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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Group files petition to divide Seattle by council districts

A group that wants to elect Seattle City Council members by district filed a petition with the City Clerk today for a city charter amendment. Supporters would have to gather about 31,000 signatures by the August primary in order to qualify for the November ballot, according to Monica Martinez Simmons, Seattle City Clerk.

The City Clerk’s office has five days to review the petition and make sure it follows city policy for charter amendments, including being written in the form of an ordinance. The petition will also be reviewed by the City Attorney’s Office. If approved, the City Council could pass the ordinance directly or refer it to the ballot.

“Our goal is to get 45,000 to 50,000 signatures,” said John Fox, a co-chair of Seattle Districts Now, the group of business and community leaders supporting the measure. Although city voters have turned down elections by district three previous times, Fox said times have changed. “There’s more disaffection in the neighborhoods. People are getting fed up that so much of city resources are going to downtown and South Lake Union.”

The petition was filed by Toby Thaler, a member of Seattle Districts Now. The group is seeking to end the city-wide election of all nine city council members and instead have seven elected from geographical districts. For example, West Seattle would become one district, Southeast Seattle another. The boundaries were drawn up by Richard Morrill, a demographer and University of Washington professor emeritus. Each district includes about 87,000 people.

Two council members would continue to be elected city-wide or at-large.

Seattle voters rejected district elections in 1975, 1995 and 2003.

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