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Vote on county elections chief won't go on ballot until 2009
Seattle Times staff reporter
County voters will have to wait until 2009 to decide whether to establish an elected auditor to run elections in King County, according to legislation signed by a majority of the Metropolitan King County Council on Wednesday.
The nine-member council previously had been moving toward putting the measure on the ballot this fall, with Democrat Bob Ferguson of Seattle joining the council's four Republicans in support.
But Ferguson said Wednesday he had changed his mind and decided to support a postponement after speaking with an elections-director candidate County Executive Ron Sims wants to hire.
Ferguson said the candidate, whose name has not been disclosed, told him he would not be interested in the job if a vote on an elected auditor is on the ballot this fall.
Wednesday night, Ferguson said he had collected enough council members' signatures to postpone the ballot measure until 2009. He expects the full council to take up the matter Monday.
The proposal would have changed how the elections department is run. Currently, the department head is appointed by Sims, but the top job has been vacant since Dean Logan left in July.
The county plans to convert to all vote-by-mail elections. That will begin as soon as a new director and superintendent of elections are hired.
Ryan Bayne, Sims' director of intergovernmental relations, said he was glad that a public vote on the auditor position would be postponed.
"That allows us to recruit and retain top-level management for the division and allows us to keep implementation of vote-by-mail on track," he said.
Sims hopes to hire a director next month and hold the first all-mail election in 2007.
The council also would ask the county charter-review commission to recommend whether the position should be partisan or nonpartisan and whether nonelection responsibilities such as licensing and record keeping should be moved to a different department.
In a statement presented at Monday's council briefing, Dwight Pelz, the head of the state Democratic Party, said he opposed putting the elected-auditor proposal on the ballot this fall because of the current management uncertainty in the county elections department.
But Pelz wrote that he would support waiting until 2009.
Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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