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Limited by COVID-19 crisis, Tax Amazon wants to take ballot initiative signature gathering online in Seattle

Friday’s “caravan” to Amazon (Image: @TaxAmazonMvt)

It’s not easy gathering 21,000 signatures during a pandemic.

City Council representative Kshama Sawant and advocates for a new tax on Seattle’s largest businesses are calling for changes in the rules governing signature gathering in the city during the COVID-19 crisis.

The group Tax Amazon announced Monday that the National Lawyers Guild is joining the fight to move the process online:

Across the country, organizers are evaluating the way forward for signature gathering for citizen-lead ballot initiatives and grassroots candidates. Organizers cannot canvass to collect paper signatures while respecting the scientist-recommended and necessary social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID19. Citizen-led ballot initiatives are an integral tool for working-class people to exercise democracy under this highly unequal political system. The National Lawyers Guild is standing alongside the Tax Amazon campaign to call on city and state governments to protect democratic rights during the pandemic. In the absence of online signatures, campaigns will be forced to rely on extremely expensive mass mailing campaigns, which will disproportionately benefit corporate-backed campaigns.

Advocates for the new tax have hope the legislation will make it through the Seattle City Council despite opposition from the mayor.

But they are also pushing forward with a back-up plan just in case the tax bogs down at Seattle City Hall — a November ballot initiative driven by the Tax Amazon group.

To get there, organizers had six months to procure the necessary signatures — Ten percent (10%) of the total votes cast for mayor at the last Mayoral election — to put the measure on the ballot for a November vote. The clock is ticking.

Monday, the groups said the City Council and Gov. Jay Inslee have the power to make the changes necessary to allow online signature gathering:

Already, voters can register and update personal information online. Many contracts and legally-binding documents are completed online. The Seattle City Council has the power to amend the City Charter to accept digital signatures for ballot initiatives. Governor Jay Inslee and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman can also take steps at the state level to protect the grassroots ballot initiative process, and eliminate any barriers to online signatures.

According to a representative for Tax Amazon, Sawant says she has asked staff to begin looking into what changes would be necessary for the City Charter amendment.

Add activism and marches to the list of activities changed by distancing restrictions around the virus. Friday, Tax Amazon advocates drove to protest outside the online giant’s downtown “Spheres” in one of a handful of caravan efforts to mark May Day 2020 in Seattle.

UPDATE: “Right now, we are looking at the prospect of democratic rights of Washingtonians being completely upended,” Sawant said in a release from Tax Amazon on the effort to OK online signature gathering. “It would be unacceptable if the Secretary of State Wyman and Governor Inslee do not provide viable avenues for democratic rights. I have asked City Council staff to look into whether the City Council can pass an ordinance mandating that online signatures count. My office will be doing everything we can to ensure that democracy is protected, the rights of working people and grassroots campaigns are protected.”

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6 thoughts on “Limited by COVID-19 crisis, Tax Amazon wants to take ballot initiative signature gathering online in Seattle

  1. Sawant seems so concerned for democratic rights exemplified by the citizen initiative process. Then why is she pushing the existing Tax Amazon legislation as an emergency piece of legislation, thus making it impervious to reversal by citizen initiative? It is my understanding that the emergency legislation, if passed by the Council and signed by the Mayor, will not be subject to reversal through citizen initiative. If that is true, she is complaining about diminished rights of citizens to seek redress through the initiative process while advocating lesiglation impervious to the citizen initiative process. Actions in conflict with one another.

  2. Now who else was it that used the democratic process to eventually establish an eventual autocracy? Has that ever happened before? I’m trying to think…

  3. “My office will be doing everything we can to ensure that my ability to wreak havoc on our economy is protected, the rights of myself and Trotskyite campaigns are protected.” FIFY

    • International worker solidarity is a good thing, and Amazon should be FORCED to fund that effort through more taxes–especially now that they have been caught blatantly disregarding worker safety and undermining worker organizational efforts. Take the time to properly learn what Socialism is, and maybe you won’t sound like such a horrible idiot!

      Also, maybe you forgot, but Trotsky was murdered by the USSR while in exile. Not exactly the poster child for government overreach a la Stalin, if that’s what you were aiming for???

      Maybe you should be the editor of the Wall Street Journal instead of Pravda…they have a whole staff full of jackasses and you’d be among good company

  4. The Sec of State has said initiative signatures can be mailed in, but “wet signatures” are needed in order to verify them. This validation process compares signature on file to those on the initiative form.

    The initiative process is intended to be difficult. Opening up online signatures for initiatives will flood elections with all sorts of Nextdoor fueled legislation.

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