Electoral Reform and Progressive Advocacy in Washington State

Andrew Villeneuve leads electoral reform and progressive policy advocacy with NPI in Washington, aiming to boost voter turnout and tackle key issues

Electoral Reform and Progressive Advocacy in Washington State

A major push for electoral reform is underway in Washington, aimed at boosting voter turnout and engagement in local elections. But that's just one piece of the comprehensive progressive advocacy happening under the leadership of Andrew Villeneuve and the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI).

In a recent interview on the Hacks & Wonks podcast, Villeneuve laid out NPI's multi-pronged efforts to advance progressive policies and values in the state. This includes NPI's legislation to give cities and towns the option to move their elections to even-numbered years when voter turnout is significantly higher.

"We know that if we move [local elections] to an even-numbered year, people will vote in them," Villeneuve stated, contrasting the low 35% turnout common in odd-year local elections.

But even-year local elections is just one of NPI's strategic initiatives that allow multiple reforms to move forward simultaneously. Villeneuve explained, "Because those three issues are connected to every other issue. So that's why you'll see us doing a lot of work on fair revenue, on trying to address media concentration, and trying to make sure that elections are fair."

NPI's work was pivotal in passing legislation that removed Tim Eyman's push polls from ballots and in helping get charter amendments approved, such as moving King County's elections to even years starting in 2026.

A major battle is looming on the ballot initiative front, with a hedge fund millionaire bankrolling six conservative initiatives aimed at dismantling progressive policies like the capital gains tax, climate legislation, police reforms and more. "Collectively [they] would cause a lot of damage to Washington," Villeneuve warned. NPI has launched Stop Greed to oppose the initiatives.

Beyond initiatives, NPI is deeply engaged in research and polling to gauge public opinion and develop effective messaging. Villeneuve emphasized NPI's "rigorous commitment to the scientific method" in conducting polls to avoid skewing results. Their polling has proven accurate in previewing election outcomes across the state.

Looking ahead, Villeneuve stressed getting involved as a crucial component for advancing the progressive agenda, whether it's joining the push for even-year elections at evenyears.org or organizations doing direct voter outreach.

"We invite others to join us in taking on this challenge so we can protect Washington," Villeneuve stated. "Every year is an on-year."

About the Guest

Andrew Villeneuve

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute (NPI) and its sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. A recent focus of his research and advocacy work has been electoral reform. With Senator Patty Kuderer, Andrew and the NPI team developed the legislation that successfully removed Tim Eyman’s push polls from Washington ballots. And with Councilmember Claudia Balducci, Andrew and the NPI team developed the charter amendment that 69% of King County voters approved in 2022 to move elections for Executive, Assessor, Elections Director, and Council to even-numbered years, when voter turnout is much higher and more diverse. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. 


Northwest Progressive Institute

The Cascadia Advocate | Northwest Progressive Institute

Stop Greed

Initiative 2113 (allowing dangerous police pursuits to resume) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Reject Initiative 2113 to keep reasonable safeguards on police pursuits in place” by Sonia Joseph and Martina Morris for The Cascadia Advocate

Initiative 2117 (repealing Washington’s Climate Commitment Act) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Initiative 2081 (jeopardizing student privacy) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Initiative 2109 (repealing billions of dollars in education funding) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Initiative 2111 (prohibiting fair taxation based on ability to pay) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Initiative 2124 (sabotaging the Washington Cares Fund) gets certified” by Andrew Villeneuve from The Cascadia Advocate

Coalition for Even-Year Elections

SB 5723 - Giving cities and towns the freedom to switch their general elections to even-numbered years.

Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Crystal Fincher: Welcome to Hacks & Wonks. I'm Crystal Fincher, and I'm a political consultant and your host. On this show, we talk with policy wonks and political hacks to gather insight into local politics and policy in Washington state through the lens of those doing the work with behind-the-scenes perspectives on what's happening, why it's happening, and what you can do about it. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review show and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, the most helpful thing you can do is leave a review wherever you listen to Hacks & Wonks. Full transcripts and resources referenced in the show are always available at officialhacksandwonks.com and in our episode notes.

Well, today I'm thrilled to be welcoming Andrew Villeneuve from Northwest Progressive Institute to the show. Welcome!

[00:01:00] Andrew Villeneuve: Thanks, Crystal.

[00:01:01] Crystal Fincher: Happy to have you here. For those who may not be aware, Andrew is the founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute and its sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He's worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. A recent focus of his research and advocacy work has been electoral reform. With Senator Patty Kuderer, Andrew and the NPI team developed the legislation that successfully removed Tim Eyman's push polls from Washington ballots - I'm a huge fan of that legislation. And with Councilmember Claudia Balducci, Andrew and the NPI team developed the charter amendment that 69% of King County voters approved in 2022 to move elections for the Executive, Assessor, Elections Director, and Council to even-numbered years - here's to also doing that statewide for municipalities - when voter turnout is much higher in even-numbered years and more diverse. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Welcome - really excited to have you on and talk about everything that you're doing.

[00:02:15] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, thank you. I'm thrilled to be here and can't wait to dive into the conversation.

[00:02:19] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. So starting off, what is the Northwest Progressive Institute and what do you do?

[00:02:25] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, the Northwest Progressive Institute is a 501(c)(4) strategy center that works to lift up everybody. We try our hardest every day to advance progressive policies that will enable people to lead happier, healthier, more prosperous lives. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary last August, and we have had a lot of success moving policy over the last two decades. We're particularly adept at using research to show people why we need a particular policy - so that could be health care, it could be environmental protection, it could be more education funding. We're not confined to just one issue - we think across issues. But that does mean, of course, that we see all of the places where we're held back. So we look for areas where we can move issues forward simultaneously and that has led us to do a lot of work on tax reform, election reform, and media reform - because those three issues are connected to every other issue. So that's why you'll see us doing a lot of work on fair revenue. on trying to address media concentration, and trying to make sure that elections are fair. Because ultimately, those things do have results, impacts for environmental protection, healthcare, education, foreign policy, every other issue that we care about. I think we're all frustrated by sometimes the slow pace of progress, and so any area where we can link up with another area and make progress at the same time - that's a real opportunity for us. And there's actually a term for this - it's called "strategic initiatives" - comes from George Lakoff. We're big fans of his work.

We also do a lot of efforts on reframing. We try to help people understand what frames are and how to use successful arguments so that you don't fall into the trap of debating the other side on their terms. Because we all know when that happens, the best you can do is lose an argument gracefully - you're not going to win the argument. Reframing is key, and we believe that everybody who works in progressive politics needs to understand how to do reframing. So we're always trying to help people figure out - okay, how do we use words that evoke our values and our policy directions and not the other sides'? So that's sort of a taste of what we do. Of course, we could talk for hours about all the specific projects we've worked on, but that is an overall view of what NPI does.

