They did it. Seattle Approves collected enough signatures to let voters decide whether or not the City should switch to approval voting.

Approval voting is a system that allows voters to select every candidate they approve of, instead of only one favorite. For example, if you were stumped during the 2021 mayoral primary, under approval voting, you could have voted for Colleen Echohawk AND Jessyn Farrell, twin candidates who got lost between Bruce Harrell and Lorena González. 

No matter what signature-gatherers may have told you (one tried to dupe me outside of the Westlake light rail station), approval voting and ranked-choice voting (RCV) are not the same.

RCV allows voters to select multiple candidates in order of preference; approval voting does not. That’s the difference between voting for Nikkita Oliver and Cary Moon as equals in the 2017 mayoral primary and putting one above the other.

In fact, advocates for RCV in Seattle have been some of the loudest critics of Seattle Approves’ initiative. While Logan Bowers, a pot-shop owner leading the charge on Seattle Approves, said approval voting favors “popular candidates,” many ranked-choice advocates argued that “popular candidates” actually would mean “candidates that white people like.”

Despite the online criticism, Seattle Approves managed to garner just a few hundred more signatures than it needed to get on the November ballot, and before its July deadline, too. 

Other changes to our election systems may be in store. On Wednesday afternoon, the King County Council’s Committee of the Whole approved a county charter amendment that would move elections for county executive, county assessor, county director of elections, and county councilmembers to even-numbered years. This would hopefully drive up voter participation for these races as even-year elections routinely see higher turnout than elections on odd years.

The state legislature tried to promote a similar policy last session, but it never made it out of committee.

The full council will take another vote in two weeks. Since the Committee of the Whole is literally the whole council already, the measure will likely pass. If it does, voters will get to make the final call on the November ballot.