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Residents in South King County to get greater say in judicial elections

Summary

A series of changes regarding judicial elections are coming to residents living in South King County.

Story

City of Auburn residents living in Pierce County will now have the opportunity to vote for district court judges following the passage of King County Council ordinance no. 2016-0186, introduced by Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer, South King County. The Council also considered two additional recommendations made by the King County District Court Plan Districting Committee.

“This ordinance will unify Auburn residents divided by a county line,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “It creates an equitable say in the selection of district court judges, resulting in a more representative justice system.”

The Districting Committee is obligated, by state and county law, to annually review districts for adjustment. The committee, made up of representatives of King County cities, King County Bar Association, Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Superior Court, and the Washington Municipal Court Judge’s Association, met in October 2015 to vote on proposed district alterations. Following a unanimous vote, three proposals were delivered to the King County Council for consideration. On March 22nd, the King County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight committee heard testimony on these proposals from the Honorable Donna Tucker, King County District Court, and Dave Wilson of the Department of Elections.

The first proposal will create major changes for City of Auburn voters living in Pierce County. Last year, the City of Auburn contracted with the King County District Court system for municipal court services. District courts are courts of “limited jurisdiction” and deal with traffic infractions, misdemeanors, and some civil matters. Previously, only Auburn residents living in King County would be able to vote for local judges. This ordinance will enfranchise Auburn residents living in Pierce County with the opportunity to vote for their judges. This alteration has the support of both King and Pierce County Prosecuting Attorneys.

The King County District Court Plan Districting Committee’s second proposal intends to increase judicial efficiency by unincorporating areas of the City of Bothell located in Snohomish County. As the City of Bothell is split between the two counties, and does not contract with King County for municipal court services, this alteration will increase court efficiency especially the selection of jurors. King County and Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorneys both supported this alteration.

The final recommendation considered by the Council adjusts the boundaries of the Southwest and Southeast Electoral Districts. This change will result in incorporating the Lake Fenwick precinct in the Southwest Electoral District instead of the Southeast. By doing so, the Maleng Regional Justice Center will be in close enough proximity to serve both of King County’s southern districts. During the Government Accountability and Oversight hearing, Judge Tucker praised utilizing the Maleng Regional Justice Center as it is centrally located, creates efficiencies for law agencies, and is readily accessible by public transportation.

For more information about alterations to the King County District Court District Plan, contact Councilmember von Reichbauer’s office at 206-477-1007
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