[00:04:42] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Also under the NPI umbrella is The Cascadia Advocate, a publication that I recommend everyone listening follow - very informative. What has been your approach with The Cascadia Advocate and what do you cover?

[00:04:55] Andrew Villeneuve: The Cascadia Advocate is a long form blog. It was founded in 2004 in March, and so that means it's going to be celebrating its 20th anniversary itself this spring. And what it is - is it's a place where you can find progressive commentary, sometimes even breaking news, on a daily basis. So if you want to find out why we should pass a particular bill in the legislature, or you want to find out what's happening with Bob Ferguson's latest lawsuit - for example, he just sued Kroger and Albertsons because they're trying to merge and create a giant grocery store chain - we cover those things on The Cascadia Advocate. We publish guest essays. We cover a lot of things that the mass media cover - so we'll sometimes critique how they're covering things, but we'll also provide our own original commentary in addition to just critiquing others' coverage. There's a whole mix there. So you're going to find research findings, media criticism, you're going to find book reviews, you're going to find documentary reviews. You're going to find Last Week in Congress, which is our almost weekly recap - weekly when Congress is in session - of how our delegation voted. So this is a place where you can see Washington, Oregon, and Idaho's Congressional delegations' votes. And that's really helpful. If you're too busy to watch C-SPAN every day - I know I don't have that kind of time because I'm trying to move the ball forward on progressive policy - but I do want to know how our lawmakers voted, I want to be informed. And I imagine a lot of other people listening to Hacks & Wonks would also like to be informed about what our delegation is doing. And so Last Week in Congress is something you can read on Sunday morning - takes a few minutes of your time to skim it. And at the end of that skim, you're going to learn a lot more about how our delegation voted that week. So those are some of the things you're going to find on the Cascadia Advocate.

I think it's a great publication. It's well-established and we have a superb code of ethics and style guide and commenting guidelines to make sure that we're putting out a professional product. So we're very proud of that. And the name is right there - Advocate, right? So we're not hiding what we're about. You're not going to have to worry - Well, what's their agenda? How will I know what it is? Because we're going to tell you what our agenda is. We're going to be very upfront about that. But we're also going to be fair, even to those that we criticize. So whether that's Tim Eyman - quoting his emails, letting people know what he said - we're going to tell people what the other side is saying. We're not just going to say what we're saying. But we're also going to be very clear - this is what we believe and this is what we're fighting for. And it's not going to be a mystery to any reader what that is.

[00:07:11] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely - I appreciate it. And as many have seen, have shared links in our episode notes many times - recommend that as part of a healthy local media diet. Now, I want to talk about some issues that you've been engaged with since their inception. One of the big ones that we're going to be hearing about, voting on later on this year are the six statewide initiatives coming in 2024 in Washington state. Can you tell us about these and why they're so important to pay attention to?

[00:07:42] Andrew Villeneuve: Definitely. So very early this year, a group called Let's Go Washington, which is funded by a hedge fund manager and millionaire named Brian Heywood - he lives not far from me out here on the Eastside in Redmond - east side of King County, that is. He decided that he was going to go all-in on trying to get the right wing back into the initiative business. For those who have been in Washington for a while, the name Tim Eyman is probably familiar to you - Tim Eyman, for years, has been running initiatives to cut taxes and wreck government in Washington state. His agenda is to drown government in a bathtub, so it's basically Grover Norquist at the state level. And Brian Heywood has come along here after several years of Tim Eyman being out of the initiative business. Eyman's last initiative qualified for the ballot in 2018, and it appeared on the ballot in 2019. And despite our best efforts - it had a really dishonest ballot title that it was hard to educate voters what that was, so even though we raised a lot of money and ran the best No campaign that we could - when I say we, I mean the coalition Keep Washington Rolling that formed - we weren't able to defeat that last Eyman initiative. But we were able to go to court after the election was over and get it struck down. So it never went into effect, - which averted a massive transit and transportation catastrophe, I might add. So fast forward a few years, Eyman has been in trouble with the law because he just blatantly disregards public disclosure law, doesn't care about following it. And he also was double-crossing his own supporters - they just weren't getting the truth from him. And so that's why his initiative factory fell apart - when you're lying and cheating all the time, eventually that's going to catch up with you, and that's what happened to Tim Eyman. So he had to declare bankruptcy. The state won a big judgment against him, and he's been out of the initiative business.

But Brian Heywood has come in - and Brian Heywood, unlike Tim Eyman, has a lot of money. And he doesn't need to turn to anyone else unless he feels that he has to, but he hasn't done that yet - he's mainly relied on his own money. So he decided that not only was he going to try to qualify a tax-cutting initiative, but he was going to take aim at all these other laws that the Democratic majorities have passed that he doesn't like. So there's six initiatives that he wanted to get on the ballot this last year, so 2023, that are now we're going to be on the ballot in 2024. And that's because these are initiatives to the legislature, so they go to the House and the Senate first. That's something you can do in Washington - you can either submit initiatives directly to the people, or you can submit them to the legislature. And for those who don't know, an initiative is just a proposed law. So it's like a bill of the people - it goes before the legislature. If the legislature doesn't adopt it, then it goes to the people by default. So an initiative - again, just like a bill, but the people get to vote on it, and it comes from a citizen petition.

So these initiatives - last year there was going to be 11, but they pared them down to 6. It's kind of like making up for lost time - We weren't on the ballot for several years, so now we're just going to do a whole bunch of initiatives. The first one that they're doing would repeal the Climate Commitment Act. The second one would repeal our capital gains tax on the wealthy, which is funding education and childcare. The third one would repeal the WA Cares Fund, partly by letting people opt out. Then they have one that would roll back our reasonable safeguards on police pursuits. They have one that would establish a parental notification scheme, which is intended, I think, to jeopardize the health of trans youth in part - which I don't like that at all. And then they have one to ban income taxes. And their definition of income tax is anything that falls under this really broad, adjusted gross income umbrella, which could potentially jeopardize the capital gains tax and other sources of funding for things that are really important in our state.

So these six initiatives collectively would cause a lot of damage to Washington. We're talking about billions of dollars in lost revenue. We're talking about good policies being repealed. We're talking about a lot of destruction. And so we're working very hard to defeat these initiatives. We've created a PAC that will oppose all of them. And that joint effort is called Stop Greed - to oppose all six initiatives. We have a website - stopgreed.org - and the operation is already up and running. You can donate, you can sign up for the mailing list. If you want to get involved in stopping the six initiatives, we are ready to have your help because this is going to be a year-long effort. We're going to be working with a lot of other allies, organizations that also share our values to protect Washington. But these six initiatives - the legislature can't reject them and then just have them disappear, they're going to go to the ballots. So we have to be ready for that big fight in November. And they're going to appear at the top - so ahead of president, ahead of governor, ahead of everything else that we're thinking about as activists and civic leaders and whatnot. This is going to be the very first thing that people see underneath those instructions - is these six initiatives. So we're getting ready. And again, we invite others to join us in taking on this challenge so we can protect Washington.

