The signature submission deadline for Initiatives to the People (ITP)—which is the name of direct ballot initiatives in Washington—passed on July 7, 2023. No campaigns submitted signatures. To qualify for the ballot, proponents would have needed to submit 324,516 valid signatures. A total of 70 ITPs were filed by five sponsors. The filed initiatives concerned a range of topics, including taxes, firearms, and schools.
Washington citizens may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called an Initiative to the People (ITP)—or an indirect state statute—called an Initiative to the Legislature (ITL). In Washington, citizens also have the power to repeal legislation through veto referendums. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.
This year will be the fourth consecutive year that no ITPs appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington. The 2020 election was the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot did not feature an Initiative to the People (ITP). The last ITPs on the ballot were decided in the 2018 general election.
The signature deadline for 2023 Initiatives to the Legislature (ITLs) was Dec. 30, 2022. A total of 151 ITLs were filed by 14 sponsors. None of the campaigns submitted signatures by the deadline. The most recent ITL, Initiative 976, was on the ballot in 2019 where it was approved and later invalidated by the Washington State Supreme Court.
The Washington State Legislature may refer constitutional amendments to the ballot with a two-thirds (66.67%) vote, though no constitutional amendments or other referrals were passed by the legislature during its 2023 session. The last constitutional amendment referred to voters was on the ballot in 2020.
Two veto referendums have been filed against a bill passed by the legislature in 2023. The referendums seek to overturn Senate Bill 5599, passed by the Washington State Legislature, which was designed to exempt certain homeless youth shelters and host homes from parental notification requirements for minors seeking or receiving gender-related treatment or reproductive health services.
Signatures for veto referendums must be filed 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the targeted bill was passed. For bills passed during the 2023 legislative session, the signatures are due by July 22, 2023.
The most recent veto referendum was on the ballot in Washington in 2020. In 79.5% of cases (31 of 39), the veto referendum resulted in the targeted bill being repealed. Conversely, 20.5% (eight of 39) of veto referendum measures resulted in the targeted law being upheld. In Washington, successful veto referendum petitions suspend the targeted law until the veto referendum is placed on the ballot and voted on in an election.
Washington voters will no longer see advisory questions on their ballot after the state legislature passed and the governor signed Senate Bill 5082, which abolished advisory vote questions. Initiative 960, which was sponsored by Tim Eyman and approved by voters in 2007, required statewide advisory questions whenever the legislature passes a bill that increases tax revenue.
Forty advisory votes required by Initiative 960 have been on the statewide ballot in Washington from 2012 through 2022. A majority of voters were in favor of maintaining 10 of the tax increases. In the other 30 cases, a majority of voters were in favor of repealing the tax increases in question.
Additional reading: 2023 ballot measures