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Eyman needs to end his ‘B.S.’ protests over voters guide

Editorial: The county auditor has made the right call to keep ‘B.S.’ out of the voters guides.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Tim Eyman’s “B.S.” fight with the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office just won’t go away quietly.

At the risk of affording Eyman, the Mukilteo initiative promoter, the attention he feeds on, let’s walk out into the field where the bulls do their business.

The feud is over what Eyman was allowed to include in a statement he voluntarily prepared for the Snohomish County’s Voters Guide regarding a sales tax increase proposal in Mukilteo to raise money for road and sidewalk improvements. In preparing his statement against the increase, Eyman wrote he was “calling B.S.” on higher taxes.

County Auditor Carolyn Weikel considered the term “vulgar and inappropriate” and asked Eyman to substitute a different word. Eyman objected and appealed the decision to the county prosecutor’s office.

“It is so tame. It is so G-rated. It is so mundane,” Eyman told The Herald.

But Prosecutor Mark Roe rejected Eyman’s appeal last week, writing that the voters guide “remains a limited forum where decorum and discourse are respected and valued.”

Rebuffed there, Eyman relented and revised his statement, using the term “Bolshevik” — look it up, kids — which Weikel said she was willing to accept. But Eyman now claims that his most recent revision was also rejected because he included a web address link (tinyurl.com/censorship2017) to a story about the B.S. controversy.

Eyman says he’s perplexed; last year, Weikel allowed him to refer readers to an online story in writing a “con” statement regarding the Sound Transit ST3 tax package.

The difference, Weikel said Friday, is that Eyman’s link to the ST3 story was relevant to the statement in the voters guide. His link to the B.S. brouhaha has nothing to do with Mukilteo’s tax proposal. And state law backs Weikel’s decision. “Local Voters’ Pamphlet Administrative Rule 2H,” limits the content of statements to those advocating for or against the ballot measure.

Actually, Eyman in his initial revision had included a link to an online story that was germane to the tax issue, but then informed Weikel he was pulling that statement and submitting a new one.

Eyman has again appealed the auditor’s decision on the link to the prosecutor; a decision could come later this week.

With a deadline approaching in less than a month for the auditor’s office to get its voters guides to the printer — there are five regional editions — it’s time for Eyman to give up his B.S. campaign.

Eyman’s claim of censorship, both in his choice of words and online links, has stepped in it.

He’s not being censored. He’s free, as Roe wrote in denying Eyman’s initial appeal, to use the term in mailings to voters, in statements to the media and in letters to the editor. But Weikel as auditor has the authority and responsibility to make the call on what’s acceptable in a publication that is supported by the public’s taxes. She has to prepare a publication — which is mailed to every household in the county, not just registered voters — that is fit for a broad audience.

Weikel’s a little perplexed herself that Eyman raised such a stink over the term.

“In past statements for voters guides, Tim’s been very eloquent and passionate but has never had to resort to questionable language. I don’t know why he chose this particular one,” she said.

Eyman makes the point that content more questionable than “B.S.” has been allowed in other voters guides in other counties.

But those are separate counties and different auditors. If voters want an auditor who would give a pass to saltier language, they can elect that person. Until then, Weikel has the authority; it’s her call.

For the record, The Herald’s Opinion page would allow Eyman to use the term “B.S.,” as we have allowed recent letter writers to do. As vulgarities go, “B.S.” is pretty tame. But that’s a decision we make as a publication. If readers and subscribers have an issue with it, we’ll answer for it.

Voters guides had a brief heyday of “colorful” candidate statements in the late 1970s during the run of the Owl Party, which nominated a slate of tongue-in-cheek hopefuls for state office in 1976, most of whom urged voters to “throw the rascals out.” The closest the statements came to offensive initials was that of Secretary of State candidate “Fast” Lucie Griswold, who said she was taking an unequivocal stand against the heartbreak of psoriasis, bed-wetting and “the big ‘O.’”

While the Owl Party’s candidate statements and campaign were entertaining and provided a needed shot of political satire into state politics, the county auditor has made the right call to challenge Eyman on his use of colorful language. Many voters rely on the guides to help them choose which candidates and ballot measures to vote for. The guides have to be accessible and acceptable to all. In other words: G-rated.

There are plenty of other places in our society where B.S. is allowed to flourish.

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