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.

Friday, November 4th, 2022

Voters are embracing charter amendment to switch King County to even year elections

A pro­posed char­ter amend­ment con­ceived here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute that would move elec­tions for twelve King Coun­ty offices from odd to even-num­bered years remains pop­u­lar with vot­ers and is des­tined for pas­sage lat­er this month, NPI’s lat­est poll of the King Coun­ty elec­torate has found.

In the aggre­gate, 50% of vot­ers sur­veyed this week by Change Research for NPI said they had already vot­ed for King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1 or were plan­ning to, while 21% said they had already vot­ed against the amend­ment or were plan­ning to. 2% said they did­n’t vote on the amend­ment, 11% did not remem­ber how they vot­ed on it, and 16% were not sure how they would vote.

Among vot­ers who had already returned bal­lots, the amend­ment has a lead of near­ly three-to-one. 58% of those vot­ers said they vot­ed yes, while 21% said they vot­ed no. 4% did not vote on the amend­ment and 17% did not recall.

Among vot­ers who had not vot­ed, 37% said they were def­i­nite­ly or prob­a­bly vot­ing yes, while 20% said they were prob­a­bly or def­i­nite­ly vot­ing no.

42% said they were not sure.

Char­ter Amend­ment 1, which was for­ward­ed by the King Coun­ty Coun­cil to vot­ers for con­sid­er­a­tion back in the sum­mer, is sim­ple. It changes the tim­ing of elec­tions for twelve coun­ty posi­tions cur­rent­ly elect­ed in odd years to even-num­bered years, which will increase and diver­si­fy vot­er turnout in elec­tions for those offices. The posi­tions affect­ed by the amend­ment are:

  • King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive: The coun­ty’s high­est pro­file job, with immense appoint­ing and admin­is­tra­tive authority.
  • King Coun­ty Asses­sor: Inde­pen­dent­ly elect­ed offi­cial who heads the depart­ment respon­si­ble for assess­ing the val­ue of prop­er­ty in the county.
  • King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor: Inde­pen­dent­ly elect­ed exec­u­tive offi­cial respon­si­ble for the admin­is­tra­tion of the coun­ty’s elections.
  • King Coun­ty Coun­cil (9 posi­tions): Nine-mem­ber body respon­si­ble for mak­ing laws (usu­al­ly styled as ordi­nances) for the county.

The posi­tion of King Coun­ty Pros­e­cut­ing Attor­ney and the coun­ty’s Supe­ri­or Court judge­ships (when con­test­ed) are already reg­u­lar­ly elect­ed in even years. The adop­tion of Char­ter Amend­ment 1 will put King Coun­ty on the path to elect­ing all of its posi­tions in high­er turnout midterm and pres­i­den­tial cycles by the end of the decade. The switchover will be imple­ment­ed by tem­porar­i­ly elect­ing each of the afore­men­tioned posi­tions to three year terms in 2023 and 2025.

In 2026, the posi­tions of King Coun­ty Asses­sor, King Coun­ty Elec­tions Direc­tor, and King Coun­ty Coun­cil (Dis­tricts 2, 4, 6, 8) will appear on an even-year bal­lot for the first time. Then, in 2028, the posi­tion of Exec­u­tive will appear on an even-year bal­lot for the first time along with five more King Coun­ty Coun­cil posi­tions (Dis­tricts 1, 3, 5, 7, 9). Data sug­gest turnout in these elec­tions could as much as dou­ble just from being put on an even-year ballot.

The elec­torates choos­ing these offi­cials will be also be much more diverse fol­low­ing the switch, with far more young vot­ers, vot­ers of col­or, work­ing class vot­ers, and renters par­tic­i­pat­ing in the selec­tion of King Coun­ty’s future leaders.

In addi­tion to NPI, King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1 is endorsed by The Seat­tle Times, The Stranger, The Urban­ist, and a grow­ing coali­tion of orga­ni­za­tions that believe in inclu­sive elec­tions and a stronger democracy.

Remark­ably and hap­pi­ly, the amend­ment has no orga­nized oppo­si­tion. No one came for­ward to write a state­ment for the voter’s pam­phlet or appear in the video vot­ers guide offered by the Seat­tle Chan­nel and King Coun­ty TV.

Here’s the ques­tions we asked and the answers we received:

Already voted 

QUESTION: This year, vot­ers are con­sid­er­ing King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1, con­cern­ing the tim­ing of elec­tions for twelve coun­ty elect­ed posi­tions. The bal­lot title is as fol­lows: 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? How did you vote on this char­ter amendment?

