Seattle District Now, a grassroots organization, proposed the Charter Amendment which would require the election of seven City Councilmembers by District and two from the City at-large.
If approved by Seattle voter, Charter Amendment 19 would mandate that all nine Council positions would be on the ballot in 2015. The seven district representatives would be elected to four-year terms. The two at-large representatives would be elected to two-year terms at this election and for four-year terms thereafter. This would create an election cycle under which the seven district seats would be elected at one election and the four citywide representatives (Mayor, City Attorney, and the two at-large Council members) would be elected two years later.
In addition, residency for candidates 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 the largest.
“A Councilmember who lives in your district and knows the challenges your neighborhood faces can pass that information on to their colleagues, who can then craft solutions that serve all neighborhoods,” said Sarah Moseley. “District representation would make for a better informed more connected City Council.”
At-large City Council elections are expensive: In 2005, winning Council campaigns spent an average of $205,000. By the 2011 election, that average increased to $270,000 per winning campaign. That money is needed, because at-large candidates need to contact every voter within city limits. Seattle’s current population is 617,000 people. The seven districts proposed by Seattle Districts Now would each contain about 88,000 residents.
“Right now, even when you correct for multiple-voter households, you have to knock on 93,000 doors citywide to reach every likely primary voter,” said David Bloom. “Under our proposal, you can do the same job by knocking on just over 13,000 doors per district—an achievable goal for a small, underfunded campaign.”
Seattle voters have rejected proposals to elect all nine City Council members by district in the past, but the Seattle District Now proposal differs from these earlier efforts by using a mixed system and by including as part of the proposal an initial district map drafted using guidelines set out in state law by Richard Morrill, a University of Washington Emeritus Professor of Geography.
“Our 7-2 mixed system would increase accountability and people’s access to government, while dramatically reducing the voter contact cost of running for City Council,” said Julius Caesar Robinson.