Governor Inslee signs changes to Spokane County commissioner elections

Governor Inslee signs changes to Spokane County commissioner elections
Courtesy: @GovInslee Twitter
Courtesy: @GovInslee Twitter

Governor Jay Inslee signed the Responsible Representation Act, a bipartisan bill changing the way large counties elect their county commissioners, into law Wednesday.

House bill 2887 directs counties with populations over 400,000, to change to a district-based county commission structure beginning in 2022. This would move Spokane County from three commissioners to five.

“For larger counties like Spokane, moving to five commissioners ensures citizens get a more responsive government that matches growing populations,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), who sponsored the bill. “District representation gives citizens a more direct voice in government. Community members know specifically who to contact to express their opinions and who to hold accountable.”

Spokane County is home to roughly 450,000 residents. Spokane County currently has three commissioners, which is a commissioner-to-citizen ratio of 1-to-150,000.

Rep. Mike Volz, who co-sponsored the bill, said the foreseeable passage of the Voting Rights Act spurred lawmakers to propose a solution for Spokane County this session.

“This was a great opportunity for us to reach across the aisle and help the county prevent an inevitable lawsuit,” said Volz (R-Spokane). “It’s only a matter of time before the Voting Rights Act passes and is signed into law, so we need to be proactive. We don’t want to get into a situation where the court is determining district boundaries, and the county is left footing hefty attorney fees.”

Rep. Timm Ormsby, who also co-sponsored the bill, said a district-based commissioner system makes sense for the growing and diversifying county.

“We’re a growing county with a diverse population,” said Ormsby (D-Spokane). “Anyone who can read a map and count to five would find this bill is long overdue. It’s a way to make sure every vote counts, and it brings county government closer to the citizens.”

Other Spokane-area representatives who co-sponsored HB 2887 were Jeff Holy (R-Cheney), Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley), and Bob McCaslin (R-Spokane Valley).