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Latest Eyman Initiative Would Extend Washington Signature-Gathering Period

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington initiative promoter Tim Eyman says he wants to make it easier to put an initiative on the ballot. Eyman submitted nearly 350,000 signatures Thursday for his latest ballot measure. But critics are suspicious.

Eyman’s so-called "Protect the Initiative Act" would give signature-gatherers new protections from harassment. It would also stretch the time initiative backers have to gather signatures in Washington from six months to one year. By comparison Oregon allows up to two years.

One of Eyman’s partners in Initiative 517 is Edward Agazarm. “Eddie Spaghetti” -- as he’s known in the business -- used to operate the largest signature-gathering firm in Washington.

“What we’re trying to do with 517 is put the citizen back in the citizens’ initiative," Agazarm says. "Right now all you have are corporations, big labor and billionaires who are buying the ballot.”

Agazarm and Eyman say with more time to collect signatures, grassroots groups would have a better shot at making it on the ballot. However, critics on the left counter this initiative on initiatives is really about turning signature-gathering into a year-round business for Eyman and others who have made it a profession.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."