Washington Referendum 88 was too close to call as of Wednesday morning, with ballots counted so far split 48.2% in favor of Initiative 1000 and 51.8% opposed. The measure was behind by about 20,000 votes and an estimated 332,000 ballots were left to be counted. The results must be certified by December 5.
The measure would expressly allow the state to implement affirmative action policies without the use of preferential treatment or quotas (as defined in I-1000) in public employment, education, and contracting. Initiative 1000 was qualified through a signature petition drive and then passed by the state legislature before being forced to the ballot by opponents through Referendum 88.
Washington Initiative 200, which voters approved in 1998, prohibited public institutions in the state from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the areas of public education, public employment, and public contracting. Initiative 200 did not define preferential treatment.
The measure took a complex and unusual route to get before voters. Referendum 88 was one of two statewide citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in the country this year and was the only veto referendum—a petition effort targeting the repeal of a recently passed law. What’s more, it was a veto referendum seeking the repeal of an indirect initiative that was approved by the legislature instead of going to the ballot. This situation has happened two times out of 38 indirect initiatives in Washington’s history.
Proponents of I-1000 first collected signatures to qualify the measure to go before the legislature and potentially on to the ballot. Then the legislature approved the initiative, precluding an election on it. Finally, opponents of I-1000 collected signatures to force the issue before voters in the hopes they would reject it.
Since 1914, Washington voters have decided 37 statewide veto referendum measures. The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in 2012. Voters repealed targeted bills in 81% of Washington veto referendums (30 of 37).