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Ballot Initiatives in Washington State

This guide won't tell you what to vote for, but should help you make your choices.

We're a nonprofit so we don't make political endorsements of any kind. What we do is publicly driven journalism. To create this guide, we took a look at some of the initiatives on Washington ballots this year and did our best to lay out the arguments and context surrounding each. Read more on our methodology.

What's at stake?

A proposition to preserve green spaces in King County, a potential shake-up of when certain offices will be elected, and — possibly — a whole new system of voting entirely. 

Statewide Advisory Votes

Since 2007, when voters passed Initiative 960, advisory votes go before the people during most November elections. In these votes, you are advising the Legislature if you do or do not favor a tax increase passed by lawmakers during that year’s session. Choosing “repeal” on the ballot means you don’t favor the tax increase and “maintain” means you agree with the tax increase. Advisory votes are non-binding and the results will not change the law.

Advisory Vote No. 39 

This advisory vote relates to Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5974. The bill increased the tax on aircraft fuel from 11 cents to 18 cents per gallon. It is estimated the tax increase will bring an extra $14 million into the state in its first 10 years.

Advisory Vote No. 40

This advisory vote relates to Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2076. The bill requires companies like Lyft and Uber, which the Legislature calls “transportation network companies,” to provide workers compensation to their drivers by paying premiums into the workers compensation system. The bill does more than add these workers to the workers compensation system but advisory votes only refer to changes in law that are effectively tax increases, like requiring companies to pay a premium for workers compensation insurance.

Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B

Seattle voters are being asked to vote on two possible changes to the way they vote in primary elections: Ranked-choice voting and approval voting. Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank each candidate on the ballot in numerical order of preference, while approval voting lets voters select as many candidates as they want, but assigns no rank to those selections. 

The choices on the ballot may be a little confusing, but here’s the basics: First you decide whether you want to change Seattle’s primary system from its current top-two format – the current statewide approach – to some sort of multiple-choice ballot. Second, voters need to select which multiple-choice approach they prefer, ranked-choice or approval voting. Whether one votes yes or no on the first question, a voter can still weigh in on which system they prefer in the second question.

For a detailed explanation of these two choices, see Crosscut’s story.

King County Charter Amendment No. 1

This change to the King County charter would move elections for the county offices of executive, assessor, director of elections and councilmembers from odd-numbered to even-numbered years. As this Crosscut story explains the purpose of the change would be to increase voter turnout for these elections, by putting them on the ballot with votes for Congress, the president, governor and state lawmakers. 

It’s not a very controversial idea. Only three of Washington’s 39 counties elect county officers in odd-numbered years, according to King County Elections Director Julie Wise: King, Snohomish and Whatcom. 

But the idea does have retractors. Councilmember Reagan Dunn said local issues that are now debated in odd-numbered years could get lost in the crush of bigger elections.


King County Proposition No. 1

The so-called Conservation Futures Levy would approve or reject a property tax levy rate of $6.25 per $100,000 of assessed valuation in 2023 to pay to acquire and preserve urban green spaces, natural areas, wildlife and salmon habitat, trails, river corridors, farmlands and forests. This proposition would restore the levy back to its original rate and set the level for future tax collections. The proposal was put on the ballot by a vote of the King County Council. Supporters of the proposition say it would cost the average homeowner a tax increase of just over $2 a month, with relief available to qualified low-income seniors and other low-income households. Opponents of the proposal call it a land grab by the county and point out that the government already owns a lot of land in King County.

Tukwila Minimum Wage

Voters in the city of Tukwila are deciding on Initiative Measure No. 1, a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage to pay workers at companies with 15 or more employees to be more in line with neighboring cities, including SeaTac and Seattle. Tukwila’s current hourly minimum wage is $14.49 an hour, compared to the minimum wage of $17.54 for hospitality and transportation workers in SeaTac and $17.27 for most workers in Seattle. If approved, the new city ordinance would match SeaTac’s minimum wage for employers with at least 500 employees worldwide, and phase in that wage for companies with at least 15 employees. Companies with fewer employees would be exempt. The campaign in favor of the change says the ordinance could help employers who are already competing for employees with those other cities.

For more about this initiative, read this Crosscut story.

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