Did Washington Voters Reform Wine Regulations?…Maybe
Did Washington State voters throw off the shackles of its antiquated three tier system or did they choose to remain tied to post-Prohibition era state stores and a three tier distribution system for liquor and regulations that put distributors in charge over all others?
Answer: We don't know yet.
Initiative 1100 in Washington State would get the State out of the business of selling spirits at state-run stores and put that job in the hands of the private sector. In addition, the initiative would remove many prohibitions on how producers interact with retailers and restaurants.
WITH BETWEEN 60% AND 70% OF THE VOTES COUNTED SO FAR, INITIATIVE 1100 IS LOSING BY A 2% MARGIN.
Washington State's vote-by-mail program makes it notoriously slow in counting all the votes. However, in order for Initiative 1100 to prevail, there will have to be a very strong showing in the populous areas of the Seattle metropolitan area and the counties surrounding Puget Sound, where Initiative 1100 saw most of its support.
Opponents of Initiative 1100 found great support among voters in Washington's "Bible Belt" of conservatives in Eastern and Southeastern Washington where conservatism is the ruling ideology. In those regions of the state, voters overwhelmingly rejected the notion of free market economics for alcohol and instead gave into the notion that the more restrictions on alcohol, the better.
While these particular voters are incorrect in their assessment of the impact of reform of the alcohol regulatory system and while their ideology and fatih likely blinds them to the reality that a vote against 1100 is a vote for Soviet-Style economic practices, they may in fact win the day.
In order for Initiative 1100 to win it will have to see remaining, uncounted mail-in votes break in its favor in significantly greater proportion than they did on election day.
Initiative 1100 is supported financially primarily by large retailers who, under WA State's system remain hostages to wholesalers, from whom the law requires they purchase spirits for their stores. Costco, Safeway, Walmart and others primarily financed the YES on 1100 campaign in order to bring lower prices to WA consumers by being able to negotiate lower pricing with suppliers of beer and wine and to purchase product on credit, among other options that the rest of the free market condones.
Opposition was, predictable, led by beer and wine and spirit wholesaler middlemen from across the country primarily who feared losing their place in the middle and who, predictably, were unable to voice the primary reason for their opposition to Initiative 1100: They would have to actually earn the business of retailers and suppliers rather than be granted the business by the state. Put another way, if Initiative 1100 passes in Washington and if the movement to reform the system spreads to other states, wholesalers will have to work for a living.
It could be days before we know the final fate of Initiative 1100. I remain hopeful for its passage and will closely be watching returns. However, right now the money is on a very close defeat for commonsense.