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City of Seattle

Proposed Charter Amendment No. 19

City of Seattle Proposed Charter Amendment No. 19 concerns creating districts to elect seven of nine Seattle City Councilmembers.

This measure would require the election of seven City Councilmembers by district and two from the City at-large. Residency must be established 120 days before candidate filing. Every decade a commission would re-draw districts to bring the smallest district’s population within one percent of the largest. Councilmembers elected in 2013 and at-large councilmembers elected in 2015 serve 2-year terms. Thereafter, all councilmembers serve 4-year terms with district positions running together and at-large positions two years later.

Should this measure be enacted into law?




The Existing Law:

The nine members of the Seattle City Council are currently elected from the city at large.  This means that qualified residents of any area within the city are equally eligible for election to any position on the council and that all registered voters in the city may vote for a candidate for all positions up for election.  To qualify, a City Council candidate must be a United States citizen, and a registered voter of The City of Seattle at the time of filing his or her declaration of candidacy.  Each councilmember is elected to a four-year term.

The Effect of the measure if approved:

If approved by the voters, the city would be divided into seven districts.  One councilmember would be elected from each of the seven districts created in the city, and two councilmembers would be elected from the city at large.  Each member elected from a council district must be a resident of that district for at least 120 days at the time of filing his or her declaration of candidacy, and throughout the term of office. 

To make the change to districts, the five councilmembers elected in the 2011 City Council elections would serve their present terms ending on December 31, 2015, and the four councilmembers elected in the 2013 City Council elections would serve two-year terms also ending on December 31, 2015.   In 2015, the two at-large councilmembers would be elected to two-year terms ending on December 31, 2017, and the seven district councilmembers would be elected to four year terms ending on December 31, 2019.  Thereafter, all members would be elected to four-year terms.

Every ten years, the district boundaries would be re-designated by a five-member Districting Commission composed of two members appointed by the Mayor, two by a two-thirds vote of the City Council, and the fifth appointed by the first four.  The first Commission must be appointed by October 31, 2022.  The Districting Commission must appoint a master who must draw a districting plan.  The population of the largest district cannot exceed the population of the smallest district by more than one percent.  To the extent possible, natural boundaries must be taken into account.  The Districting Commission must then develop, and approve by majority vote, a districting proposal.  After public comment, the Commission must approve a final districting plan, which must be filed with the City Clerk.  Upon filing with the City Clerk, the districting plan will become final.

For additional questions regarding this measure contact: Monica Martinez Simmons - City Clerk 206-684-8361 •

Charter Amendment No. 19 changes the way we elect City Councilmembers from citywide election of nine Councilmembers to seven Councilmembers elected by geographic district and two elected by all Seattle voters.

By voting YES, you will have a Councilmember living in, elected by, and responsible for representing your area of Seattle. Currently, no one on the City Council represents your specific neighborhood or community and each Councilmember has to represent 630,000 people.

Charter Amendment 19 is important for Seattle because: 

  • Under Charter Amendment 19, there will always be at least one member of the Council ensuring your neighborhood gets a fair share of resources such as parks, community centers, libraries, public safety, human services, pedestrian improvements, and road maintenance. A YES vote on Charter Amendment 19 means you will finally have a Councilmember advocating for the specific needs of your community.
  • By retaining two “at-large” Councilmembers and the Mayor representing the whole city, Charter Amendment 19 ensures regional and citywide needs will have a voice.
  • Each district under Charter Amendment 19 will have about 88,000 residents, meaning a grassroots candidate can win against an incumbent using good old fashioned legwork and people power. Under the existing system, candidates must use expensive mailers and television ads to reach hundreds of thousands of voters. A YES vote on Charter Amendment 19 opens the door for qualified younger or less well-connected candidates
  • Of the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle is one of only three still electing all its Councilmembers citywide. When San Francisco adopted district elections in 2000, the cost of an average Council campaign fell from $188,000 to about $74,000.
  • NO NEW TAXES are needed for Charter Amendment 19. 

