Counties in Washington
Types of local government
The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments 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
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)
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
Initiative process availability
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.
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.
- Battle Ground
- Bonney Lake
- Des Moines
- Federal Way
- Lake Forest Park
- Mercer Island
- Mill Creek
- Mountlake Terrace
- North Bend
- Ocean Shores
- Walla Walla
County website evaluations
As of 2009:
- 25 counties posted their county budgets online.
- 31 counties included information on their websites about public government meetings.
- 27 included information about the county's elected officials.
- 35 included information about the county's administrative officials.
- 31 counties gave information about permits and zoning in the county.
- 16 of the counties put information on their websites about external audits.
- No counties gave information about their contracts with county vendors.
- No county websites disclosed whether the county belonged to any government sector lobbying associations.
- 23 counties provided information on how to request public records using the Washington Public Records Act.
- 27 county websites provided some information about county taxes.
List of counties
- National Association of Counties Website, "County Seats," accessed September 19, 2013
- The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, County Form of Government
- Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, Classification of Washington Cities
- U.S. Census Bureau, 2007 Governments Integrated Directory, Individual State Descriptions
- Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, "Initiative and Referendum Guide for Washington City and Charter Counties," accessed April 16, 2015
- Ballotpedia: Types and #'s of local governments by state