Local petitions and signature gathering
Washington voters can petition jurisdictions (cities, counties, districts, etc.) to place proposed legislation on the ballot. Initiatives and referendums are initiated by a petition from voters. Referendums give voters an opportunity to approve or reject laws either proposed or enacted by lawmakers. Initiatives give voters the power to place proposed legislation on the ballot to enact new laws or change existing laws.
Organizers for local petitions, those affecting districts/jurisdictions (cities, parks, schools, etc) within King County, must first contact the jurisdiction in which they wish to circulate a petition.
Petition page layout
The jurisdiction will provide petition requirements including layout, content, number of signatures required and deadlines. Petitions generally contain: text of the petition (initiative or referendum), warning, ample space for voter's printed name, signature, address and date of signing petition.
For most petitions, signers must be registered voters within the jurisdiction. We strongly encourage petitioners to ask signers to print their name and address clearly as well as sign as they would on the envelope for their ballot.
Typically, 20 to 30 percent of signatures on petitions cannot be verified, often because the signer does not live in the voting district, they are not registered to vote or they signed more than once. It is recommended that petition sponsors file as many signatures as possible. No number of signatures can guarantee a sufficient number of valid signatures, but building in a "cushion" of 20 to 30 percent can help petitions meet the minimum number of signatures needed.
Petitioners/petition organizers may provide citizens with registration forms at the time of signing the petition. Completed registration forms must be submitted to King County Elections within five business days. Time must be allowed to process these registration forms as petition signers must be registered voters at the time the petition is being verified. Registration forms must also be submitted prior to registration deadlines:
Standard Deadline - Registration applications or updates must be submitted or postmarked no later than the Monday four weeks before Election Day.
Late Deadline - if you are not registered in Washington, you can register in person at King County Elections until the Monday one week before Election Day.
Once the petition is circulated it will be submitted directly to the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction initially reviews the petition to determine that certain requirements are met.
The petition is then submitted by the jurisdiction to King County Elections for validation of signatures. King County Elections sends a letter to the jurisdiction informing them when Elections will begin checking the signatures of the petition. No signatures may be added after this date unless otherwise determined by the jurisdiction's code/charter. And no signer may withdraw their signature after this date. This letter also contains the number of signatures that are needed to validate petition.
To see if the petitioners have collected the required number of signatures, Elections staff must verify each signature. Elections staff make sure signers are registered voters and live in the appropriate district, and verify each signature by comparing it with the signature on file with the voter's registration. Elections staff are trained on signature verification by the Washington State Patrol, the state's authority on signature verification and fraud.
If a petition signature cannot be verified, it is "challenged" and will not be counted. Petition signers are not contacted regarding validity or challenge.
King County notifies the jurisdiction as to whether the required number of signatures has been validated. The original petition is always returned to the jurisdiction.
King County Elections cannot update a voter registration with the information that is provided on a petition.