Section 1. Findings and Purpose
In order to improve democratic governance in and for the City of Seattle, the people determine that elections for all City elective officers shall be by ranked choice voting to the maximum extent allowed by law. For many election cycles Seattle municipal elections have consistently had numerous candidates (three or more) for most elective officer positions (Mayor, Council, City Attorney). The current municipal electoral system required by state law consists of a primary with two candidates selected on the first Tuesday in August, and final selection of the winner in municipal general elections in November. The current system promotes hyper-polarized and negative campaigns and often results in elected officials who are not fairly representative of the electorate. An electoral system of ranked choice voting—also known as “instant runoff election”—promotes issue focused campaigns and engenders greater electorate participation.
Section 2. A new Section 5 is added to the City Charter, Article XVIII, as follows: ARTICLE XVIII, ELECTIONS.
Sec. 5. RANKED CHOICE VOTING ADOPTED FOR ELECTION OF CITY OFFICERS
So long as the City of Seattle is required to have a primary election for all elective officers (Article XIX, Section 1), primaries shall be conducted by ranked choice voting. Beginning in the first municipal election cycle commencing after state law permits the City of Seattle to eliminate use of primary elections, then the city will not conduct any primary election for its elective officers, but will instead elect them in a single general municipal election conducted by ranked choice voting. Until Seattle is permitted by law to elect its elective officers by ranked choice voting in a general election without a primary, the ranked choice voting method adopted as described in Article XVIII, Section 5, Subdivision C will be used in primary elections for elective officers, except that the vote counting will end with the selection of the top two preferred candidates who will be placed on the general election ballot in that election cycle.
Section 3: A new Subdivision A is added to the City Charter, Article XVIII, Section 5, as follows: ARTICLE XVIII, ELECTIONS.
SEC. 5. Subdivision A. RANKED CHOICE VOTING DEFINED
“Ranked choice voting” means the method of casting and tabulating votes in a primary or general election in which voters rank candidates in order of preference. Vote tabulation proceeds in sequential rounds. In each round last-place candidates are defeated and removed from further consideration. Votes by voters for removed candidates are reassigned in each succeeding round by order of preference as indicated on their ballots. In the case of a primary the tabulation concludes when two candidates with the most votes have been determined. If primaries have been eliminated, the tabulation proceeds until one candidate with the most votes has been determined.
Section 4: A new Subdivision B is added to the City Charter, Article XVIII, Section 5, as follows: ARTICLE XVIII, ELECTIONS.
SEC. 5. Subdivision B. RANKED CHOICE VOTING FORM OF BALLOT
In any contest conducted by ranked choice voting, the ballot shall allow voters to rank candidates in order of choice. Additionally, it shall meet the following specifications:
- The ballot shall be simple and easy to understand.
- If feasible, the ballot shall allow voters to rank every listed candidate in a contest, excluding the write-in option. If it is not feasible to allow voters to rank all candidates, the number of allowable rankings may be limited to no fewer than six (6) candidates.
- If there are fewer than three (3) candidates listed in a contest, including the write-in option, the contest may be presented and tabulated as a non-ranked choice contest.
Section 5: A new Subdivision C is added to the City Charter, Article XVIII, Section 5, as follows: ARTICLE XVIII, ELECTIONS.
SEC. 5. Subdivision C. RANKED CHOICE VOTING SELF EXECUTING; COOPERATION WITH KING COUNTY ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT
This Charter Amendment is self-executing. Pursuant to state law most responsibility for implementation is held by King County, administered through the county’s Department of Elections. The City of Seattle shall cooperate with the King County Department of Elections to implement ranked choice voting, including development of the form of ballots and the methodology for tabulation of votes. Cooperation may result in memoranda of understanding, jointly adopted rules, or separately adopted ordinances or rules. The City Council shall include in the City’s budget sufficient funds to ensure timely implementation of ranked choice voting.
Section 6. Savings Clause; Liberal Construction
The provisions of this Charter Amendment are to be liberally construed to achieve its purposes. The terms and provisions of this Amendment are severable; if any are found invalid this shall not affect the validity of the remainder.