EVERETT — People who live in Everett still might get a chance to vote on whether they want future City Council members to be elected by districts.
Whether the vote takes place in November could be resolved at a public hearing Monday night.
A grass roots group called Everett Districts Now has been collecting signatures on a petition to create districts. They want the council to have five seats drawn through districting. Districts have to be similar sized in population and contiguous. There also would be two at-large positions. Right now, all seven council members are elected at-large.
Supporters say the existing system creates an imbalance in political power between old Everett and new — a line that some draw along 41st Street. Opponents question whether districts are the best way to address issues of representation. It’s proven to be a hot topic for candidates running for council and the mayor’s office.
The petition in its current form needs 8,100 voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. That number is based on the last general election turnout, which was the presidential run in November. Future petitions likely would have a lower requirement.
The council on Monday will look at the options, including the petition. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers. The comment period on districts is scheduled to follow seven unrelated agenda items.
If there are enough signatures, the council could take a vote on a draft ordinance. It would request the county to put the language from the petition on the ballot.
If there aren’t enough signatures, the council could decide to pursue districting through other means. Council members potentially could seek a November ballot measure on their own. They also could set the matter aside for study.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 3,000 signatures had been counted, said Megan Dunn, a leader with Everett Districts Now. About 100 volunteers are going out to neighborhood meetings and local events, and their efforts haven’t been tallied.
“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the support and the grass roots effort by people to get this on the ballot,” she said.
As of Thursday evening, the city had not received the signatures.
The deadline to submit November ballot measures is close-of-business on primary Election Day, said Garth Fell, Snohomish County elections manager. This year, that falls on Tuesday. A petition of fewer than 10,000 signatures can take about a week of work to verify.
Everett Districts Now contend they have until September to collect signatures. Some of the confusion over deadlines is drawn from varying reads of the city charter and state law. Earlier this month, city officials said they believe state law supersedes what’s in the charter.
Dunn likens the dispute to women’s suffrage. She says the city and others in power keep throwing up roadblocks.
“It’s outrageous that we have to spend so much time and energy getting our City Council to do the right thing,” she said.
Monday’s meeting was moved up to allow for another round of discussion before Tuesday’s election.