Cities in Washington

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This page contains a list of cities in Washington, and other information about local governments.

Washington allows municipal charter cities and counties. There are 39 total counties in Washington. Of those 39:[1]

There are 281 total municipalities in Washington. Of those 281, 270 of them are General law municipalities while the remaining 11 are Home rule charter cities.[1]

Types of local government

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments[2] shows that, as of September of 2012, local government in Washington consists of:

320 General Purpose units, including:

  • 39 Counties
  • 281 Cities and towns

1,511 Special Purpose units, including:

  • 1,216 Special Districts
  • 295 Independent School Districts

Further classifications:

Counties may be:

  • General law: of which there are 33
  • Home rule charter: of which there are 6 - Clallam (1979), King (1969), Pierce (1981), Snohomish (1980), Whatcom (1979) and

San Juan (2005)[3]

Cities and towns are classified as:

  • First class—10,000 inhabitants or more and a home-rule charter, of which there are 10 (Aberdeen, Bellingham, Bremerton, Everett, Richland, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Yakima)
  • Second class—1,500 or more inhabitants and no home-rule charter, of which there are 9 (Chewelah, Colfax, Colville, Davenport, Palouse, Port Orchard, Ritzville, Tekoa, and Wapato)
  • Towns—Fewer than 1,500 inhabitants and no home-rule charter, of which there are 70
  • Code Cities- Although a city must have a population of 10,000 to adopt a home rule charter, any city or town may acquire statutory home rule power by adopting the optional municipal code. There are 191 code cities, comprised of 190 noncharter code cities and 1 charter code city (Kelso)
  • There is also one unclassified city, Waitsburg, which operates under a territorial charter[4][5]

Initiative process availability

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in Washington

The availability of initiative varies depending on the classification, form of government, and home rule status of a town, city, or county.


General law counties do not currently have initiative authority, except to petition to adopt a charter. The 6 home rule charter counties do have authority, and all 6 have adopted an initiative process.[3]


First class charter cities have a mandated initiative process for charter amendments. A first class charter city may adopt initiative for ordinances in its charter, and all ten have done so.

Second class cities and towns do not have authority to adopt initiative.

Code cities have authority to permit initiative. If a code city exercises that authority, the initiative process is set by state statute. As of 2005, approximately 46 code cities had elected to allow initiative. There is one city, Shelton, which uses the commission form of government and has a mandated initiative process.

The following code cities permit initiative:[6][7]

10 most populated cities

List of Most Populated Cities in Washington
City[8] Population City Type Next election
Seattle 620,778 Charter N/A
Spokane 210,103 Charter N/A
Tacoma 200,678 Charter N/A
Vancouver 164,759 Charter N/A
Bellevue 124,798 General law, Optional Code N/A
Kent 120,916 General law, Optional Code N/A
Everett 104,295 Charter N/A
Renton 92,812 General law, Optional Code N/A
Yakima 92,512 Charter N/A
Federal Way 91,085 General law, Optional Code N/A

Full list of cities

See also: List of Washington cities
A guide to local ballot initiatives
Local Ballot Initiatives cover.jpg

As of the 2010 Census, there were 281 incorporated cities and towns in Washington. A full list of cities in Washington is available here.

See also