Washington voters on Election Day appeared to be rejecting Initiative 522, which would require special labeling on certain processed and packaged foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.
Voters in favor of I-522 carried 45.2 percent of the statewide votes, according to initial returns. The measure trails in all but four Washington counties: King, Jefferson, San Juan and Whatcom.
In Whatcom County, I-522 was ahead in the most recent vote count—with 52.69 percent of the total votes, so far, cast in approval.
If the labeling initiative was to pass, Washington would be the first state in the nation to mandate such a requirement for the food industry. A similar measure failed last year in California.
Large amounts of campaign cash poured into Washington from outside groups on both sides of the issue, although I-522 opponents, led largely by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, spent nearly $22 million, while supporters put in a little more than $7 million.
I-522 opponents were declaring victory as initial returns trickled in on the night of the election, Tuesday, Nov. 5. But the initiative’s backers had not yet conceded, saying they wanted to wait to see results from yet-to-be counted votes in King County, where I-522 is widely supported.
Initiative 517 trails heavily
The other major measure on this year’s ballot, Initiative 517, looked to be heading for a resounding defeat, with 60.03 percent of voters rejecting the measure, according to the latest counts from the Washington Secretary of State.
I-517, the Tim Eyman-backed “initiative on initiatives,” would have changed current rules on Washington’s citizen initiative process, including extending the signature-gathering window from six months to one year, as well as allowing qualifying initiatives a place on the ballot, even if they face active lawsuits. The measure would have also made it a crime to interfere with signature gathers.