In Washington, voters get an opportunity to weigh in on taxes that were passed by the Legislature without their direct approval. This opportunity is called “Advisory Votes” and it is often the only time voters hear of a new tax.
Since 2012, advisory votes on 38 tax increases have appeared on the ballot.
But today, Senate Democrats passed a bill that would abolish advisory votes.
Some who support Senate Bill 5082 claim, without any supporting data, that abolishing advisory votes would encourage more voter participation. Because nothing says your voice matters like getting rid of direct democracy?
Democrats think advisory votes are confusing to voters. In truth, they just don’t like what votes have to say.
This means that, unless you follow state politics closely or happen to catch a report on the evening news, you won’t have a chance to give this powerful feedback to Legislators.
How did you get this opportunity to weigh in? Initiative 960 was approved in 2007 and since then, voters haven’t been shy about voicing their disapproval of tax hikes.
The last time taxes were on the ballot in 2021, voters wanted them repealed. Proponents of taking away advisory votes argue that they are confusing or that voters get frustrated because the taxes they disapprove of aren’t reversed.
Maybe the answer is to actually listen to the voters instead of taking their voice away?
Democracy in on the ballot when it comes to advisory votes and the will of the people.
SB 5082 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. You can contact your state representatives to share your opposition to the bill. You can also sign in to oppose or testify against the bill if it gets a hearing in the House.
How do you feel about being forced to vote?
Be on the look out for other voting-related legislation like Senate Bill 5209, which would impose mandatory voting in Washington state. That’s right…this bill would force you to vote whether you want to or not.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled previously that “the freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak.” The First Amendment protects you from “compelled speech.” And forcing you to vote — even if you don’t want to or feel there’s nothing on the ballot you can support — is compelled speech.
Encouraging people to vote is a good thing. Increasing voter participation in our elections is a good thing. But legally mandating people to vote is the absolute WRONG way to do that.
“This bill is about disrespect for the voters.
We owe them the opportunity to tell us if we are on the right track.”
– Sen. John Braun
We’ll keep a sharp eye on this bill. It was already passed out of committee. If it comes to the floor for a vote before the Senate, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, you can tell your legislators that you refuse to be forced to vote — that you value your right NOT to speak as much as your right TO speak.