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Municipal Elections

Introduction

This webpage addresses both the nuts and bolts of municipal elections and the issue of the use of public facilities and public office in election campaigns, whether regarding ballot measures or individual election campaigns. Municipal elections, like state elections, are governed by the provisions of Title 29A RCW. The Office of the Secretary of State has general authority over the conduct of elections, and its webpages on Elections & Voting provide comprehensive information on many election issues. In addition, much of what is involved in elections for municipal offices is addressed in our publication, Getting into Office: Being Elected or Appointed into Office in Washington, Counties, Cities, and Towns, November 2015.

The prohibition on using public offices or facilities in election campaigns or in support of or in opposition to ballot measures is contained in RCW 42.17A.555 (formerly RCW 42.17.130). Issues potentially implicating this prohibition arise frequently during the months preceding municipal elections.

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) has regulatory and enforcement authority regarding the prohibition in RCW 42.17A.555, and it is the source of much information concerning its scope. The PDC consists of five part-time commissioners appointed by the governor, an executive director, and a small staff. The PDC is available through its staff to respond to questions concerning ballot measures and campaign issues and to provide informal opinions. The PDC staff encourages local government officials to contact them with questions in advance of a proposed activity that may involve the use of public facilities in a ballot campaign. The PDC also regulates election campaign financing.

Legal References

Statutes and Regulations

Selected Attorney General Opinions

  • AGO 2006 No. 1 - Addresses the authority of governing boards of special purpose districts to pass resolutions endorsing or opposing ballot propositions; but note amendment to RCW 42.17.130 (now RCW 42.17A.555) in Section 2 of Ch. 215, Laws of 2006.
  • AGO 2005 No. 4 - Addresses the meaning of the term "elected legislative body" as used in RCW 42.17.130 (now RCW 42.17A.555); but note amendment to RCW 42.17.130 (now RCW 42.17A.555) in Section 2 of Ch. 215, Laws of 2006
  • AGO 1975 No. 23 - Addresses the use of office facilities to promote the passage or defeat of ballot propositions

Documents

Public Disclosure Commission Documents

Additional References

Elections & Voting - Office of the Secretary of State


Last Modified: September 12, 2016