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Public meetings set on council district elections plan

EVERETT — The city announced a slate of four upcoming public meetings on potentially reshaping City Council elections with geographic districts.
The outreach meetings may help nail down pieces to the city’s planned November ballot measure asking the public at large if it wants most council seats elected through localized districts.
The meetings will be:
• Tuesday, April 17 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Everett School District board room (3900 Broadway);
• Thursday, April 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Evergreen Middle School cafeteria (7621 Beverly Lane);
• Wednesday, April 25 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Baker Heights Community Center (1401 Poplar Street); and
• Monday, April 30 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Evergreen Middle School cafeteria (7621 Beverly Lane).
An online survey will also be conducted during May. A flyer in six languages will be spread around the city.
The city is one of two groups working to put districts on the November ballot.
The independent group Everett Districts Now is gathering petition signatures citywide to put its own separate but similar ballot measure on November’s ballot. Everett Districts Now’s measure proposes a 5-2 election system and the group
hired a consultant to draw a map.
The city’s plans do not have a set map or a set format yet.
In the city’s plan, the three options suggested are a 5-2 split, with five seats elected from districts; a 4-3 split, with four districts seats; or what looks like a council primary where the two top contenders in a district election would then be elected by Everett at large.
Other key decisions are whether to schedule district elections for when seats go up for election and how to transition in district seats.
Any district process must follow rules that include setting districts evenly by population and drawing the map in a way that avoids gerrymandering, said Hugh Spitzer, a legal expert from the University of Washington School of Law whom the city has drafted in for help.
The city’s deadline to put a measure on November’s ballot by City Council vote is Aug. 7. The fine points of the city’s ballot measure should be solidified by this summer under a suggested outline created earlier this year.
Everett Districts Now tried a similar measure last year, but while it gathered more than 3,200 petition signatures it didn’t collect enough signatures to meet that year’s voter threshold to make it on the ballot. The voter thresholds change each year and change based on 10 percent of the prior year’s city voter turnout, making 2017’s threshold unusually high after the 2016 presidential election. The Districts Now effort is an extension from when a resident group formally proposed it in 2015 to the City Council.
The City Council set its own district process in motion in January, months after rejecting a last-chance request in July 2017 to
back putting the Everett Districts Now measure onto last November’s ballot. At the time of the 5-2 vote against doing this, council members have varying concerns including how the map was drawn and that the grassroots effort didn’t conduct a larger public process to create the districting plan that its measure embodied.
Currently 23 cities in the state use council districts in some fashion.

  

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