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Washington energy choice initiative supporters turn in 431,000 voter signatures

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(The Center Square) – Backers of Initiative 2066 turned in more than 431,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon to the Secretary of State’s Office in Tumwater with the hope of getting the measure to protect energy choices like natural gas and propane on this November’s ballot.

The Building Industry Association of Washington, Let’s Go Washington and other partners held two news conferences on Tuesday, one at noon in Redmond and another at 3 p.m. at SOS headquarters to deliver signatures.

“We’re turning in today for Initiative 2066, which would prevent the state from implementing a natural gas ban, 431,063 signatures,” said Brian Heywood, the man behind with Let’s Go Washington voter advocacy organization, at the latter event.

A crowd of a few dozen supporters cheered as more than 18 boxes of signed petitions were loaded onto rolling carts and wheeled inside for verification.

State law requires the submission of 324,516 valid signatures from registered Washington voters to qualify. That figure is based on the number of votes cast during the last gubernatorial election.

Since a percentage of petition signatures are commonly found to be invalid due to duplication and non-registration, it is recommended that sponsors file as many signatures as possible. An additional “cushion” of 15% to 20% is typically sufficient to help qualify an initiative for the ballot.

Ahead of Tuesday’s press conference in Tumwater, Jessie Simmons with Olympia Master Builders told The Center Square he was handing in more petition signatures that have yet to be added to the tally.

“These are all just collected today with people bringing them by the office,” Simmons said. “Our organization held some super signing events where we gathered a couple hundred signatures; we’ve had quite the response.”

Heywood told The Center Square to get more than 430,000 signatures in 44 days was beyond what he thought was possible, adding there are plans to deliver more petitions by the Friday deadline for turning in signatures.

“We did some polling on this and saw like 80-10-10, so 80% opposed the ban, 10% support it and 10% don’t know, so I knew it was a winning issue,” Heywood explained.

He said proponents’ messaging from now until November is critical, knowing opponents with deep pockets will campaign against the measure.

“They’re gonna gaslight and say it’s not a ban, but the bill itself does call for PSE to put together a geographic electrification plan to eliminate areas they would not provide natural gas.”

That’s a reference to legislation passed and signed into law this session in the form of House Bill 1589 to allow Puget Sound Energy to start planning how to move away from natural gas. Passage of HB 1589 prompted the attempt to get I-2066 on this November’s ballot.

“I think our message is going to be I don’t care what 1589 was trying to do, this thing [I-2066] is going to prevent a ban from happening,” Heywood said. “And if you’re not going to ban natural gas, then you should be for this, right?”

He added, “This is preemptive strike to say you are not going to ban natural gas or make it so expensive that it’s a de facto ban.”

Three Republican-backed initiatives are already on the ballot to be decided by voters this November. One would repeal the Climate Commitment Act, another would allow Washington workers to opt out of the state’s long-term care program, and one would repeal the state’s capital gains tax.

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