EVERETT — The City Council has finished a draft of its districting ordinance.
The proposed legislation includes two districting models for voters, and leaves some questions to be answered by the council members.
The council has seven seats, all drawn from at-large elections. The ordinance, if passed, would put a measure on the November ballot giving voters the chance to change some of the seats to be elected by geographic districts.
City Council President Paul Roberts called the draft a “placeholder that sets the stage” for council discussion and public input.
In the proposed measure, voters would be asked if the council should switch to district representation and whether that would include five district positions and two at-large, or four district positions and three at-large.
Supporters say districts would help increase political representation. They also believe it would make it easier for people who live outside of the Northwest Neighborhood to seek office. That neighborhood traditionally has produced more candidates and generated more voter turnout than other areas of the city.
Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington law professor, assisted in writing the ordinance and outlined areas for further discussion.
The council must decide when to implement the change, how to appoint the commission that draws the boundaries, the commission’s size and residency requirements for candidates before voting on the ordinance.
“These are questions for the council,” Roberts said. “Any number of things could happen.”
Council members will be asked whether districting should start during the 2021 or 2023 elections. State law requires districts be redrawn every 10 years to take into account new census data. The next census takes place in 2020, with data likely available in April 2022.
Roberts said he’d like the council to act “sooner rather than later,” due to the county’s Aug. 7 deadline to submit items for the general election.
The ordinance is scheduled to be read for the first time at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, with a vote as soon as July 11.
Separately, a grassroots organization is working on a districting measure of its own.
Everett Districts Now is a local group collecting signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot. Its plan calls for five council district positions and two at-large. Organizer Megan Dunn said the petition had about 2,000 signatures as of last week, but it could have more yet to be counted.
The petition needs about 3,500 signatures by July 16 to be included on the ballot.
The city recently conducted an online survey to gauge public interest for council districts. Results showed nearly 80 percent of some 483 participants favored a form of geographic representation.
“There’s a very passionate group that let us know how they felt,” Roberts said. “We’ve heard that. The model they’ve put forward is in our draft. At the same time, we have to take into account the needs of the entire community.”
With separate efforts continuing into the summer, it’s possible voters will see multiple districting measures on the fall ballot.