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Spokane County Proposition 1

Proposition 1 would increase the number of elected Spokane County Commissioners from three to five.

A provision in state law provides for expansion of the Spokane County Commission through popular vote. Districts would be redrawn by the Auditor’s Office in the spring, pursuant to approval by Spokane County Commissioners. Incumbent commissioners would need to remain in separate districts after new borders are drawn.

Like current rules, candidates would run only district-wide in an August primary, but would run county-wide in the November general election.

The ballot proposition was first suggested by citizen activist Karen Kearney at a commissioners’ meeting in February. Commissioner Shelly O’Quinn publicly supported the idea at a hearing in April, and in July the commissioners held a hearing asking whether the issue should be on the ballot.

Supporters say the county is too big to be run by a board with only three people and that commissioners are stretched too thin. They say the proposal would improve representation and allow two commissioners to meet privately. Currently, a meeting with two commissioners constitute a quorum of the commission, which must abide by open meetings law.

Opponents say that because all commissioners still would be considered by voters county-wide in the general election, residents’ representation on the commission would not differ much from the current make-up. They say taxpayers would pay more for additional commissioner salaries and benefits without an improvement in service. They also say that secrecy would increase because commissioners could hold private meetings between two members.

The process is separate from changing to a charter system, which was last considered by Spokane County voters in 1995. All other elected offices in Spokane County would remain the same. The proposition would just increase the number of representatives on Spokane County’s executive and legislative body.

Spokane County has operated under a three-commissioner system since Washington became a state in 1889. It is the largest county in the state that continues to operate under a three-commissioner system.
Commissioners control the purse strings of a county budget that is roughly $575 million. They are in charge of administration of the Spokane County Jail, and employ a workforce that is roughly 2,000 strong.

Election results

127
Option Votes Pct
No 42,453 54.10%
Yes 36,015 45.90%

Related coverage

Mapping the vote: County Prop 1 for two more commissioners

Spokane voters turned thumbs down to increasing the county board of commissioners, but the margins of defeat in most precincts weren’t large.