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Initiative and Referendum Powers

This page lists known cities and counties in Washington State that have adopted initiative and referendum powers and provides sample procedures.


Overview

For an overview of the powers of initiative and referendum, see the MRSC Initiative and Referendum Guide publication (updated June 2014). It reviews which cities and counties have the powers available and, when legally permitted, how the powers may be adopted in cities and counties that have not already done so. It also reviews in some detail which types of actions are subject to the initiative and referendum process.

When MRSC first released the publication in 2006, less than 50 cities had adopted the powers of initiative and referendum, and the five charter counties had also adopted the powers.

Not many jurisdictions have codified the provisions, but a few have included procedures in more detail than what is set out in the statutes, and examples are included here. Please let MRSC know if your jurisdiction has adopted initiative and referendum powers and it is not listed on this page.


First Class Cities

The state constitution specifically grants the authority to adopt a charter to first class cities, and RCW 35.22.200 specifically provides that a first class city charter may provide for direct legislation by the people through the initiative and referendum process. All of the ten first class cities in Washington have adopted the powers of initiative and referendum, and the procedures for exercising these powers are set out in the city charter of each city. (Links to City Charters)

  • Aberdeen
  • Bellingham
  • Bremerton
  • Everett
  • Richland
  • Seattle
  • Spokane
  • Tacoma
  • Vancouver
  • Yakima

Second Class Cities and Towns

Second class cities and towns do not have the authority to establish initiative and referendum powers.


Code Cities

Initiative and referendum powers are available to code cities, but they are not automatic powers either at the time of incorporation or reclassification as a code city. Code cities must formally adopt these powers. The following code cities have adopted the powers of initiative and referendum.

  • Battle Ground (1987)
  • Bellevue (1975)
  • Black Diamond (2012)
  • Blaine (1989)
  • Bonney Lake (2003)
  • Bothell (1974)
  • Brier (1991)
  • Burien (1993)
  • Camas (1988)
  • Chelan (1983)
  • Cheney (1993)
  • Des Moines (1990)
  • Edgewood
  • Edmonds (1985)
  • Ellensburg (1991)
  • Federal Way (1992)
  • Ferndale (1999)
  • Goldendale
  • Issaquah (1986)
  • Kelso (Charter city)
  • Kent
  • La Center (2010)
  • Lakewood (2006)
  • Lake Forest Park (1994)
  • Longview (1983)
  • Lynnwood (1997)
  • Mercer Island (1978)
  • Mill Creek
  • Monroe (1997)
  • Mountlake Terrace (1990)
  • Mukilteo (1993)
  • North Bend (2002)
  • Ocean Shores (1992)
  • Olympia (1978)
  • Port Angeles (2006)
  • Puyallup (2012)
  • Rainier (2002)
  • Redmond (1982)
  • Renton (1973)
  • Ridgefield (1991)
  • Sammamish (2015)
  • SeaTac (1989/1990)
  • Sequim (1996)
  • Shoreline (1998)
  • Spokane Valley (2005)
  • Tukwila (1991)
  • Tumwater (1997)
  • Walla Walla (1995)
  • Washougal (2007)
  • Wenatchee (2002)
  • Woodinville (1995)

Commission Cities

A city that has the commission form of government automatically has the powers of initiative and referendum. These powers are set out in the enabling authority for commission cities in RCW 35.17.220 through RCW 35.17.360. No cities in the state currently operate under the commission form.


Charter Counties

The state constitution grants counties the option of adopting a charter for their own form of government, and that charter may provide for direct legislation by the people through the initiative and referendum process. Seven counties have adopted a charter, and all provide for initiatives and referendums. (Links to County Home Rule Charters)

  • Clallam County
  • Clark County
  • King County
  • Pierce County
  • San Juan County
  • Snohomish County
  • Whatcom County

Commission Counties

Non-charter counties with the commission form of government do not have the authority to establish initiative and referendum powers.


Initiative and Referendum Procedures

Charter County Provisions

  • Bellingham Charter - Article X - Direct Initiative
  • Clallam County
    • Clallam County Code Ch. 37.01 - Initiative
    • Clallam County Code Ch 37.02- Mini Initiative
    • Clallam County Code Ch. 37.04 - Referendum by the People
    • Clallam County Code Ch. 37.06 - Referendum by the Board of Clallam County Commissioners
  • San Juan County Code Ch. 1.24 - Initiative and Referendum
  • Whatcom County Code Ch. 1.08 - Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Code City Provisions

  • Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 1.12 - Initiative and Referendum Procedures
  • Chelan Municipal Code Ch. 2.48 - Powers and Initiative and Referendum
  • Des Moines Municipal Code Ch. 1.16 - Initiative and Referendum Powers
  • Lake Forest Park Municipal Code Ch. 1.20 - Initiative and Referendum Powers
  • Mercer Island Municipal Code Ch. 2.24 - Initiative and Referendum
  • Mill Creek Municipal Code Ch. 1.22 - Initiative and Referendum
  • Olympia
  • SeaTac Municipal Code Ch. 1.10 - Initiative and Referendum Procedure
  • Shoreline Municipal Code Ch. 1.12 - Initiative and Referendum
  • Walla Walla Municipal Code Ch. 1.19 - Initiative and Referendum

Last Modified: November 17, 2017