BP-funded and Tim Eyman-written Initiative 1053—which gives one third of either house in the Washington state legislature a veto over closing tax loopholes or raising new revenues—is undemocratic, unconstitutional, and a Trojan horse for Big Oil. We’ve already established that.
It’s also unfair.
I mean that in a very particular sense.
Consider this: In 2007, I-960 (which I-1053 reinstates) passed by a simple majority of 51-49 percent. It had the effect of instituting minority rule, giving defenders of tax loopholes and opponents of revenue measures a huge head start in the legislature.
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Some 51 percent of voters locked in their pro-loophole, anti-revenue worldview by raising the legislative victory bar to 66 percent (plus one). It’s as if the team that won a football game seized the rulebook and wrote in a regulation awarding itself 21 points at the beginning every future game.
Imposing minority rule by majority vote disenfranchises a huge segment of the electorate, a fact that Oregon belatedly recognized. In 1996, Oregon voters passed a constitutional amendment by a margin of 55 to 44 percent to impose a 60 percent supermajority requirement on the state legislature for revenue-raising measures. In other words, minority rule. Two years later, Oregon voters amended the state constitution to require that “measures proposing supermajority voting requirements require [the] same supermajority for passage.” (It too passed 55-44.) Had this rule been in place two years earlier, Oregon would not have labored under minority rule ever since. If Washington operated under the same principle, I-960 never would have passed in 2007: its 51 percent margin is nowhere near the two-thirds supermajority it calls for. (Unfortunately, Oregon voters have not repealed their original 60-percent minority-rule provision.)
Eyman and BP’s 1053 is unfair. It uses majority rule to undermine majority rule, denying citizens equal representation in the legislature.
In response, Olympia could attempt a constitutional amendment like Oregon’s: any proposal to impose minority rule must win the same vote margin it intends to require. I-1053, which would give a veto to one-third of the members of either house, for example, could be blocked by one-third of the voters.
In the meantime, voters could reject I-1053.