NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 5th, 2022

Let’s amend the King County Charter to elect all county offices in even-numbered years

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.

NPI’s research has pre­vi­ous­ly found that a major­i­ty of vot­ers across the state sup­port mak­ing the switch to even-year elec­tions for local posi­tions like these.

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.

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