[00:12:31] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And this is going to be one of the biggest battles that we've seen in quite some time in Washington state. Those six initiatives that you covered - for those who may not be familiar with Washington Cares, it's basically long-term care insurance that's state provided - trying to meet a need that is massive. Many studies have showed more than half of people over age 60 are going to need long-term care insurance at some point in time for the remainder of their lives. This often is not covered by health insurance, and it is something that has bankrupted people, has left people just in very precarious positions. As we age, as our parents age, this is something that is top of mind for a lot of people. And although no one loves an extra thing to worry about, having the confidence that when you or your family member or friend is in need of care, that they will have access to it is a very, very important thing. In addition to all these other ones - this is our landmark climate legislation, which I've definitely had some criticisms of, but do not support a repeal. I support fixing the areas that need to be fixed. And I think we can't ignore these things. These are some of the biggest pieces of legislation that we have passed that will equip us to deal with the challenges that we face today and that we're going to be facing tomorrow. So really appreciate the effort, the coordinated effort, to make sure that there is a vigorous defense against these.

Now, looking at what's going to be involved to beat these - looking at what these ballot initiatives may serve, even beyond their individual goals, is that a lot of times people look to ballot initiatives to motivate a base and to turn out a base. And certainly in Washington state - statewide, Republicans have been not having a good time, have been reaping the consequences of being out-of-touch policy-wise - whether it's on abortion rights to privacy rights, to their views on taxation and things that serve to defund and dismantle our government. What do you see as threats beyond these initiatives individually, but the threat of a motivated conservative voting base here in Washington state in November 2024?

[00:14:52] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, I think they're tired of Democratic rule. So they're going to be motivated to turnout because they probably will have Dave Reichert as their gubernatorial candidate - we can't really say nominee because Washington doesn't have a real primary, so we don't nominate people for the general election ballot like they would in other states. But they probably will have Reichert as their candidate, their standard bearer. And that is their best chance to get the governor's mansion since 2012 when Rob McKenna was their candidate in the general election - so I think they're going to be motivated for that reason. I also think the six initiatives are designed to turnout right-wing voters as much as possible - people who are disenchanted with Washington's direction, not happy that we're going a different way than Texas and Florida and Idaho and other states that are Republican-controlled.

And so I think that that's an opportunity for them, but it's also an opportunity for us. There can be a backlash to a backlash. And I'm not sure if Brian Heywood and Jim Walsh, who's - by the way, Jim Walsh, the state Republican Party Chair, is the sponsor of all six initiatives. So you've got Heywood and Walsh together - Heywood's the funder, Walsh is the sponsor. I'm not sure if they realize that backlashes can have backlashes. We saw this after Trump came in - there was a backlash to Democratic rule, but then there was a backlash to Trump's electoral college victory. And we saw that play out over the course of four years. It was really, really strong. What happened? You had this mammoth effort to correct what was going on, to have Democrats respond, to say - Okay, well, we're no longer just going to sort of lay down, right? We're going to actually work to turn out people. So we had this huge effort to flip the Washington State Senate in 2017. Then we had this big effort to win the midterms, which saw Democrats get control of the House. And then there was the effort to get the White House back, which also allowed us to get the U.S. Senate back, too, with that runoff in Georgia. So you think about all those sequence of events - how much had to align in order for all those goals to be realized? Because in 2017, Republicans had complete control of the federal government - they had it all - they had the White House, they had the House, they had the Senate, they had the Supreme Court. Democrats had nothing. All we had was some resistance in the states, basically. And we went from that - in the span of three years, we were able to take back the two legislative houses and the White House. We don't have the Supreme Court, but we were able to get the others. And the majorities were narrow, but they were majorities, which meant that we could actually work on progressive policy again. So we were able to pass the American Rescue Plan, CHIPS and Science, we were able to do the infrastructure law. We were able to do a whole bunch of other policies as well - bipartisan postal reform. We did electoral reform to deal with election certification so that we wouldn't have another January 6th. We got marriage equality put in. I mean, there are so many things that happened - I don't know if people remember all those accomplishments.

So you think about what we've done federally. And in Washington State, we've been doing the same thing - marching forward - all these laws that Heywood and Walsh want to repeal. So I think they're looking at this as an opportunity to say - It's time to roll back the clock. And that is an opportunity for them. But the opportunity for us is to say - Nope, we're not going to roll back the clock. We're going to keep moving forward. I think doing six initiatives is risky for them. Because one initiative, maybe people aren't going to - they're just not going to rouse themselves as much to care. But six seems like a four-alarm fire for those who are watching from our side. And so it's been really easy for me to - when I explain what's going on, when I make the pitch that we need to stop the initiatives, people are receptive right away. It's not difficult to get people roused and ready to go because they understand six initiatives targeting six progressive accomplishments, whether it's comprehensive sex ed or the climate law or the capital gains tax that's funding education - these are things that we've worked hard on that we're proud of. We don't want them all to be wiped away in the span of one election. So it's an organizing opportunity for us as much as it is for them. And that's the downside of deciding to do so much at one time - is that you're presenting your opponents with an opportunity to do organizing as well, that's sort of a banner opportunity. And they just have to live with that decision - that's the strategy they chose, and so we get to make the most of it from our side.

[00:18:55] Crystal Fincher: We've been seeing a number of polls - certainly a lot of discourse and reaction - to whether it's the conflict between Israel and Palestine, whether it is the failure to address climate change, healthcare kind of globally, nationally, to a degree that seems is necessary to actually make a dent in these issues. Do you see motivation in the base, especially the younger progressive voters, as being an issue that may be problematic come November? Or do you think that there are things that can be done to mitigate that, or that it won't be an issue?

