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Local ballot measures, Washington

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Election results certification yields a victory for the SeaTac minimum wage increase, litigation already underway Nov 27, 2013

By Josh Altic

The highly contentious measure in the small city of SeaTac was one of the most narrow races on the November ballot. Although, according to initial counts, the proposition was ahead by a fair margin, the margin was reduced to as little as 19 votes in later vote count updates. Finally, on November 26, the results were certified and the measure was declared approved by a margin of only 77 votes, with 3,040 voting for the measure and 2,963 voting against it. Prop 1 had fallen into the national spotlight because it was the first municipal ballot measure that sought to raise the minimum wage; Prop 1 asked voters to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Many living-wage advocates think this measure might be the beginning of local movements, across the state and across the nation, to increase legally mandated wages of low-rank employees.[1]

Proposition 1 had produced a very disproportionately well funded battle in the small city of SeaTac. In the city of only 12,100 registered votes, support and opposition campaigns had received contributions totaling $1,585,763. This amounts to $131.05 per registered voter and, with the projected voter-turnout of 55%, this figure rises to about $238 per vote. Evidence of the strong support and opposition to this measure was also given by the litigation that already surrounds it. The measure drew an attack early on, when opponents, including Alaska Airlines and the Washington Restaurant Association, filed a lawsuit questioning the validity of the petition signatures used to qualify the measure for the ballot. After the election, even before results were certified, the same opponents have filed another lawsuit claiming the measure is unenforceable and lies outside the power of the city and the city's voters.[2][3]

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School bond and tax votes

See also: School bond and tax elections in Washington

Washington State is one of eleven states that has a debt limit protected by the Washington Constitution. Washington mandates that school districts can only take in one percent for general debt and up to five percent for capital outlays without voter approval. Washington State requires a election for all bond issues exceeding three-eights of one percent of taxable property. School districts are treated equally with other units of municipal government in the state's bond issue laws. Bond issues can be used for capital improvements and new construction only. School districts cannot use bonds to retire debt or fund other obligations.

Local recall

See also: Laws governing recall in Washington

The citizens of Washington are granted the authority to perform a recall election by Sections 33 and 34 of Article I of the Washington State Constitution to all elective officers of the state of Washington except judges of courts of record.

A petition for recall must include a specified number of valid signatures from registered voters determined as a percentage of total votes cast for all candidates who ran for the office in the most recent election contest. This amounts to:

  • 25 percent for state officers, other than judges, senators and representatives; city officers of cities of the first class; school district boards in cities of the first class; county officers in counties of the first, second and third classes,
  • 35 percent for officers of all other political subdivisions, cities, towns, townships, precincts, and school districts not otherwise mentioned; and state senators and representatives.

Laws governing

Spokane County

The Spokane County government is looking to change the way initiatives are conducted in their county. One proposed change is that a city attorney would instead write the ballot question that would appear, instead of those petitioning for the initiative. Another proposed change would be that the title of the proposed measure would have to be approved before signatures could be collected. Opponents say this would not give enough time to collect signatures, but the city said they would be allowed 12 months to collect in case the name approval took a while. Supports say that this process is based on the state's process and would rather clarify the issues and ensure ballot language is clear for all voters to understand. Opponents state that the city writing the language of the measure would introduce a bias, but city council members feel it would rather help not hinder the process.[1]

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Washington counties

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References