Counties in Washington

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Counties in the United States

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There are 39 counties in Washington.[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]

County website evaluations

See also: Evaluation of Washington county websites and Ballot measure information on Washington county websites

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

County County seat
Adams County, Washington Ritzville, Washington
Asotin County, Washington Asotin, Washington
Benton County, Washington Prosser, Washington
Chelan County, Washington Wenatchee, Washington
Clallam County, Washington Port Angeles, Washington
Clark County, Washington Vancouver, Washington
Columbia County, Washington Dayton
Cowlitz County, Washington Kelso, Washington
Douglas County, Washington Waterville
Ferry County, Washington Republic, Washington
Franklin County, Washington Pasco, Washington
Garfield County, Washington Pomeroy, Washington
Grant County, Washington Ephrata, Washington
Grays Harbor County, Washington Montesano, Washington
Island County, Washington Coupeville, Washington
Jefferson County, Washington Port Townsend, Washington
King County, Washington Seattle, Washington
Kitsap County, Washington Port Orchard, Washington
Kittitas County, Washington Ellensburg, Washington
Klickitat County, Washington Goldendale, Washington
Lewis County, Washington Chehalis, Washington
Lincoln County, Washington Davenport
Mason County, Washington Shelton, Washington
Okanogan County, Washington Okanogan, Washington
Pacific County, Washington South Bend, Washington
Pend Oreille County, Washington Newport, Washington
Pierce County, Washington Tacoma, Washington
San Juan County, Washington Friday Harbor, Washington
Skagit County, Washington Mount Vernon, Washington
Skamania County, Washington Stevenson, Washington
Snohomish County, Washington Everett, Washington
Spokane County, Washington Spokane, Washington
Stevens County, Washington Colville, Washington
Thurston County, Washington Olympia, Washington
Wahkiakum County, Washington Cathlamet
Walla Walla County, Washington Walla Walla, Washington
Whatcom County, Washington Bellingham, Washington
Whitman County, Washington Colfax, Washington
Yakima County, Washington Yakima, Washington