Monthly Archives: May 2006

Bellingham allows 8.5 by 11 petitions (and an initiative up there)

I found one more Washington city that allows printer sized petitions, Bellingham (from Bellingham Municipal Code 1.02.030):

D. Petitions shall be printed or typed on single sheets of white paper of good quality, not less than 11 inches in width and not less than 8-1/2 inches in length with a margin of 1 inch at the top, bottom, and sides of the petition for office use only; and each sheet of petition paper having a space thereon for signatures shall contain the text or prayer of the petition. For any particular petition, all sheets of paper shall be the same size.

I found that reference while following up on an initiative being filed up there to protect Bellingham Bay. I'm sending the same email that I sent to all the other Seattle initiatives about whether they're putting a petition online. 


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Meeting on Thursday and notes

This Thursday, I'm going to have my first meeting on this with an actual legislature. I was talking with Rep. Brendan Williams' LA earlier this week on another topic, and I thought as long as I was on the line, I might as well ask for a meeting so I could go over with him my big idea.

Here is the handout I plan to bring. If anyone still reads this blog, give me a comment if you see something I can improve on:

Reducing the size of the statewide initiative petition from 11 by 14 inches to 8.5 by 11 inches, Washington State will meet a growing nationwide standard and reduce the influence of special interests on the initiative process.

8.5 by 11 initiative petitions are common nationwide

Washington has the largest required minimum petition size in the country.

Of the more than 20 states that have some sort of initiative or referendum process, 12 states mandate a particular size for signature petitions. Eight of those states allow regular sized paper (8.5 by 11) to be used. All other states have a minimum size of 11 by 14. Even Michigan, where the minimum allowed size is 11 by 14, is considering a reduction in the minimum size to 8.5 by 11.

By reducing the minimum size of initiative petitions to 8.5 by 11, Washington can meet the national standard.

There is no such thing as 11 by 14 paper

Why does Washington State require petitions to be a size that doesn't even exist?

The original mandated minimum size for an initiative petition in Washington was 12 by 14. In the early 1980s paper was no longer printed in dimensions of 12, so the legislature took an inch off one side to slightly update the petition size. Today, 11 by 17 is the typical size of initiative petitions in Washington.

By reducing the minimum size of initiative petitions to 8.5 by 11, Washington can require a paper size that actually exists.

8.5 by 11 petitions are common statewide for municipal level elections

Only statewide initiatives require 11 by 14 inch petitions.

Both Seattle and Spokane allow regular printer size pages to be used for initiative petitions. In all other local initiative campaigns, such as recall petitions or ballot petitions, 8.5 by 11 petitions are allowed.

By reducing the minimum size of initiative petitions to 8.5 by 11, Washington can meet the standard already set in by our local governments.

8.5 by 11 petitions bring the initiative process closer to citizens

Despite being created in the early 20th century as a safety valve for citizens to circumvent the legislature, the initiative process is more and more the domain of well funded special interests. Because the federal courts have ruled that there can be no limit to donations to initiative campaigns, the only way to decrease special interest influence is to increase the opportunity for citizens to be involved. By allowing citizens to easily print out initiative petitions themselves and voluntarily circulate them, the legislature can lessen the importance of commercial printing of petitions and paid signature gatherers.

For more information, go to

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The other Seattle initiatives aren’t posting petitions either

Great Schools (I-87 and I-88) aren't posting their petitions online either. Go figure.


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Turning the corner

I think I've pretty much wrapped up researching this for now. There are still some questions out there (especially the entire union angle I never considered), but I think it is time to start sitting down with other folks on this one.

I'm going to call one of my representatives in the next few days to see if I can meet with them. Before I do that, I'm going to boil down all that I've learned into a one pager that I'll post here.

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