An initiative for “approval voting” in Seattle is headed toward the November ballot, with elections authorities saying Wednesday the campaign has secured enough qualifying signatures.
Initiative 134 would alter the way Seattle elects mayors, city attorneys and City Council members. Under the proposal, a voter would be able to select multiple candidates in each primary race rather than only one.
The two candidates with the most votes in each nonpartisan race would advance to the general election, as they do now. In the general election, voters would select only one candidate, as they do now.
The campaign behind the initiative, called Seattle Approves and partly funded by a cryptocurrency entrepreneur, qualified by a relatively narrow margin. It needed 26,520 signatures from Seattle voters and submitted 43,215 last month. King County Elections validated 26,942.
The process will now move to the City Council, which can pass the initiative into law, send it to the ballot or send it with a competing proposal.
Proponents say approval voting provides a more accurate picture of voter views, is designed to advance candidates with broad appeal and would be simple to implement.
“Seattle’s leaders must represent everyone,” Sarah Ward, campaign co-chair for Seattle Approves, said in a news release Wednesday. “Initiative 134 will make Seattle’s elections as representative as possible, so that its leaders represent the entire electorate.”
Approval voting is similar to but not the same as ranked-choice voting, which other Seattle-area reformers want to implement. With that method, voters select multiple candidates ranking them in order of preference.
Kamau Chege, executive director of Washington Community Alliance, called Wednesday’s news “really unfortunate,” describing approval voting as a subpar method and the Seattle campaign as backed by some “affluent individuals” rather than grassroots community organizations and working class people from all backgrounds. The initiative would constrain voter choices as compared to ranked-choice voting, he said.
St. Louis recently adopted approval voting. More jurisdictions use ranked-choice voting, including New York City, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Portland will decide in November whether to adopt ranked-choice voting.
The Seattle Approves campaign raised more than $460,000 and spent more than $323,000 through May, including $270,000 on signature gathering and voter-contact work, according to public filings.
The campaign’s No. 1 donor, contributing $208,000 so far, is the Center for Election Science, a national think tank focused on the approval voting method. Its No. 2 donor, contributing $135,000 so far, is Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX.
Seattle Approves was launched by Logan Bowers and Troy Davis. Bowers is a software engineer who owns cannabis stores and who ran unsuccessfully against City Councilmember Kshama Sawant in 2019. He placed sixth in the primary and did not advance. Davis is a tech entrepreneur.
This article contains information from Seattle Times archives.
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