Initiative and Referendum Powers of Counties

"There is increasing interest in the power of the people at both the state and local level to directly exercise authority to enact and repeal laws. This authority is exercised through the powers of initiative and referendum." 1 "Briefly, the power of initiative is used to propose new legislation and the power of referendum is used to review previously adopted legislation." 2

Commission counties

"If a county does not go through the charter process, then it remains a commission form of government. Counties with the commission form of government do not have the powers of initiative and referendum available to them. "3

Charter counties

"The state constitution grants counties the option of adopting a charter for their own form of government, and that charter may provide for direct legislation by the people through the initiative and referendum process. Seven counties have adopted a charter: Clallam, Clark, King, Pierce, San Juan, Snohomish, and Whatcom. Each has adopted the powers of initiative and referendum. Procedures for the exercise of these powers are set out in the charter of each county. " 4


1 Initiative and Referendum Guide for Washington Cities and Charter Counties, MRSC, 2018, p. 5,

2 Ibid, p. 9.

3 Ibid, P. 12, emphasis added.

4 Ibid, p 12, emphasis added.