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Washington Senate balks at moving some local elections to even-numbered years

A push to let cities and towns in Washington conduct elections in even-numbered years rather than odd ones, as they do now, has come up short.

House Bill 1932 would have changed state law to allow jurisdictions to make the change and set out a path for doing so that included getting approval from voters. The bill passed the House on a 52-45 vote but failed to advance from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Supporters said shifting to even-year elections, when turnout is higher with state and federal offices on ballots, would result in greater voter participation in local elections.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a Democrat, and former secretary of state Sam Reed, a Republican, testified against the bill at a hearing of the Senate panel.

They expressed concern that ballots in some counties could run multiple pages if every city made the shift. Voters would get “ballot fatigue” and stop before making a choice in every contest, they said.

County auditors shared that worry. They also argued school districts and special districts could see their election costs climb because there would be fewer jurisdictions splitting the expenses.

Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton provided the committee with an example. She said that had the city of Spokane pulled out of the November 2023 election, then its share of the tab – which was roughly $100,000 – would have been shifted to other jurisdictions.

Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute, was a leading voice in the effort to pass the bill. He said backers aren’t giving up.

“It’s coming back next session,” he said, adding he was “very pleased” with progress made this session “in the face of a lot of opposition.”

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.