In addition to state and federal candidates, voters in King County were also asked to vote on seven charter amendments, which if approved would change the county charter.
These amendments have been a long time coming, as a charter review work group was formed in 2018 to examine ways to update the charter. A list of recommendations was drafted and ultimately sent to voters on Nov. 3. Many deal with the King County Sheriff’s Office’s authority and oversight.
One amendment in particular that is asking voters whether the sheriff should be appointed, or remain an elected official, has been particularly salient. Proponents of making the position an appointed one say it could increase oversight and accountability — allowing the county executive to hire, fire and oversee the county’s law enforcement office. But opponents argue they would rather vote on their sheriff.
As of Tuesday evening, the first batch of votes counted showed the amendment passing with 56.6% of the vote, with 43.4% of voters opposing it.
A companion amendment would restructure the King County Sheriff’s Office, creating a Department of Public Safety, where the office would reside as part of the county’s executive branch. It would also let the county executive negotiate with the sheriff’s office union, instead of the sheriff.
As of Tuesday evening, the amendment was passing with 63.1% of voters supporting it and 36.9% opposing it.
Another amendment dealing with law enforcement would require an inquest into killings by law enforcement if the officers involved may have botched their duty to offer appropriate care to a person. It also would require the county to assign an attorney to represent the deceased’s family in the inquest proceedings.
As of Tuesday evening, this was passing handily with 81.25% of the vote.
A final amendment dealing with the King County Sheriff’s Office would solidify the powers of the Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, which provides citizen oversight to the department, to launch subpoenas as part of their investigations. While county code already provides OLEO with this power, it is not enshrined in the county charter. And the union representing the sheriff’s office has mired the process of allowing OLEO to use subpoena power for years.
As of Tuesday evening, this was passing with 82.8% of the vote.
Three more amendments were also on the ballot and deal with using county property for affordable housing, prohibiting discrimination based on being a family caregiver or a military veteran, and removing the term “citizen” from county documents.
The affordable housing amendment would allow the county to transfer, lease or sell property at less than fair market value for affordable housing. Washington state law and county code already allow this, but the amendment would enshrine it in the county charter.
As of Tuesday evening, this was passing with 70% of the vote.
The discrimination amendment would prohibit discrimination in county employment and contracting on the basis of being a family caregiver, military status or being a veteran who was honorably discharged, or who was discharged as a result of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
It would change the county charter to include the following protected statuses: sex, race, color, national origin, religious affiliation, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, status as a family caregiver, military status, status as a veteran who was honorably discharged or who was discharged solely as a result of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, and age except by minimum age and retirement provisions.
As of Tuesday evening, this was passing with 85.2% of the vote.
Finally, voters were asked whether the term “citizen” should be replaced with a more inclusive term like “resident.” This amendment was passing with 68.7% of the vote as of Tuesday evening.
Results will continue to be updated over the coming days, and the election results will be certified by Nov. 27.
Note: These results have been rounded to the nearest 0.1%.