[00:19:33] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, it's hard to know the future. I always tell people I don't do predictions because predictions are fraught with danger. It's just - you can easily be wrong, and people are convinced that they know what's going on. I take the view that it's hard to know what's going on and that's why we have to do research, so that we can try to understand it better. And I also warn people against the danger of drawing too many conclusions based on what you've seen on Twitter, which Elon Musk now calls X, or Facebook or TikTok or any of those platforms. Those are not representative of public opinion, not even young people's opinions. There are many people who just aren't there. So you can obviously follow some vocal voices and you can see what they're saying - there's nothing wrong with that, checking in - but don't sweep to conclusions about what those folks are saying and say - Oh, well, all Gen Zers are upset about what's happening here or there, because that's the prevailing sentiment on TikTok, right - that's a mistake. That can give you clues as to what people are thinking and feeling, but it's not where you want to draw your conclusions. And polling helps to get a little broader perspective, but it's still a sample. So we do a ton of polling at NPI. One of the things we're known for is our research. And I caution people - you can do enormous amounts of research and still only see a fraction of what you want to see. There's so much you could look at in terms of public opinion, like this issue, that issue, this race, that race - so many detailed, specific follow-up questions you could ask. And in a given survey, there's going to be limitations - you can only ask about so much. We try to do a lot of insightful research, but I'm mindful of the limitations of public opinion research. In the end, you come into every election somewhat unprepared because you don't exactly know what's out there, right?

So that's why what I call big organizing, which is a term that comes out of the Sanders campaign and other efforts - big organizing is this idea that we're going to talk to everybody as often as we can, which is hard because how do you have all those conversations? Well, it involves canvassing, it involves actually going out there and doing neighborhood meetings and doing that organizing - having those discussions with people. It turns out even people who are unhappy with politics want to talk politics when they get the right settings - you got a canvasser, who's very understanding, going to somebody's door, having a half an hour long conversation. People actually feel better after they've had that conversation - they're very appreciative that somebody wants to hear from them. So as a movement, I think we need to go out there and have those conversations with folks. And we need to make sure that if people live in areas that are hard to doorbell, that we're finding other ways to reach them. But that all requires investment - primarily time. Money, too, but primarily time because someone's got to go do that organizing, that outreach work. And they've got to be able to go to the door or go to that other setting where they're going to have that conversation.

So in terms of getting young people plugged in and engaged, I think it's going to be tough. I think there's a lot of distractions in our culture now, it's very hard to get people to decide - yes, I'm going to vote, I'm going to take the time to do that - especially if you live in a state where they've made voting hard, like Georgia. Washington - we're blessed, because voting is easier here than anywhere else in the country. But we see in odd years, it's still hard to get people to vote. That's why we're so big on even-year elections for local governments, because those even-numbered years, more young people come out. But we've just got to have a strategy for mobilizing people. It doesn't just happen on its own. You can't just sit back and go - Oh, well, we'll just hope that it works out. Nope. You don't let events shape you. You go out there and shape the events with a strategy. And so it's very important that as progressives, we don't just let the Biden campaign do the work. We don't just let the Democratic Party do the work and say - Well, they'll figure it out. We all have to be working together to figure out what the strategy is and then implement that strategy, to the extent that we can agree on what that strategy is going to be.

So for those who are not involved in some kind of direct action organization, I would find one - I think that's worth doing. This is a year when democracy is on the line. So getting involved in some way - no matter what the outcome is in November, you're going to feel good that you invested some time in trying to mobilize and turn out young voters and get them to save democracy along with everybody else who's going to be voting. So that's my advice for folks who are listening - find an organization to plug into that's going to do something to help young voters get engaged in this election, turnout and vote, save democracy. Because there's only one way to do that - and that is to reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris, in my view - there's no other outcome that will allow us to make any progress on issues we care about, including trying to bring an end to the violence in the Middle East. What's happening in Gaza is terrible, but that's not going to get better if Donald Trump gets back in.

[00:23:58] Crystal Fincher: Now, I want to talk about research - your polling. Local polling is hard - you hear that from a variety of polling organizations, we see it in results that have been really wonky in the past several years with surprising outcomes in several individual states. Polling on a smaller scale - smaller geographies, smaller communities - is a challenging thing. However, you've managed to do quite well at it. We've seen in your polling in the Seattle City Council elections, which looked straight on. You polled previously the Housing Levy, King County Conservation Futures Levy, Senate races, House races - were right on. And so I just want to talk a little bit about your approach and how you put those together, and why you feel like you're seeing better results locally than some other organizations.

[00:24:54] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, thank you for that. It starts with a rigorous commitment to the scientific method. One of the things that I think people don't understand about public opinion research is anyone can do it. You don't have to be an objective organization to do objective research. You can be subjective - and we are - but your research has to follow the scientific method if it's going to have any value. And what that basically comes down to is neutral questions asked of representative samples - that's the key. And actually, it's very hard to ask neutral questions of representative samples. The question writing part is particularly fraught with difficulty because there are so many ways to write a question that is loaded or biased and to use language that favors the agenda of the asker. Basically, writing a push poll is easy, writing a neutral poll is hard. And we've seen that over and over again, especially when I look at the work of our Republican friends across the aisle - Moore Information, Trafalgar - these firms are just, I can see their work product and I have deep questions about especially what they're not releasing because I know that what they are releasing is only a fraction of what they're actually asking. But when you ask a question - and you look at a group that does put out all of their work, like Future 42, which uses Echelon Insights, you read through their questionnaire and it's - okay, after the first four questions, which are so simple it's hard to get them wrong. After that, you start going to the rest of the questionnaire and it's biased. It's loaded. The questions are favoring conservative frames.

So you're not going to find out what people think if you tell them what to think first - that's one of the cardinal rules that I tell my team all the time - Whatever the topic is, we have to get this question right because we're not going to learn what people think if we don't. You don't want to have worthless data come back. And that really means that you've got to think about - Okay, well, how are we presenting the issue? What are we going to say in the question? And a lot of the times what we'll do is, we'll say - Proponents are saying this and opponents are saying that. So that's one way you can do it. And you have to really go out there and you have to find their words, their frames - so you have to be fair to their perspective. Even if you don't like it, it doesn't matter. As a question writer, you want that perspective represented to the best of its ability, right? So if Rob McKenna has said that the capital gains tax is an income tax - it's an illegal, unconstitutional income tax that will kill jobs and wreck the economy. We're putting that whole thing into our question, because we want people to hear what it is that they're saying. And then we're going to put that up against our best arguments and see what wins. So we've done that and we found that our frames, our arguments beat their arguments. And that's good news. But we only learned that because we actually did a fair question. If we had just said - Oh, well, this is why the capital gains tax is great. What do you think about the capital gains tax? People are going to say it's great. And so we haven't really learned anything other than - yes, people respond to our question prompts in the way that we would want them to. But that doesn't really tell us what people have brought to the table in terms of their own opinions.

