Quick Take on Washington State’s Judicial Races and Ballot Measures

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With ballots hitting mailboxes beginning today, Washingtonians are choosing how to vote on a wide variety of ballot items. Here’s some information on some of the lesser-known items on your ballot.

Judicial Races

Three of the Washington Supreme Court’s nine justices are up for re-election. The court, thought by many to be one of the most progressive and liberal supreme courts in the United States, has handed down some very unpopular decisions in recent years. You can read more about those decisions here.

Chief Justice Barbara Madsen (website) joined the court in 1992 as the first woman to be popularly elected to the Court in Washington state history. She was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010, and has presided over the court as Chief Justice since 2010. Madsen is being challenged by Kittitas County Prosecutor Greg Zempel (website), who has served in that role for 22 years.

Justice Charles Wiggins (website) was first elected to the Washington Supreme Court in 2010. Judge David Larson (website), who serves as the presiding Judge at the Federal Way Municipal Court, is challenging him for the seat.

Justice Mary Yu (website) has served since being appointed to the Supreme Court since 2014, after 14 years as a King County trial court judge. She is the first lesbian to serve on the Supreme Court, and is being challenged by David DeWolf (website), a retired constitutional law professor from Gonzaga.

Challengers Zempel, Larson, and DeWolf are being supported by right-of-center interests in an effort to bring more balance to the Supreme Court.

There are also dozens of lower court races of interest around the state as well, such as the race between Judge Alex Ekstrom – the judge who ruled against Barronelle Stutzman – and his challenger, Alicia Berry, a lawyer who represented Mrs. Stutzman in that case. Please consult the voter guide from the Secretary of State’s office to learn more about candidates in those local races.

Ballot Measures

Initiative No. 1433 concerns labor standards:

  • This measure would increase the state minimum wage to $11.00 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12.00 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020, require employers to provide paid sick leave, and adopt related laws.

Initiative No. 1464 concerns campaign finance laws and lobbyists:

  • This measure would create a campaign-finance system; allow residents to direct state funds to candidates; repeal the non-resident sales-tax exemption; restrict lobbying employment by certain former public employees; and add enforcement requirements.

Initiative No. 1491 concerns court-issued extreme risk protection orders temporarily preventing access to firearms:

  • This measure would allow police, family, or household members to obtain court orders temporarily preventing firearms access by persons exhibiting mental illness, violent or other behavior indicating they may harm themselves or others.

Initiative No. 1501 concerns seniors and vulnerable individuals:

  • This measure would increase the penalties for criminal identity theft and civil consumer fraud targeted at seniors or vulnerable individuals; and exempt certain information of vulnerable individuals and in-home caregivers from public disclosure.

Initiative No. 732 concerns taxes:

  • This measure would impose a carbon emission tax on certain fossil fuels and fossil-fuel-generated electricity, reduce the sales tax by one percentage point and increase a low-income exemption, and reduce certain manufacturing taxes.

Initiative No. 735 concerns a proposed amendment to the federal constitution:

  • This measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations, and constitutionally-protected free speech excludes the spending of money.
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