Join 45,000 of your friends and neighbors who helped place this measure on the ballot.   Vote YES on Charter Amendment 19 to ensure elected Councilmembers and future candidates are more closely engaged with you, your neighbors, and your community.

Charter Amendment 19 is a good-government proposal with strong bipartisan support, including the Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, the King County Republicans, 46th District Democrats, Senator Adam Kline, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Wells, Senator David Frockt, Senator Sharon Nelson, Senator Maralyn Chase, Representative Gael Tarleton, Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (ret.), Representative Jessyn Farrell, Representative Gerry Pollett, King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski, and thousands of voters just like you.

Learn more about Charter Amendment 19 at


Politicians get to serve at large regardless of whether they are elected at large or by district.  It is only We the People who have our jurisdiction restricted by districting.  In comparing the city and county councils, the King County Council is also comprised of nine members, and all nine have jurisdiction over you as a resident of this county, yet you are prohibited from participating in eight of their nine elections because the King County Council is elected by districts.  BUT CURRENTLY, NO ONE CAN RUN FOR CITY COUNCIL WHO IS BEYOND YOUR REACH AS A VOTER.  Let’s keep it that way! 

Districting also causes elections in which incumbents run unopposed: e.g. in 2009, 4 of the 5 districts electing someone to the King County Council had no challenger: only the incumbent's name on the ballot.

City council members should be accountable to all of us.  Districts pit the interests of one geographic area against the others rather than addressing the common good.  We need to elect the best qualified candidates who will work for the common good, regardless of where they live in the city!

The districting advocates' argument is that geography trumps freedom of choice.  Their argument is that you are better off to have to vote for someone you may not like who lives in your district than to have the freedom of choice to vote for the candidates of your choice regardless of where they live in town.  Just because someone lives in your part of town doesn't mean that he/she shares your political ideologies.

And city council members are under oath to represent the entire city, not just their neighborhood.  For neighborhood politics you should go to your neighborhood councils.  This is why we have neighborhood councils.

If Charter Amendment 19 passes, in the future most city council candidates will be off limits to you: beyond your reach as a voter.  Protect your choices: Vote NO on Charter Amendment 19.

Note: A wealthy Seattle business person financed the districting campaign by paying for signature-gatherers to collect the necessary signatures to put districts on the ballot.  Don't let money dupe you into forfeiting your choice of candidates.

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A YES vote on Charter Amendment 19 ensures Councilmembers are accountable for community issues as well as citywide/regional issues.

Under the current system, you are only one voter out of the 630,000 people each Councilmember is supposed to represent. This means Councilmembers can safely ignore you and critical issues, but still get elected.

Neighborhood councils in Seattle have no legislative authority. District elections will bring government closer to voters like you and strengthen the relationship between communities and city government. 47 of the 50 largest US cities already elect Councilmembers in geographic districts. With Charter Amendment 19, your vote for Council matters more.

Voting YES on Charter Amendment 19 gives Seattle a system of electing its Council matching our status as a world-class city. Join 45,000 people who signed their name to place this measure on the ballot and bipartisan endorsers – including legislators from every corner of the city.

Statement submitted by: Julius Caesar Robinson, Glenn Avery and Donna Hartmann-Miller

Amendment 19 will restrict us to three councilors.  Currently, we each get nine councilors to lobby.

Councilors take oath to represent the city, not just a slice: public safety and utilities are citywide issues.  We don’t need councilors with tunnel vision.

Retaining only two at-large councilors will not ensure that citywide needs are met; it takes five for a majority.

“[L]egwork” is fine in sports but the political playing field should not discriminate against physically handicapped candidates.

And, doorbelling works for well-connected candidates.  Bob Ferguson, first running for county council, took a year absence from his law practice to doorbell his district.  Few have the financial independence to do that.

With decennial redistricting, taxpayers will incur costs; and many will be bumped into different districts.

Pro-districting’s supporters are incumbents elected by district.  No surprise!

In 1975, 1995 and 2003 Seattleites rejected districts.  Let’s do it again.

Statement submitted by: Marjorie Rhodes and Herm Ross

Simple Majority (Seattle City Charter Section XX)

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