So that's part of how we've been successful is - when we do polling, we're not trying to gin up some numbers for a particular cause or a candidate. We're not looking to get numbers that just reinforce the conclusion that we already reached. And I think a lot of consultants jump to conclusions, like at the beginning of a race, they'll say - Well, let me tell you how it's going to be. And our approach is we don't know how it's going to be - let's go out and get some data and see what people are thinking and feeling. And of course, we understand that whatever that data is, it's a snapshot in time and that the race could change. So like with the governor's race, we've been polling that and we're seeing some changes - Bob Ferguson is consolidating support, he's not as well known as people who are on the inside of politics might think he is. Nor is Dave Reichart, for that matter. People know who Jay Inslee is. They know who Joe Biden is. They know the top names in politics, but the attorney general is not the governor, and people don't know the attorney general as well as they know the governor. And they don't know Dave Reichert, as well as they know Jay Inslee either. So we're seeing in our polling, the candidates have an opportunity to introduce themselves to voters. And we know that if we ask a neutral question about anything, again, whether it's the governor's race or another race, then we're going to have hopefully an opportunity to find out where people are.

And then presenting that data in a way that's responsible, not just dumping the numbers out there and letting people jump to their own conclusions about what do the numbers mean. Even if they were responsibly collected, I think responsible publication includes context for those numbers. What do the numbers mean? Why are the numbers the way they are? What's the explanation for that? So when we release a poll finding, we never just put the numbers out there, we never just dump a poll file out there for people to read. We always provide analysis - this is what we think the numbers mean. And you can read the analysis on The Cascadia Advocate - that's the vehicle for all the poll findings to be released. People, when they want to see our polling, we're going to give them an opportunity to really understand what we're thinking when we saw the numbers - Okay, this is our take. And we always tell people in those analyses - We don't know the future, this is suggestive, it's not predictive. And you should expect that there's a possibility that the poll is off. But, I will say in the 10 years we've been doing research polling, we've yet to have our results be contradicted by an election result. And that's just because we write the neutral questions.

And then our pollsters, who I haven't talked about yet, but we work with three different pollsters. And they've all got a strong commitment to responsible fielding - building samples that actually look like the electorate. That's how you get results, too. It's not just the questions are good, but the fielding is appropriate - you're building those representative samples. And then you can hopefully get data that reflects the actual dynamic that's out there. And so when the election then occurs - if the polling has correctly captured the public sentiment that's out there, you should expect to see a correlation. It won't line up exactly. I've had people tell me - Well, your poll was off. The margin was this and your poll said it would be that. I'm like - Polls don't predict, so you shouldn't expect the margins to line up one-to-one or anything like that. But if a poll says such-and-such is ahead of their rival and they then go on to win the election, that's an indication that the poll did understand something about what's going on out there. So that's basically validation in my book. You're never going to get perfect alignment, like the poll has 54% and the candidate gets 54%, and it's off by maybe just a fraction of a decimal or something - that's not going to happen in polling, you don't expect that alignment. So I think that's why we've been successful is that commitment to the scientific method. And we're not going to deviate from that - we're just full steam ahead with that same commitment to excellence.

[00:31:12] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I really appreciate you explaining that. I do think that is a big reason for why your polls have seemed to accurately capture public sentiment. And I appreciate you talking about - you can be a partisan organization and still poll accurately. In fact, it's really critical that the accuracy is there. I think there's this assumption that - Oh, it's a partisan organization - they just want something to confirm what they already believe, to tell them that what they want to happen is popular. And that is a recipe for disaster in the medium and long-term - that sets you up for thinking you're in a different situation than is realistic. And then you don't win campaigns, you don't win ballot initiatives - you have to accurately understand where the public is in order to do anything with that from a campaign perspective, which is really important. And I do see polls from the Chamber where reading through the poll - and I highly recommend every time there is a poll, especially from news organizations, I will say Cascadia Advocate does excellent poll analysis - but most articles and most publications that I see, I always find different things than are encapsulated in their poll write-up when I read the actual poll. Reading the actual poll is a really illuminating thing - and you can see questions asked in very leading ways, you can see one side's argument is presented and another isn't, or one is misrepresented. And those are really problematic things for a poll. Sometimes people do use polls - if they aren't really looking to get information - just as a marketing tactic. But that becomes pretty apparent when you're reading the poll, when you're seeing - they aren't really asking these questions to get informative answers about what the public believes and why. So I think that's been really illuminating.

Looking forward, what do you plan on tracking? Are you going to be tracking the six initiatives? Are you going to be polling the statewide races? What is your plan for research?

[00:33:13] Andrew Villeneuve: Yes, we're going to be doing all that. The governor's race - we have a commitment to the public that we're going to poll on the governor's race - and no matter what the data is, we're going to release it, that's our commitment. We've polled on the governor's race three times already this cycle. And we're going to do it three to four times again this year. At the end of the cycle, you're going to have gotten six to seven different findings from us - different seasons of data - which will tell the story of the governor's race. How did it start out and where does it kind of end up? When I say end up, I say "kind of" because - of course, the election happens after that last poll. So we're going to have election data soon after that final poll comes out in October and that data will tell us who wins the governor's race. And that's the final word. But until we have that election results, then polling will help us understand what could be happening out there - I say "could," because again, we don't know what is happening until people vote and the election data comes in and then tells us - Okay, this candidate's ahead of that candidate, this is the voices of millions of people. Polls can only give you a peek into what might be happening at the time - that's the best we can do because there's no real way - sometimes people will ask me about sample sizes. This is a fun inside bit of polling. So a lot of people are convinced that the larger a sample size, the better the poll is. Not so. A poll can be perfectly representative if the sample is just 300 or 400 voters - it's not the size of the sample that matters, it's how representative it is. If it reflects the electorate, then it's a good sample. If it is not representative of the electorate, you've got a problem. So you could have 10,000 voters in your sample, which would be huge, right? Nobody has samples that big. But if they're all progressive voters in Seattle, or if they're all Trump voters from somewhere in rural Washington - it's not representative of the electorate and the data's worthless. It can't tell you what's happening in a statewide race.

So we'll be polling the governor's race. We'll be looking at Attorney General, we're going to look at U.S. President, we're going to look at U.S. Senate. We're going to look at basically all the competitive statewide races. In October, I expect that we'll have a poll result for every single statewide race. And there are so many that that's probably going to be the entire poll. We're not even going to be able to ask any policy questions because we're going to have six initiatives, possibly a few State Supreme Court races. We're going to have U.S. President. We're going to have U.S. Senate. We're going to have nine statewide executive department positions. Plus, we're going to have a generic question for Congress and legislature. So that's our poll - the whole poll is already written. I already know what's going to be in the poll because there's so much on the ballot this cycle that there's no room to ask about anything else. That's a lot of poll results to have to release. And it will take us some time to ship them all. We're not going to do it all in one day, that's for sure. Because I think what's responsible is to provide that analysis, as I said. So we're not going to do - Okay, here's the entire poll. Goodbye. Enjoy it. No, we're going to take the time to look at each of the results. And so that probably means it'll take us a whole week to talk about all the different poll results. And people are going to say - Why don't you release everything at once? I want to see it all. Well, because we want to give you the context. We want to give you our view on what's happening so that you understand the background, especially if you're not from here - if you're from another state, you're reading this polling, you want to know who are these people, what are the dynamics in this race, why is such-and-such ahead, what's the theory behind that. That context is going to be really helpful to you as a reader, so we're committed to providing it.

