Today, our movement’s long-running effort to make elections more inclusive and accessible got a welcome jolt of energy when King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci filed a charter amendment requested by NPI that would move regularly scheduled elections for twelve county-level offices to even-numbered years.
If adopted by the Council and ratified by voters this November, the amendment would eventually result in future elections for Executive, Assessor, Elections Director, and County Council being held in midterm and presidential cycles, rather than in odd-numbered years, as has been the case for many years.
King County voters already elect a Prosecuting Attorney and Superior Court judges in even-numbered years, but other executive positions and legislative positions are ordinarily contested in odd-numbered years, when turnout tends to be lower and less diverse. Fewer than half of King County’s more than one million registered voters returned a ballot last year, whereas more than eight in ten of them turned out for the 2020 presidential election the preceding year.
As I explained in a post last November, had the position of Executive been voted on in 2020 instead of 2021, around twice as many King County voters would likely have participated in deciding who should hold the county’s top job.
Interest and momentum in switching to even-year elections in our state has been growing over the past few years. This past legislative session, for the first time ever, legislation sponsored by State Representative Mia Gregerson (D‑33rd District) that would begin a broader phase-out of odd-year elections in Washington State advanced out of committee and even reached the floor of the House of Representatives after getting pulled out of House Rules.
We will continue to work at the state level in future legislative sessions to improve that bill and secure its passage. But in the meantime, thanks to the great work of Council Chair Balducci, we have a wonderful opportunity to make progress at the local level by adopting this charter amendment, which would put King County on the path to more inclusive and accessible elections. Voters in the state’s largest jurisdiction deserve the chance to demonstrate to state legislators that there is public support for a switch to even-year elections.
Here’s the draft ordinance if you’d like to read it:Charter amendment to move elections in King County to even-numbered years
Should the Council adopt the ordinance, voters would see a charter amendment on this November’s ballot with a title such as what the amendment proposes:
Shall the King County Charter be amended to move elections for the county offices of executive, assessor, director of elections and councilmembers from odd-numbered to even-numbered years?
To implement the change, elections for the twelve aforementioned offices would next be held in 2023 and 2025 for three-year terms rather than four-year terms. Then, in 2026 and 2028, we’d begin electing our King County Executive, Assessor, Elections Director, and County Councilmembers in even-numbered years.
The Council will have several weeks to mull over the ordinance, as the deadline to submit measures to the 2022 general election ballot isn’t until the beginning of August. We hope you’ll join us in encouraging the Council to move forward with this amendment so that the people of King County get the chance to vote yes on simplifying our elections and making them more inclusive and accessible.