where the votes stand thus far:
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I-1631: Carbon Fee
Washington has earned a reputation as a sort of “testing ground” for progressive initiatives — this is especially true for this year’s I-1631. If passed, the initiative would become the first statewide carbon fee of its kind in the nation.
As it stands now, I-1631 is trailing in the polls 56.32 percent to 43.65 percent. A county comparison shows just three counties — King, Jefferson, and San Juan – where a majority of voters have voted in favor of the carbon fee. In some counties, such as Adams, Columbia, and Grant, the initiative is failing by over 60 points.
This initiative caught national attention from a broad range of individuals and organizations prompting endorsements from the New York Times Editorial Board, Senator Bernie Sanders, and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. The initiative also brought in huge sums of out-of-state money in opposition to I-1631. The “No on 1631” campaign raised over $31 million, largely from oil and petroleum corporations. Top contributors include BP America at over $12 million, Phillips 66 with $7,201,031, and Andeavor at $4,362,827. The campaign supporting the initiative raised $15,902,750 from large donations from The Nature Conservancy, the League of Conservation Voters, and Michael Bloomberg.
I-1634: Grocery Tax
Another initiative that brought in major donations is Initiative 1634 which would prohibit local jurisdictions from taxing grocery items. So far, the initiative is leading 54.78 percent to 45.22 percent.
I-1634 would ban cities from attempting to bring forth taxes like Seattle’s recently passed 1.75 cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage tax. If passed, the initiative won’t reverse Seattle’s tax, but will prohibit other local jurisdictions from following suit.
The soda industry helped the “Yes to Affordable Groceries” campaign raise over $20 million, with the largest contributions coming from The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Keurig/Dr. Pepper, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
Similar to the carbon fee, a county-by-county comparison shows King, Jefferson, and San Juan as a block of counties voting counter to the rest of the state. In these counties, voters opposed the initiative by double-digits.
I-1639: Gun Law Reform
Initiative 1639, Washington’s comprehensive gun safety initiative, is currently ahead in the polls by over 20 points. Here, a county comparison shows 14 counties with majorities voting in favor of the initiative, mostly made up of counties in Western Washington, but also including Eastern Washington’s Spokane and Whitman Counties.
At the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, hundreds of gun-rights supporters and gun-safety advocates took to Olympia to oppose, support, and testify on a broad package of gun legislation. Several pieces of legislation, including a bill prohibiting the purchase of high capacity magazines and a bill to enhance background checks, were heard in committee but failed to move further.
Following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida in February, Democratic leaders in the legislature encouraged citizens to take the issue into their own hands and develop an initiative.
I-1634, which faced a series of legal challenges on its way to the ballot, would raise the age for buying a semi-automatic weapon to 21, require secure gun storage, and apply the same background check requirements for purchasing handguns to semi-automatic weapons.
Tonight’s results appear to follow a trend of success for gun-reform initiatives in recent years. In 2014, Washington voters approved a universal background check initiative and in 2016, voters also approved an initiative to issue “extreme risk protection orders.”
“The majority of voters are ahead of the majority of politicians on these common-sense measures, and things will only change if there are mass numbers of voters who make their voices heard,” said Senator David Frockt in reference to gun-safety bills in the legislature.
I-940: Law Enforcement De-escalation Training
After first day results, De-Escalate Washington’s I-940 is leading 59.2 percent to 40.8 percent. This initiative would require law enforcement officers to receive mental health and de-escalation training. The initiative would also change state rules regarding police use of deadly force.
I-940 was stuck in a legal battle for months following the controversial passage of I-940 (an initiative to the legislature) and HB 3003, a bill that modified the initiative, during the 2018 legislative session. The changes introduced by HB 3003 were the result of collaboration between law enforcement groups and the initiative’s sponsor.
The Supreme Court ultimately ordered the original initiative to be placed on the ballot without any modifications put in place by the legislature; groups like WACOPS and WASPC have since voiced their opposition to the original initiative.
Support for this initiative was also more widespread throughout the state. Majorities in several Western Washington counties along with a few counties in Eastern Washington and Southwest Washington voted in favor of this initiative.
The Secretary of State’s office will continue to provide updates on the vote counts as additional ballots are processed. We will continue to update these results over the coming days.