Seattle Approval Voting


I recently got to see CES Executive Director Aaron Hamlin give a talk to the King County League of Women Voters, just east of Seattle. It was concise and presented at a relatively light level of depth, which I think the audience grasped and appreciated.

This got me thinking and comparing our effort down in Olympia. To get such an initiative on the ballot, you’d need 22,040 signatures, or presumably about 30,856 if you get a healthy 40% padding to account for invalid signatures. That’s an average of 171 signatures per day, over six months.

But the really tough part is the legal issue. Washington’s “top two (plus write-in)” law seems to technically allow Approval Voting, but it’s worded ambiguously enough that a good attorney could probably make a reasonable challenge to it in court.

RCW Chapter 29A.52 Section 161, states:

One vote.
Nothing in this chapter may be construed to mean that a voter may cast more than one vote for candidates for a given office.

Note that says state law doesn’t expressly permit multiple votes (i.e. it doesn’t mandate all cities use Approval Voting), but again, you can see how someone could argue that the intent is to prohibit multiple votes.

Given that, it seems the ideal locality for a low-risk/cost trial balloon would be a smaller progressive city like … Olympia. (By contrast, our padded signature count is 7189.)

Note the Seattle Democratic Party machine is supposedly pretty substantial, whereas Olympia’s Democratic Party is pretty grassroots and reform-oriented.

I reckon there are some other ideal WA cities to try to mount a challenge to this obscure state top two law, but I don’t know specifically of any.