[00:36:27] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And what polling firms do you work with?

[00:36:30] Andrew Villeneuve: So there are three we work with. Public Policy Polling out of North Carolina is the one we started working with first - our relationship goes back over 10 years, and they've done excellent work for us. I'm particularly proud of our 2020 and 2022 polling because those are the two most recent even-year cycles. But in 2020, this was the first time that we went up and down the entire statewide ballot, including State Supreme Court races. And we're the only ones polling on State Supreme Court races. Nobody else does that, I'm especially proud that we do that. Probably this year we're going to poll on them - any that are contested, we'll do at least two rounds of polling - probably May and October. And you mentioned earlier that polling can be tough, especially at the state and local level. And one of the reasons it can be tough is because a lot of people will tell you they're not sure who they're voting for. If the race isn't partisan, then you can have an enormous number of people who say they're not sure - sometimes over 80%. And that can make it very difficult. But you still learn something when you ask people about their opinions - because you'll find out people's familiarity with the candidates, and you will also discover if there's been a change. So like in 2020, we said - Okay, we've learned that no one else polls State Supreme Court races, so let's poll them repeatedly because then at least we'll have data of our own to compare to from different seasons. So in May, we polled them and then we polled them again in October. And that was really valuable to have that comparison and to see just little small changes. What we saw was the incumbent justices like Raquel Montoya-Lewis - they picked up a little bit of support, so that suggested they were actually getting some awareness of their candidacies before the voters. And that was illuminating - so there weren't many people who really knew much about these candidates, but still there were a small number who had heard something and had decided how they were going to vote. And that was an indicator. And that indicator proved to be accurate. It accurately foreshadowed what really did happen in the election. So we're committed to doing that again. And we believe that it's crucially important that people have some data in those races. If you're an observer, data that gives you some inkling of what's going to happen in a race that's so far down-ballot that nobody else is really, frankly, writing about it - I mean, that's gold. These are the things that I wanted back in the day when we weren't doing all this polling. So I've always been of the mind that if it doesn't exist and you really want it, you should create it if you think it's really needed.

The other companies we work with - Change Research does a lot of our local polling. They've been working with us in Seattle and Spokane, and they've worked with us in Snohomish County and Pierce County. We've polled all the major counties with them, and we just love working with them. They're great. And then our third pollster is Civiqs. They are more recent on the scene. They're not as well-established as Public Policy Polling - they're a newer company, but they do great work. Their polling in the Senate race last cycle with Patty Murray and Tiffany Smiley - they were the ones who had Murray really way out there ahead and Smiley well behind. When I saw that work - they were dedicated to putting out this really great polling, said - Well, we need to add them to our group of trusted pollsters because they've proved they can do great work. So we've got those three now, and I'm not averse to working with other pollsters that have proved themselves as well. But every pollster we work with has to be committed to the scientific method. We will not accept any work that is done contrary to that method because that will yield worthless data. We don't want to pay for data that doesn't have any value, that isn't collected transparently and with integrity. We love working with all of our pollsters and we're excited to do good work with them this cycle.

[00:39:50] Crystal Fincher: Yeah, I appreciate that breakdown. I appreciate something you said earlier, particularly as a political consultant. There are several consultants - lots industry-wide, it's an issue - where they have preconceived notions of what's going on and they are looking for confirmation, or they decide that they know what the dimensions of a race are and why people are aligned on certain sides and sometimes stick hard and fast to that. There's a different approach. You can wait and see what the information is. Certainly, we have our theories and ideas, but we learn so much more by actually looking at the data, waiting on the data, not being so devoted or tied to a specific theory or something that must happen. If you leave yourself open to say - I think this might be happening, I'm seeing something happen, I think these could be reasons why - test that, understand the data and research, and see how it turns out. And one thing you mentioned - I think it's particularly illuminating for people who do that - any race, most races, especially if it's not someone at the top of the ticket, is going to have a lot of people who are unfamiliar with the people involved. There are going to be a lot of people who are undecided - just not familiar with an issue, not familiar with a candidate. But when you do poll over time like you do, and when you do see how those people who were initially undecided then wind up making a decision, how they align on those - that can tell you a lot about why people are favoring something or another, who messages are landing with, what is effective and what's not effective. So even if you aren't getting specific data of someone saying - I don't know - polling over time and then once they do figure that out, or sometimes they just end up not voting, right? All of that information is valuable in putting together a picture for why people believe the things that they believe, why people are favoring certain candidates or policies, and how that might translate to other issues or races. So appreciate the repeated polling.

Now, I do want to ask you - as someone who does work with polling organizations and hearing a number of nonprofits, other 501(c)(4)s, be interested in that space - what advice would you give to organizations who are potentially interested in working with a pollster to field polls of their own?

[00:42:04] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, I guess the top advice I'd give is go seek out people who do it regularly. NPI is always happy to help people find out how we can answer our research objectives. Maybe you're trying to pass a bill in the legislature, maybe you'd like to get a ballot measure passed, maybe you're working on a policy that you think will come to fruition in 10 years and you want to get some initial data - we're happy to help. And of course, you can just go approach a pollster. But in our experience, most pollsters - their goal is to do the fielding and their goal is to get the project turned around and back to you. And then they move on to their next project because that's the polling business. Pollsters specialize in fielding and they do polls every week. They can't really linger on a project for six months and be - Well, we'll help you analyze that data. Their job is to give you the data, not necessarily to help you make sense of the data. Of course, they will try, in a basic sense, to help you make sense of it. If you are like - Well, I don't understand this crosstab, or I don't understand this results, or can you help me with this? - they'll do that. They'll answer all your questions to the best they can. But what is, I think, missing there is the guide. The pollster is going to do the fielding to the best of their ability. But can they actually guide you through all steps of the process? Some pollsters do specialize in providing more of that guidance, but they also charge a lot more. If you want that guidance, if you want that expert hand to assist you at all stages - not just writing the survey, but also deciphering what comes back - you're going to pay more. Lake Research Partners, FM3, other pollsters I can think of - that's their model. They do excellent work. I love them. We don't work with those pollsters as much because we're able to bring a lot of our own expertise to the table. So we work with pollsters that primarily do a really good job of fielding, but they're going to let us design the questionnaire because we want to do that. Of course, we'll take their input and counsel, but we'd like to write our own questionnaires. And so we work with pollsters that are comfortable with that arrangement. But if you're a nonprofit who needs help writing the questionnaire, then going with a firm like Lake Research Partners is going to be a great idea. But you are going to pay a minimum probably of $25,000 for that project. And you can expect to pay as much as $50,000 or more for that assistance and that data.

