2 votes to elect one county official
King County voters will decide whether they want to elect the person who runs elections. But they would have to vote twice. The County Council, divided...
Seattle Times staff reporter
King County voters will decide whether they want to elect the person who runs elections. But they would have to vote twice.
The County Council, divided along party lines, voted Friday in favor of a two-step process that could see an elections director elected in February 2009, but only if voters this November approve putting a charter amendment on the November 2008 ballot.
The charter amendment is proposed by Initiative 25, which 74,000 county voters signed.
Sponsors of I-25 had asked the council to put the charter amendment up for a vote this November. If the amendment was approved then, an elections chief would have been chosen next February.
But the council's Democratic majority opposed a February election without a primary. "It means that potentially there could be three, 10, 30 individuals on the ballot," said Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac. In the worst-case scenario, she said, an elections director could be chosen with "10, 12 percent of the vote."
Republicans have pushed for an elected manager of elections since King County was embarrassed by ballot-handling errors in the contested 2004 governor's election. Every other county in Washington elects its elections chief.
"There is no reason why [voters] should have to vote twice," said Toby Nixon, chairman of Citizens for Accountable Elections, sponsor of I-25.
Patterson called the February election proposal supported by council Republicans "crazy." Her Democratic colleague, Dow Constantine of Seattle, branded it "reckless."
Electing an elections chief during February's presidential primary wouldn't have cost King County taxpayers anything extra. Holding a separate election in February 2009 would cost between $1 million and $2.9 million, said De'Sean Quinn, County Executive Ron Sims' liaison to the council.
The council's 5-4 vote Friday came during a special meeting at Mercer Island's Mercer View Community Center on the last day the council could act and still have the initiative included in the county voter pamphlet.
In other business, the council adopted Initiative 24, which seeks to expand public feedback to county officials by setting up a "citizen councilor network" of small discussion groups. The initiative's author, Dick's Drive-In co-founder Dick Spady, earlier this week offered to pay the $130,000 in estimated staff costs for the first two years of the program.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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