Compassion Seattle vs. House our Neighbors
Compassion Seattle vs. House our Neighbors: the two campaigns squaring off over Charter Amendment 29

A pro­posed change to Seat­tle’s plan of gov­ern­ment that would add new direc­tives regard­ing the city’s oblig­a­tions for address­ing home­less­ness has qual­i­fied for the Novem­ber bal­lot, King Coun­ty Elec­tions announced today.

The coun­ty began check­ing the valid­i­ty of 66,340 sig­na­tures on peti­tions sub­mit­ted by the cam­paign in favor of Char­ter Amend­ment 29 (which calls itself Com­pas­sion Seat­tle) on Thurs­day, July 15th, at 9 AM.

The coun­ty says 65,393 sig­na­tures were reviewed.

34,714 were accept­ed and 30,679 were challenged.

The min­i­mum num­ber of sig­na­tures required to qual­i­fy was 33,060.

With the qual­i­fi­ca­tion thresh­old cleared, Char­ter Amend­ment 29 is now offi­cial­ly on the bal­lot. Seat­tle vot­ers will decide its fate this November.

The amend­ment — which many peo­ple already have strong feel­ings about — is enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port­ed by orga­ni­za­tions like the Seat­tle Met­ro­pol­i­tan Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Down­town Seat­tle Asso­ci­a­tion. It is staunch­ly opposed by orga­ni­za­tions like Real Change and the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union.

In our recent sur­vey of Seat­tle’s Top Two elec­torate, we asked vot­ers how they would vote on Char­ter Amend­ment 29 if the geneal elec­tion were hap­pen­ing now. 61% said they would sup­port the mea­sure, 23% said they would oppose it, and 16% were not sure. (Read this post for reac­tion to the find­ing from Com­pas­sion Seat­tle and the oppo­si­tion cam­paign, which calls itself House Our Neigh­bors.)

With the mea­sure offi­cial­ly on the bal­lot, let’s dive a lit­tle deep­er into the num­bers to under­stand where the mea­sure’s sup­port is com­ing from.

First, let’s take a look at the base num­bers again.

QUESTION: This Novem­ber, vot­ers in Seat­tle may be asked to vote on a city char­ter amend­ment con­cern­ing actions to address home­less­ness and keep areas clear of encamp­ments. The offi­cial descrip­tion of the char­ter amend­ment is as fol­lows: This mea­sure would require the City to pro­vide 2,000 hous­ing units with­in one year; and, until 2028: waive land use reg­u­la­tions for units dur­ing declared emer­gen­cies; adopt home­less­ness poli­cies; fund behav­ioral health and addic­tion treat­ment; ded­i­cate min­i­mum 12% of annu­al gen­er­al fund rev­enue to home­less­ness and human ser­vices with­out affect­ing cer­tain parks fund­ing; imple­ment diver­sion pro­grams for law vio­la­tions con­nect­ed to pover­ty or behav­ioral health; and bal­ance keep­ing pub­lic spaces clear of encamp­ments with avoid­ing harm to indi­vid­u­als. If the autumn gen­er­al elec­tion were being held now, would you vote yes to pass this char­ter amend­ment, or no to reject it?


  • Would vote yes to pass the char­ter amend­ment: 61%
  • Would vote no to reject the char­ter amend­ment: 23%
  • Not sure: 16%

Now, let’s look at how the num­bers break down by age:

  • Would vote yes to pass the char­ter amend­ment: 61% 
    • Ages eigh­teen to thir­ty-four: 64%
    • Ages thir­ty-five to forty-nine: 55%
    • Ages fifty to six­ty-four: 63%
    • Ages six­ty-five and old­er: 61%
  • Would vote no to reject the char­ter amend­ment: 23% 
    • Ages eigh­teen to thir­ty-four: 26%
    • Ages thir­ty-five to forty-nine: 23%
    • Ages fifty to six­ty-four: 28%
    • Ages six­ty-five and old­er: 17%
  • Not sure: 16% 
    • Ages eigh­teen to thir­ty-four: 9%
    • Ages thir­ty-five to forty-nine: 22%
    • Ages fifty to six­ty-four: 9%
    • Ages six­ty-five and old­er: 22%

Unlike in the may­oral race, where we saw a gen­er­a­tional divide with respect to vot­ers’ pref­er­ences in the crowd­ed fif­teen can­di­date field, ini­tial sup­port for Char­ter Amend­ment 29 is rea­son­ably strong across age groups.

