If Proposition 1 is approved, the city would be split into districts, and some council seats would be chosen directly from those areas. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

If Proposition 1 is approved, the city would be split into districts, and some council seats would be chosen directly from those areas. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Districting decision up to Everett voters now

If Proposition 1 is approved, City Council seats no longer would be elected entirely at large.

EVERETT — This November, voters will have the chance to significantly change how members of the Everett City Council are elected.

If Proposition 1 is approved, councilmembers would no longer be elected entirely at-large. Instead, the city would be split into districts, and some council seats would be chosen directly from those areas.

With Proposition 2, voters also will have a say in how many seats would remain at-large: two or three.

With five of seven city councilmembers living north of 41st Street, the group Everett Districts Now says the current system leaves many neighborhoods without a voice.

“We need to have a representative local government that reflects our community,” said Megan Dunn, a leader of the group. “People in south Everett don’t feel represented.”

The ballot measure spurred the opposition group No Everett Districts. They argue the current system forces councilmembers to pay attention to voters throughout the city and that districting would narrow their focus.

“It’s a privilege to vote,” said Sherry Ord, a member of that group. “If I can’t vote for everybody on council that is taking away my right to select who’s on my City Council.”

A city poll over the summer showed overwhelming support for district representation among those who responded. The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County and the Snohomish County Democrats back the move.

“When you live in an area it’s easy to notice things that may be awry, or be aware of things happening right in your local neighborhood,” said Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher, a supporter of districting.

Stonecipher said the move also could make it easier for neighborhood leaders to run for the council.

“It’s pretty daunting to run a city-wide campaign,” Stonecipher said. “It’s expensive.”

She said she’s known colleagues whose races have consumed upward of $40,000.

Ord, with No Everett Districts, says what matters to her as a voter are a candidate’s education level and public involvement.

“I don’t look at what street they are living on,” Ord said.

Everett Districts Now has been lobbying for districting for years. Last year, they failed to collect enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot.

The group tried again this year, though the push was set aside after the council voted to put a districting measure up for a public vote.

On the ballot, the measure is broken into two parts.

Under Proposition 1, voters must decide if the city should move to a new voting system based on geographical representation.

Proposition 2 offers options on the breakdown of seats: Either divide the city into five districts, leaving two seats at large, or draw four districts and retain three city-wide positions.

Everett Districts Now and Stonecipher favor the 5-2 breakdown.

With fewer districts there still could be a concentration of councilmembers in one part of the city, Stonecipher said.

Reid Shockey, a proponent of the 4-3 breakdown, says that composition would still allow voters a voice in choosing the council majority.

To pass, Proposition 1 needs 50 percent plus one vote.

If the measure is approved, the first election by districts would occur in 2021. The lines would be drawn by a commission and would be redone every decade.

To run in a district, candidates would have to have lived in that area at least six months before the primary election date and must have resided in Everett for at least a year, according to city documents. Councilmembers have to remain living in that district while in office.

Ballots must be returned by or postmarked no later than Nov. 6.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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