EVERETT — Snohomish County’s elections chief won’t let Tim Eyman get his “B.S.” into the voter’s pamphlet for this fall’s election.
County Auditor Carolyn Weikel said Thursday that Eyman cannot use that specific term in the statement he submitted opposing a sales tax hike measure on the ballot in Mukilteo.
“I believe it is vulgar and inappropriate. There are many other more appropriate words in the English language that could be used to make the same point,” she said.
“I don’t think I’m being a prude. This is an election publication and I believe voters expect a certain level of appropriate and professional presentation of information,” she said. “They expect a higher level of discussion than what Mr. Eyman has put forward.”
But Eyman is fighting back. The Mukilteo resident insisted Thursday it is not a profane or vulgar term, and barring its use infringes on his free speech rights.
“It is so tame. It is so G-rated. It is so mundane,” said Eyman, who urged supporters of his anti-tax efforts to email Weikel to demand she change her mind.
“Truly this is insane for the government to be able to micromanage free speech in a political debate,” he said. “We live in a free society where people over 18 can communicate political ideas and can do so without the government playing Nanny and scold.”
Weikel had not formally notified Eyman of her decision as of Thursday afternoon. She said she requested advice from county prosecuting attorneys “to find out exactly what my options are.” She said she did not know when she would get a response.
The fight stems from Proposition 1 on the November ballot, which calls for a one-tenth of 1 percent hike in the city of Mukilteo’s portion of the sales tax. If approved, money generated from the increase would be spent on improving the city’s streets and walkways.
Weikel’s office recruited volunteers to write the “pro” and “con” statements on the measure for the pamphlet, which will be sent to the city’s registered voters.
Glen Pickus, Melanie Field and Nicole Thomsen penned the argument in favor of the measure while Eyman authored the “con” statement.
“The fact the city needs more money for street maintenance, sidewalks, and bike lanes is indisputable,” supporters wrote.
They contend the sales tax hike is the “best answer” to the question of how to pay the bill. Among their arguments, they said the increase will cost the “average Mukiltean” less than $10 a year and will expire after 10 years.
Eyman countered in his statement: “Politicians always say the need for higher taxes is ‘indisputable.’ We call B.S. on that.”
Inclusion of the abbreviation sent a ripple of concern through the elections office Tuesday as employees proofed statements before sending them to the printer for inclusion in the pamphlet.
“My supervisor felt that the term ‘B.S.’ that you used in your rebuttal statement was considered profanity and needed to be reviewed by the Auditor,” Mary Senter, elections information and design specialist for the county, wrote in an email to Eyman. “The Auditor feels the language is inappropriate and would like you to choose different wording. Using the language ‘We call foul’ would be acceptable, but you may prefer something else.”
Eyman strongly objected, demanding in one of several emails to know what law prevented him from keeping the language.
Meanwhile his lawyer, Stephen Pidgeon, fired off a letter Wednesday arguing the term “contains no vulgarity on its face and is broadly accepted as challenging the veracity of a statement.”
Weikel’s authority is outlined in a section of administrative rules related to producing voter pamphlets. It states the county auditor can reject a statement or argument “deemed to be libelous or otherwise inappropriate.”
It does happen from time-to-time, Weikel said.
“In the past when individuals, typically candidates, have gone down a path that is inappropriate and we contacted them, they’ve made changes,” she said. “We never have had an individual not follow our suggestion. I can’t recall anyone using profanity or vulgar language before Mr. Eyman.”
Eyman’s retort: “It’s honestly just a silly thing for her to throw a childish temper tantrum. The answer to speech we don’t like is more speech. We don’t try to dilute the speech.”