The Numbers Game
By Guest Columnist Nancy Churchill
Why don't we just split the state? Why don't we just reopen? Why don't we just fix election integrity? Why don't we just <insert need here>? ... You get the idea; I get these types of questions all the time.
There’s a very simple explanation. Politics is about numbers.
You need a majority of the votes to "win" on an issue. Sometimes you need a simple majority and sometimes, you need a two-thirds supermajority.
In fact, to be successful at influencing legislation, you need a majority in the House, in the Senate AND you need a friendly governor. Any of those bodies has the power to impact legislation. In 2021 in Washington state, the Democrats control all three of these bodies.
In the Washington State Senate, a body of 49, the majority number is 25.
There are 28 Democrats and a Republican Coalition of (20+1). That means we need to convince at least four senators to break ranks with their party to see success.
In the Washington State House, a body of 98, the majority number is 49.
There are only 41 Republicans, so we have to convince a minimum of eight Democratic representatives to break ranks to have any chance of success.
Even supposing we could "flip" 12 Democrats—four in the Senate and eight in the House—the governor could still veto a piece of legislation he doesn’t like. What do you think Governor Inslee will do if a piece of legislation comes to him that limits executive powers? He’ll veto.
Then what? Then you need a two-thirds majority to override the veto. How likely is that to happen?
So before you bash your Republican representatives and senators, look at the odds they're fighting every day of the session. It's ugly.
But all is not lost. It is necessary to be more strategic, working with vulnerable members of the other party, trying to convince them to support or co-sponsor a more conservative piece of legislation. Remember that in order to receive, one also has to give, so a "yes" vote on one issue may be part of a negotiation to receive a "yes" vote in return on a different issue. It’s about being as effective as possible.
What else can be done? Here's where YOU come in. Empower yourself. Don’t give up, get busy.
Legislators know what to fight for and what to block by how THE PEOPLE respond. Track the bills, and take advantage of our electronic age to make your voice count. Submit comments. SPEAK UP. A determined group CAN influence really bad legislation.
Here’s how to get involved in the Washington state legislative process. Go to the Washington State Legislature Bill Information page at app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo. Enter the number of the bill you’re interested in. The bill information page provides the ability to research the bill, comment on it, and track the progress in the legislature from committee to committee, to the floor of each chamber, to the governor’s desk.
For the legislation that you want to influence, you can comment on the bill or register to testify. Keep your comments polite, and be respectful. Always say thank you, and always be polite. It's the golden rule, AND it makes a difference. Honey catches more flies than vinegar.
Keep it simple. It really is good enough to make a one- or two-line comment. Something like “I believe this is bad legislation because <insert your reason here>. I urge you to vote against <insert bill number here>.”
After you communicate with your legislators and the governor’s office, encourage others to chime in. Numbers MATTER! If you can, work to convince your friends and families who live in areas with Democratic representatives and senators to write their legislators. That’s very important. A legislator who feels his or her seat is jeopardized by an issue is more persuadable.
Social influence is very important. Do not be afraid to make your voice heard. Resist the natural impulse to keep your head down and mouth shut. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place—we didn’t want to rock the boat and we didn’t stand up for our beliefs.
Write to your local newspaper, comment and write on social media platforms, talk to your neighbors, talk to your local elected officials, encourage everyone to participate in our legislative process. Become a political influencer.
Remember, politics is a numbers game. And you can't win if you don't stay in the game.
Nancy Churchill is the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at DangerousRhetoric@pm.me. The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.