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Washington State Gearing Up for November 3

In the Obama era of “yes we can,” the right is taking its battle back to the ballot box by sponsoring conservative initiatives that seek to tell progressives in no uncertain terms, “no, you can’t!”

Over the next several months, in regular and special elections, states will consider initiatives that keep social issues bubbling and tax issues hot. For a preview of how this might play out in your state, let’s take a look at what’s happening in Washington.

By now voters should have received their November ballots. Beyond candidates, there are two ballot measures that everyone should be concerned about – Referendum 71 and Initiative 1033.

Social justice organizers across the state have an uphill battle and are working round-the-clock to get voters to vote YES on Referendum 71 and NO on Initiative 1033.

Hilary and Maya

In May 2009 Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill that gives domestic partners legal rights that are equal to those given married couples. On November 3, Referendum 71 will ask voters to approve or reject this state law. Despite the support of civil rights and church groups, as well as major businesses like Boeing and Microsoft, the state's constituency seems split down the middle on whether or not to save domestic partnerships, the state’s constituency seems split down the middle on whether or not to save domestic partnerships.

Referendum 71 exposes the Right’s dishonesty about their opposition to same sex marriage as a religious concern, revealing that they do not want any form of equal rights for same sex couples.

If passed, Initiative 1033 will freeze state spending and ability to generate revenue. It could cause a $9 billion reduction in the state budget by 2015 that would decimate education, social services, parks, fire departments and every level of the public infrastructure. The man behind 1033 is Tim Eyman, a conservative activist who has used the initiative and referendum system to attack affirmative action and progressive taxation. Recent polls show more voters would vote YES than NO.

Canvass Training

Some of the groups working on YES on Referendum 71 and NO on Initiative 1033 campaigns are part of Western States Center’s VOTE Project. Central Washington Progress, a member of Win/Win Network, is mobilizing voters in the often ignored Yakima Valley and Statewide Poverty Action Network is reaching out to voters in King and Pierce Counties.

Organizer EJ Juarez of Central WA Progress, recruited volunteers to reach almost 3,000 voters in the first week of launching their phone-banking campaign. EJ is currently enrolled in the Center’s leadership development program, WILD (Western Institute for Organizing and Leadership Development). Volunteers then took to the streets last Saturday and knocked on over 1,000 doors despite heavy rains. With more phone lines available the volunteers have increased their goal to 1,500 calls per phone-bank for the weeks leading up to November 3. Volunteers range from an amazing crew of high school students, to college students from the Yakima Valley Community College, to SEIU members and local activists.

The high school student volunteers are largely from Sunnyside High School and commute 40 minutes each way to participate in the phone-banks. They make bilingual calls in Spanish and English and reach many folks who have never been contacted before. The students say they are motivated by wanting to protect the quality of life in Washington State, having seen many cities in Central Washington already struggling because of budget cuts.


Win/Win Network also provides valuable data to make campaigns more strategic. Through micro-targeting data, campaigns are able to pinpoint voters who are sitting on the fence and will vote yes if they have a clearer understanding of the language on the ballot. This allows phone-bank callers and doorknockers to give tailored information to voters. Win/Win has also saved both campaigns many hours and dollars by preventing duplication of calls and outreach by different organizations. Let’s hear it for efficiency!

Win/Win Network also helped Statewide Poverty Action Network to identify precincts with heavy concentrations of formerly incarcerated people. The right to vote for former felons was restored in July 2009 and Poverty Action is one of just a handful of groups in Washington State who are reaching out to the formerly incarcerated to let them know about the recent change in the law. This change potentially enfranchises hundreds of thousands of people. During their outreach, Poverty Action organizers and volunteers also educate people on Referendum 71 and Initiative 1033.

They are also traveling to transitional housing sites and homeless day centers, giving presentations at bingo nights and other social events. Instead of just waiting for the bingo to begin, residents want more information about voting. One resident commented, “This makes me feel respected, like a person.”


Please contact the following organizations to help get the vote out:

Seattle area

Central Washington
  • Central Washington Progress
    EJ Juarez, ejuarez(at)


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