Research - it's something that can be really expensive to collect. So for those who love our research, we do accept donations to keep it going. You can donate at NPI's website. We do put the money that people donate right into our polling, so people do have that ability to support our research budget directly. And we actually use a donation processing platform that has no credit card fees, so the processing platform eats the fees. And the reason they can do that is because people can leave tips for the processor. So regardless of whether you leave a tip or not, though, we get 100%. So it's not quite the same as - well, click here to pay the nonprofit's credit card fees. You can actually just donate. And whether or not you tip or not, we're going to get 100%. And that's very innovative - that's the kind of thing that NPI does. We look for ways to make sure that we're running the most fiscally responsible nonprofit that we can. We try to be very cost-conscious. So when we do an event, it's usually in a public space. We usually source the food ourselves - we find a restaurant that will do a really great job for us, a local restaurant that we want to do business with, and then we bring them in to do the food in a public space. And that allows us to keep the costs under control of that event. When we do a fundraiser, a lot of that money can then go right into our research polling. So if you come to our spring fundraising gala - you buy a ticket - most of your ticket's actually going to go into research and advocacy. It's not going to go into event costs. And that's not something that every nonprofit can say. So for those nonprofits that want to learn - how do we do it? How do we keep the costs in check? How do we practice research responsibly? We're happy to talk and provide advice and guidance. And whether or not you want to take advantage of what our expertise is and work with us on a project, or whether you want to do something yourself - we can help. We can provide you at least with the leads that you need to get started and do your work. But if you are going to be doing research and you haven't done it before, and you're going to work with a pollster and you're expecting them to provide a complete package for you - just be prepared to pay well out of the five figures.

[00:46:04] Crystal Fincher: Right. That expertise is valuable. And that is reflected in some of those costs, as you mentioned.

Now, I do want to talk about your work this legislative session. The session recently started and there's a lot on deck. I want to start off talking about the even-year elections bill. What is that and why does it matter?

[00:46:27] Andrew Villeneuve: So this is a bill that would let localities switch their elections to even years when turnout is higher and more diverse. There's two versions of the bill - one that NPI wrote is in the Senate, and it just covers cities and towns. And the other one, which is based on the one we wrote and is sponsored by our friend Mia Gregerson - which we also support, we support them both - covers a lot more local government. So it's cities and towns, but then it's also ports and school boards and so on. And basically what we're trying to do is we're trying to liberate these important local elections from the curse of super low, not diverse turnout. So we know that in odd years, turnout's been declining - in fact, last year, 2023, we set a record for the worst voter turnout in Washington state history, around 36%. We're getting into special election territory with our odd year turnouts. So that means that in a special election, the turnout's going to be somewhere between like 25% and 35%. Well, regular election turnout in odd years is now approaching that special election average, which is not good. And so to liberate localities from that problem of having their leaders chosen by the few instead of the many, we want to let localities switch into even years - at their option. We're not making them. So we could propose a bill that would make it mandatory. And New York State is actually switching a lot of their localities to even years and it's not an option, as I understand their legislation.

But our legislation makes it optional. So that way we could do some pilots to see how it would work here in Washington state. Because there's a lot of folks in the election community who are real skittish about this. Because we've had a system in place for 50 years where local governments go in odd-numbered years for the most part - there's some exceptions, which I'll mention in a second - and then the state and federal is in even years. And they're comfortable with this arrangement. It provides continuity and consistency - every year there's going to be work for our election staff to do. And people should get into the habit of voting every year - I think the auditors are in love with this bifurcated system. And the problem is the voters are not. And so the old saying is, You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Well, we can schedule the election in the odd-numbered year, but that doesn't mean people are going to vote then. And I think it's wrong to have - in my city, I look at Redmond's turnout percentages, and it's true for other cities too, like Seattle - you can look at the turnout and say, Well, 37% of the voters are picking who's the mayor of our city? I don't like that. I want the mayor being chosen by like 60% to 80% of the voters. And that's what would happen if that election was being held one year later or earlier. It just doesn't make sense that we're having these elections at times when most people aren't voting. We know that if we move them to an even-numbered year, people will vote in them. There are some folks who say - Well, they're down-ballot, so no one's going to vote in them. Not true. When you look at data from other states, or when you look at data from here - because sometimes we have a special election. One of the things you were talking about earlier is the governor's race. But Seattle's actually going to have a special city council election this year - it's an even-numbered year, and there's going to be a city council election right there on the ballot. And that election - you and I can go over the data after it comes back, but I'm willing to say right now, even though I told you I don't like predictions, but I'm willing to tell you, I think the turnout in that city council election is going to blow the doors off of the regular turnout for that same position three years ago. It's going to be like twice as much or something in that territory. And that's because it's a special election in an even-numbered year. And it will be way down the ballot. People will vote for it. So what that shows is that people are still going to keep voting, even after they get past president and governor and these higher-profile positions - they're going to keep going. They're going to keep voting. And that's the benefit of local elections moving over - is they get to ride the coattails of those state and federal offices.

And we will hear, of course - people say, Well, you're going to kill local issues. You're going to bury local issues because you're having these elections at the same time as state and federal. So they're going to get drowned or swamped out. And actually, I love paradoxes. And one of the things that's a real paradox in politics is - you might think local issues just can't compete with state and federal. Oh, no. Local issues do very well when they're in the mix. Why is that? Because first of all - if people are not paying attention to begin with, it takes an enormous amount of energy just to get them to care about anything. So if you're a canvasser in Kent and nobody knows there's an election, nobody knows. So you're going door-to-door and you're like - Well, have you voted in the election? What election? What are you talking about? Okay. It's a lot harder to get people to care about the election when they don't know about it and they're not interested and they think it's an off-year. And I hate that term "off-year," by the way. Don't use it, but it's out there. It's used all the time, so people think - Oh, it doesn't matter. My vote doesn't matter. It's an off-year. Well, it's not. Every year is an on-year - but people hear that it's an off-year, so they think it doesn't matter. So they don't vote. And then they're told at the door maybe - if somebody comes to their door, which may or may not happen - but if someone does, they get told, Well, it does matter - but does that conversation actually move them to care? Whereas in an even year, that same person comes to their door - they already know there's going to be an election, they're already primed to vote. So now you're just trying to get them to take action in a race where they're already going to vote - they just need to make sure that when they get to that bottom of the ballot, they're going to check for a particular candidate. So as a canvasser, that makes your life so much easier.

