They were unable to interpret the decision of the judge as anything other than resoundingly decisive.
Last August, Thurston County Superior Court judge James Dixon, in straightforward and direct fashion, prevented Initiative 1639 from reaching the ballot, citing a complete lack of accountability to the process by the authors, and a noticeable absence of clarity and readability in the documentation. The ruling effectively nullified an alleged 378,000 signatures collected and gathered in supporting a ballot measure forwarding strict gun control policy in the state of Washington. Dixon was quite succinct in presenting to the courtroom his opinion, including this very pointed statement pertaining to the questionable paperwork submitted to the state.
It’s not readable to me. I don’t know whether I’m most people. I can’t read it. The court is not persuaded by the argument that substantial compliance is the proper analysis; rather, the court believes that it has an obligation to require strict compliance with the initiative process.
The matter was originally brought to the attention of the court by reasonable citizens led by the Second Amendment Foundation, individuals concerned with the highly plausible scenario that in allowing basic policies and standards of the initiative process to be ignored by election officials, a truly disturbing and degradative precedent could be set into motion, compromising the integrity and landscape of future elections and leading to limitations defining individual rights and freedoms.
So all was well in the wake of Judge Dixon’s unanimous decision? Cue the deflating record scratch sound effect segue. The simple answer – No, not within the borders of Washington state. And “Why?” one asks? Another simple answer – The eloquent system of checks and balances leaves residents under the baleful and litigious guise of the state Supreme Court, an elected body of ideally disinterested individuals, but in reality swayed by the toxic political climate of the state in generating an environment of malaise and discontent. As timeless and absolute as Newton’s laws, Washington voters face a unique and disconcerting axiom of finality in facilitating or appealing changes to common law,”The sun may shine brightly, but be wary of the ominous clouds of judicial robes perpetually on the horizon.”
In the case of I-1639, the victory for the purveyors of reason was brief, effulgent, and gut-punchingly deflating, as the Washington state Supreme Court inexplicably reversed Dixon’s decision and opened the cage releasing a savage beast salivating ceaseless bureaucratic caustic waste, just in time for the election. The defeat culminated in a slew of stringent gun laws being put into effect by voters mostly in urban and high density population areas. Currently, the results of the election are being appealed on a federal court level. However, the near future of the initiative process is in perpetual disarray, as the enforcement of basic applicable standards has been effectively dissolved, at least for the time being and the next election cycle.
The caveat to this nightmarish framework of a conundrum, is that the vast majority of voters are uninformed as to the entire realm of judicial candidates who appear on the ballot. What exacerbates this disturbing reality is that unlike their political counterparts, individuals vying for a seat on the bench are not required to choose a political party for their profile in the voter’s pamphlet, as the state decrees state Supreme Court elections as nonpartisan. This idealistic notion that judges are instinctively more adept at deliberation and not influenced by a bias or agenda is an oversight shared by election regulators and those forwarding a narrative reliant on ambiguity. Adding to the controlled chaos is that the governor of the state is afforded the power to appoint a new justice in accounting for unforeseen circumstances. This is significant, as the last Republican governor of Washington state was chosen by voters in 1981.
The easy answer to alleviating the madness of the current system is to introduce an increased magnitude of transparency in requiring judges to pick a political party, especially with candidates running for positions in the higher courts. Or it is the responsibility of watchdog groups to effectively parse the mountain ranges of data in providing a comprehensive dossier and alerting the public on which way an individual leans. Either way, it is vitally important that voters are vigilant in at least questioning who they are choosing to fill the underrated, yet crucial appointments of the legal system.
Residents of Washington face the eternal paradox of a democratic merry-go-round spun by lawmakers and greased by overzealous justices avoiding the basic tenets of fair and impartial. And this ongoing cyclical ride of cumbersome circuitous nauseating spins was never fun.