Vote Yes on King County Charter Amendment 1
Vote Yes on King County Charter Amendment 1

A pro­posed change to King Coun­ty’s plan of gov­ern­ment that would shift elec­tions for twelve key coun­ty posi­tions from odd-num­bered to even-years is crush­ing it in ini­tial returns with 69.17%, which sug­gests it will ulti­mate­ly be adopt­ed when the Novem­ber 2022 gen­er­al elec­tion is cer­ti­fied lat­er this month.

King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1 (2022), con­ceived here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute and sup­port­ed by the NPI-orga­nized Coali­tion for Even Year Elec­tions, was sub­mit­ted to vot­ers on a 7–2 vote by the King Coun­ty Coun­cil last sum­mer. Spon­sored by Coun­cil Chair Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, the mea­sure enjoyed a smooth and dra­ma-free cam­paign that was free of any orga­nized opposition.

No one wrote a voter’s pam­phlet state­ment oppos­ing the amend­ment or engaged in any elec­tion­eer­ing oppos­ing it. Aside from a few media inter­views giv­en by King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Rea­gan Dunn, one of the two nay votes on the Coun­cil, no one tried to make a case against Char­ter Amend­ment 1 to the public.

That’s because, as The Seat­tle Times, The Stranger, and The Urban­ist all rec­og­nized, Char­ter Amend­ment 1 just makes sense.

It aligns all coun­ty elec­tions in years when most vot­ers turn out and when turnout is far more diverse: years like 2020 or 2022, which are known as midterm and pres­i­den­tial years due to fed­er­al offices appear­ing on the ballot.

Elect­ing coun­ty offi­cials in even years is actu­al­ly the norm in Wash­ing­ton State and has been a very long time. Thir­ty-six out of thir­ty-nine coun­ties already do it. But home rule char­ter coun­ties have the free­dom to devi­ate from the norm, and three cur­rent­ly do: King, Sno­homish, and What­com. Thanks to vot­ers’ enthu­si­asm for this char­ter amend­ment, King Coun­ty is now set to aban­don the prac­tice, leav­ing just Sno­homish and What­com with non­stan­dard timing.

The switch will be imple­ment­ed by tem­porar­i­ly chang­ing terms for coun­ty offices to a dura­tion of three years in each. In 2023, King Coun­ty vot­ers will elect an Asses­sor, an Elec­tions Direc­tor, and four Coun­cil posi­tions (in Dis­tricts 2, 4, 6, and 8) to three-year terms. In 2026, those posi­tions will then come up in an even-year cycle. The terms will then revert back to four years. So, the offices that were on the bal­lot in 2015, 2019, and due to be on the bal­lot next year will in the future be con­test­ed in midterm cycles: 2026, 2030, 2034, 2038, and so on.

In 2025, King Coun­ty vot­ers will elect an Exec­u­tive and five Coun­cil posi­tions (in Dis­tricts 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9) to three-year terms. In 2028, those posi­tions will come up in an even-year cycle for the first time and revert back to four year terms. So, the offices that were on the bal­lot in 2017 and 2021 will in the future be con­test­ed in pres­i­den­tial cycles: 2028, 2032, 2036, 2040, and so on.

Turnout in these coun­ty elec­tions could as much as dou­ble by the end of the decade as a result of the switch, all because of adopt­ing even-year timing.

It’s espe­cial­ly excit­ing that King Coun­ty vot­ers will get to elect their Exec­u­tive in pres­i­den­tial years, when turnout is con­sis­tent­ly the high­est it ever gets. This is what Pierce Coun­ty already does and it works well. Elect­ing the King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive at the same time as the Gov­er­nor of Wash­ing­ton State and the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States will mean that peo­ple in King Coun­ty will get to vote for their exec­u­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion at three lev­els in the same cycle.

Our team at NPI is incred­i­bly grate­ful to every­one who made this pos­si­ble, espe­cial­ly our leg­isla­tive cham­pi­ons, Coun­cilmem­bers Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci and Gir­may Zahi­lay. With­out Coun­cil Chair Bal­duc­ci’s lead­er­ship, this char­ter amend­ment could not have hap­pened. Her spon­sor­ship, enthu­si­asm, and thought­ful advo­ca­cy were cru­cial to our suc­cess. And Coun­cilmem­ber Zahi­lay’s ener­gy and elo­quence were also huge for our cam­paign. Coun­cilmem­ber Zahi­lay record­ed our video voter’s pam­phlet state­ment, for instance, and it knocked it out of the ballpark.

A big thanks also to Coun­cilmem­bers Rod Dem­bows­ki, Sarah Per­ry, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Joe McDer­mott, and Dave Upthe­grove for glad­ly sup­port­ing the amend­ment and ensur­ing vot­ers got a chance to con­sid­er it this year.

Our friends at the Wash­ing­ton Com­mu­ni­ty Alliance helped put the cam­paign com­mit­tee togeth­er and spoke before the Coun­cil in favor of its sub­mis­sion to vot­ers. So did More Equi­table Democ­ra­cy, which gen­er­ous­ly pro­vid­ed fund­ing for the cam­paign. The team at Win/Win were instru­men­tal in ensur­ing our get-out-the-vote mass tex­ting cam­paign was suc­cess­ful plus writ­ing let­ters to the editor.

The Wash­ing­ton Bus, the League of Women Vot­ers of Seat­tle-King Coun­ty, Wash­ing­ton For Equi­table Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and the Urban League of Met­ro­pol­i­tan Seat­tle signed on ear­ly to advo­cate for the amend­ment before the Coun­cil and then helped make the case to vot­ers in the weeks lead­ing up to tonight.

The Urban League’s Jude Ahmed and the Bus’ Jazmine Smith spoke at the cam­paign bal­lot drop week kick­off press con­fer­ence along with New­cas­tle City Coun­cilmem­ber Paul Char­bon­neau, the youngest elect­ed offi­cial in King County.

Alan Durn­ing and the Sight­line Insti­tute brought their con­sid­er­able research exper­tise to the effort and helped us make a good pitch for the measure.

Seat­tle Pride, the Tran­sit Rid­ers Union, OneAm­er­i­ca Votes, and the King Coun­ty Democ­rats endorsed the cam­paign and helped secure sup­port for it, as did Shore­line City Coun­cilmem­ber Chris Roberts, a long­time friend of ours, who has writ­ten here about the need to switch to even-year elections.

Jason Ben­nett and Argo Strate­gies han­dled our trea­sury and com­pli­ance needs with great atten­tion and care. NPI strong­ly rec­om­mends Argo if you need a first-rate trea­sur­er and you’re a run­ning an elec­toral campaign.

DJT Con­sult­ing helped keep our coali­tion orga­nized and mov­ing for­ward as the cam­paign sea­son unfold­ed. They’re real­ly great to work with.

Pro­fes­sor Zoltan Haj­nal of UC San Diego endorsed our pro­pos­al and appeared before the King Coun­ty Coun­cil to make the case for its adoption.

NPI’s own Leg­isla­tive Direc­tor Kathy Saka­hara did a superb job orga­niz­ing tes­ti­mo­ny and con­ven­ing strat­e­gy ses­sions for the amend­ment, then after it qual­i­fied, gra­cious­ly opened up her home for a coali­tion house par­ty to accel­er­ate the cam­paign into the home stretch, which was a delight­ful event.

The whole NPI team is thrilled to have reached this point. We’ve tru­ly changed King Coun­ty elec­tions for the bet­ter. We’re now just a few years away from elect­ing all of our coun­ty posi­tions in years when turnout is high­er and more diverse!

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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