And people can still do - we've heard all about, Well, TV ads are going to cost more and radio is going to cost more. Well, that might be true. But local candidates need to be doorbelling anyway. So doorbelling is not going to cost more in an even-numbered year - it's going to be the same price. You're not going to have to worry about that. It might cost a little more to print your literature because you'll be competing with more campaigns. But there are trade-offs, which is if you're a local candidate, you're running for Teresa Mosqueda's council seat that she's given up because she went to the County Council - well, you can go out and campaign with other endorsed candidates, like your legislative candidates. You'll be able to doorbell with them if you want, because they're going to have to doorbell too. So there's opportunities to do joint campaigning that haven't existed before. And you mentioned earlier that King County is moving to even years as a result of our charter amendment. So even if our legislation doesn't pass at the state level for cities and towns and other local governments, we're still going to get data back from the county starting in 2026, because voters have signed off on that already. And I'm convinced that what we're going to see is that folks like Claudia Balducci are going to be running for a four-year term in 2026, and they're going to find all these opportunities to go out and campaign with people. And the turnout in their districts and countywide is going to be much bigger than what they've seen in the past. And this is an opportunity to get people connected to King County government who don't even know that it really is there. So it's very exciting - that's what our bill does is it gives localities the option. They can either do it through ballot measure or they can do it councilmanically if they want. If they do it councilmanically, they have to hold several hearings spaced 30 days apart so that people know that it's happening. So we don't want anybody being surprised by such a change.

The way I see it - if this bill passes, let's say Seattle wanted to do it - if they were prepared, they could turn around a charter amendment to the people of Seattle in time for the November general election. Because they have to change their charter - they can't just pass an ordinance in Seattle, because that's a first-class city. So if we pass our bill, it gets signed into law in March or April, then by June it's in effect. And then the City of Seattle can use that law - they could propose a charter amendment and then submit it by August, turn it around. The vote happens in November. By 2025 - by this time next year - Seattle could, in a best case scenario, if they wanted, they could be starting their transition to even-year elections. But first, our bill would have to pass - either the Senate version or the House version, doesn't matter. One of them has to pass. And that has to get signed into law. Then the city council has to act. And my understanding is that the mayor, Bruce Harrell, is actually interested in this - he believes this is something that is worth doing, is what I've heard. So if that's true and he's willing to ask the council to do this, then this is something we could get out of this council. And I would love to see that. Let the voters decide. Let Seattle decide on even-year elections. Let's give the people the choice, in this presidential year, to decide if this is something that they want - that is an opportunity if our bill passes.

[00:54:24] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. And it's really encouraging to hear that Mayor Harrell is interested in this - certainly that would make it much more possible for the City to do on its own. If people do want to get involved in supporting this legislation, how can they do that?

[00:54:38] Andrew Villeneuve: Well, we have a website specifically for this cause - evenyears.org - the word "even" and the word "years" .org. That's a clearinghouse where you can find out about the bill. There's also some national data there. There's academic studies if you want to read - what does the literature say about even-year elections? We've got it all packaged there. We've talked to the leading experts on this. The thing that makes me passionate about even-year elections - there's no other reform that increases voter turnout and diversifies voter turnout that's available to us. Everything that you can do, everything else - whether it's automatic voter registration, which we've done, or prepaid postage, which we've done, or same-day voter registration, which we've done - you go down the list, there's a lot of things we've done. And nothing moves the needle for local elections like timing changes. If you put these local elections in even years, the number of voters that come into the universe is astronomical. And I understand if you're a consultant, it might be upsetting to think that - well, it's like with the auditor's perspective - Some of our work is going to disappear in the odd years because it's going to go to the even years. Well, not necessarily. Remember, in the odd years, you have the opportunity to prepare for the even years. So there's still work to be done. There's still recruiting you can do. Imagine having more of a break in between elections. Imagine having more time to decompress, get away from the rat race, think about who you want to have run, do some really more thoughtful recruiting. There are some doors that are going to open here if we do this. And so I want people to understand - if you're working politics, this is a change, but it's not a change that is going to destroy your business if you're a consultant. It's not a change that's going to wreak havoc on everything. You're going to be able to adapt. And our legislation doesn't allow local governments to move in one day - they have to do it over a span of years. So you're going to have plenty of time to prepare for the transition and adapt. It's not going to be the end of the world.

[00:56:22] Crystal Fincher: Certainly not the end of the world - I have heard that from other consultants. But certainly I can tell you - just working in California - it is not an issue. It's not a problem. Local races share the ballot with other races in even years - in Los Angeles, for example. And it has opened up opportunity. It has opened up possibility. It has helped with recruiting. It has helped with policy. It's helped with all those other things. And that spurs more interest, it spurs more engagement, which spurs more opportunity. And so this is something that I think consultants are happy with in California. But as someone who is primarily interested in making sure we are representing communities and serving them to the best of our ability - having more people participate in the shaping of their own community is a positive thing, especially when we're seeing so many threats to our system. Having more people engaged in what happens and in the people who are in their local government and their community only helps this issue. So certainly want to see this succeed and we'll be following this for the remainder of the session. And with that, I thank you so much for joining me today, Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute. Thank you so much for all of the information that you shared with us today.

[00:57:38] Andrew Villeneuve: You're welcome. I was glad to spend an hour with you and talk about what's happening. We have a State House bill tracker if you're interested in other things that are also moving in the State House. On our website - nwprogressive.org - there's tabs for research and advocacy. Research will show you our latest poll findings. Advocacy is going to show you our State House bill tracker, our endorsements, our other advocacy work. Check that out if you would like to see what we're up to, and get involved, and figure out what you want to plug into.

[00:58:05] Crystal Fincher: Absolutely. Thank you so much. We will include all of that in our episode notes for your easy reference and we'll pay attention to everything as it unfolds this year. Thanks so much.

[00:58:16] Andrew Villeneuve: Definitely. Thanks.

[00:58:17] Crystal Fincher: Thank you for listening to Hacks & Wonks, which is produced by Shannon Cheng. You can follow Hacks & Wonks on Twitter at @HacksWonks. You can catch Hacks & Wonks on every podcast service and app - just type "Hacks and Wonks" into the search bar. Be sure to subscribe to get the full versions of our Friday week-in-review shows and our Tuesday topical show delivered to your podcast feed. If you like us, leave a review wherever you listen. You can also get a full transcript of this episode and links to the resources referenced in the show at officialhacksandwonks.com and in the podcast episode notes.

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