In fact, younger vot­ers are the most enthu­si­as­tic age group. That helps explain why the mea­sure is at 61% sup­port over­all out of the gate.

Vot­ers of col­or, mean­while, are more sup­port­ive than just about any oth­er group. 70% of respon­dents iden­ti­fy­ing as Black, Native Amer­i­can, Lati­no, His­pan­ic, Pacif­ic Islander, and Asian said they would vote yes to pass the char­ter amend­ment. 20% said they’d vote to reject and 9% were not sure. (White vot­ers are a lit­tle less enthu­si­as­tic: 59% are sup­port­ive, 24% are opposed, 17% are not sure.)

Geo­graph­i­cal­ly, sup­port for CA 29 seems to be strongest in neigh­bor­hoods like Bal­lard, Green­wood, Bit­ter Lake, North­gate, Capi­tol Hill, the Cen­tral Dis­trict, Madi­son Park, and Madrona. Here is the break­down on the amend­men­t’s polling by “like­ly” city coun­cil dis­trict (data is based on respon­dents’ zip codes):

  • Would vote yes to pass the char­ter amend­ment: 61% 
    • Like­ly dis­trict one: 58%
    • Like­ly dis­trict two: 56%
    • Like­ly dis­trict three: 62%
    • Like­ly dis­trict four: 57%
    • Like­ly dis­trict five: 64%
    • Like­ly dis­trict six: 68%
    • Like­ly dis­trict sev­en: 55%
  • Would vote no to reject the char­ter amend­ment: 23% 
    • Like­ly dis­trict one: 28%
    • Like­ly dis­trict two: 31%
    • Like­ly dis­trict three: 24%
    • Like­ly dis­trict four: 24%
    • Like­ly dis­trict five: 16%
    • Like­ly dis­trict six: 14%
    • Like­ly dis­trict sev­en: 28%
  • Not sure: 16% 
    • Like­ly dis­trict one: 14%
    • Like­ly dis­trict two: 13%
    • Like­ly dis­trict three: 15%
    • Like­ly dis­trict four: 20%
    • Like­ly dis­trict five: 19%
    • Like­ly dis­trict six: 19%
    • Like­ly dis­trict sev­en: 17%

Our poll of 617 like­ly August 2021 Seat­tle vot­ers was in the field through Mon­day, July 12th, through Thurs­day, July 15th. All respon­dents par­tic­i­pat­ed online. The poll was con­duct­ed by Change Research for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.3% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

NPI does not yet have a posi­tion on Seat­tle Char­ter Amend­ment 29 and was not involved in qual­i­fy­ing the mea­sure to the bal­lot. While NPI does not take sides in can­di­date elec­tions, we usu­al­ly do take posi­tions on bal­lot mea­sures. We antic­i­pate tak­ing a posi­tion on Char­ter Amend­ment 29 this autumn.

It isn’t uncom­mon for bal­lot mea­sures to start out with decent-sized leads. Pro­po­nents of a bal­lot mea­sure, whether it be an ini­tia­tive or a char­ter amend­ment like this, usu­al­ly only invest in cam­paigns when polling shows that the bal­lot title does well with vot­ers. It’s log­i­cal: Why risk mon­ey on a cam­paign that does­n’t have very good odds? Com­pas­sion Seat­tle’s objec­tive this fall will be to hang on to its lead. The coali­tion can afford to lose some sup­port and still win.

House Our Neigh­bors, mean­while, will be work­ing to get the per­cent­age of vot­ers who sup­port Char­ter Amend­ment 29 below fifty. The key to vic­to­ry for the oppo­si­tion coali­tion will be mount­ing cred­i­ble argu­ments against the amend­ment that res­onate with vot­ers. As the old polit­i­cal adage goes, when in doubt, vote no. Seat­tle vot­ers have a his­to­ry of being dis­cern­ing and doing their research. This is an elec­torate that lis­tens for the response when they hear a charge or claim.

With Char­ter Amend­ment 29 now offi­cial­ly on the bal­lot and home­less­ness far and away the top issue on Emer­ald City vot­ers’ minds, the stage seems set for a gen­er­al elec­tion more focused on hous­ing than any oth­er in recent memory.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. 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.

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