Respon­dents who told us that they had already vot­ed were shown this question. 

  • Yes: 58%
  • No: 21%
  • Did not vote on this: 4%
  • Don’t recall: 17%

Haven’t yet voted

QUESTION: This year, vot­ers are con­sid­er­ing King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1, con­cern­ing the tim­ing of elec­tions for twelve coun­ty elect­ed posi­tions. The bal­lot title is as fol­lows: 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? How are you vot­ing on this char­ter amendment?

Respon­dents who told us that they had not yet vot­ed were shown this question.

  • Yes: 37%
    • Def­i­nite­ly yes: 17%
    • Prob­a­bly yes: 20%
  • No: 20%
    • Prob­a­bly no: 8%
    • Def­i­nite­ly no: 12%
  • Not sure: 42%

Aggregate responses

COMBINED ANSWERS (AGGREGATE), BOTH QUESTIONS:

  • Yes: 50%
  • No: 21%
  • Did not vote on this: 2%
  • Don’t recall: 11%
  • Not sure: 16%

Our sur­vey of 740 like­ly 2022 King Coun­ty gen­er­al elec­tion vot­ers was in the field from Fri­day, Octo­ber 28th until today, Thurs­day, Novem­ber 3rd.

The poll was con­duct­ed entire­ly online for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute by Change Research and has a mod­eled mar­gin of error of 4.0%.

Fol­low this link if you’re inter­est­ed in a detailed primer on the survey’s method­ol­o­gy along with infor­ma­tion about who took the poll.

I serve as one of the offi­cers for the Yes on King Coun­ty Char­ter Amend­ment 1 cam­paign, which is urg­ing vot­ers in King Coun­ty to pass the amendment.

The idea for Char­ter Amend­ment 1 orig­i­nat­ed at King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Sarah Per­ry’s elec­tion night par­ty a year ago. Our team, which tracks vot­er turnout close­ly, had noticed that Wash­ing­ton State was once again on track to fall well short of major­i­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion and like­ly set anoth­er shod­dy turnout record.

(After cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, this assess­ment was proven cor­rect: the 2021 gen­er­al elec­tion went into the books as the elec­tion with the third worst turnout in his­to­ry.)

I men­tioned this to King Coun­ty Coun­cil Chair Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, mus­ing that it sure would be great if we were elect­ing our impor­tant coun­ty posi­tions in years when most vot­ers actu­al­ly return a bal­lot… like 2020 or 2022.

NPI Leg­isla­tive Direc­tor Kathy Saka­hara and I for­mal­ly pitched the idea to Bal­duc­ci in the spring. After study­ing turnout data, Chair Bal­duc­ci enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly took up the cause and intro­duced the amend­ment in the King Coun­ty Council.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of many orga­ni­za­tions that work on vot­ing rights and vot­ing jus­tice offered their sup­port dur­ing a series of pub­lic hear­ings before the Coun­cil’s Com­mit­tee of the Whole, and on June 28th, the Coun­cil vot­ed 7–2 to put the amend­ment on the bal­lot for vot­ers to consider.

Our sum­mer­time sur­vey found great enthu­si­asm for the amend­ment, con­firm­ing ear­li­er research show­ing broad sup­port for even-year elections.

55% of the vot­ers Change Research sur­veyed for us in July-August 2022 indi­cat­ed they’d vote yes for the amend­ment after see­ing just the bal­lot title and no oth­er infor­ma­tion. After hear­ing a bal­anced set of argu­ments for and against, sup­port increased into the six­ties, which was extreme­ly heartening.

Elect­ing coun­ty posi­tions in even years is actu­al­ly the norm in Wash­ing­ton State. Only three coun­ties devi­ate from it: King, Sno­homish, and What­com. Should this amend­ment pass, King Coun­ty will no longer be one of them after 2025.

Amend­ment 1 was draft­ed to ensure that the coun­ty’s top job of Exec­u­tive would move to a pres­i­den­tial cycle when turnout is con­sis­tent­ly at its high­est. In 2028, King Coun­ty could be elect­ing an Exec­u­tive at the same time that we vote for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States and Gov­er­nor, just like Pierce Coun­ty already does.

We have a cam­paign web­site that answers many fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions about the amend­ment and address­es con­cerns we some­times hear. If you’re look­ing for more infor­ma­tion about the pro­pos­al, I strong­ly rec­om­mend check­ing out that resource. Bal­lots are due back by Novem­ber 8th and 8 PM. We urge you to join us in vot­ing Yes on Char­ter Amend­ment 1 if you are a King Coun­ty voter!

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