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Find out what petitions are, how to file a petition, and see current petitions.

Voters can submit petitions to request that a jurisdiction (such as a city, a school district, King County or the state) place a proposal to change the law on the ballot. These proposals are usually initiatives or referendums.

Initiatives allow voters to create a ballot measure that would enact new laws or change existing laws. Referendums allow voters to approve or reject laws either proposed or enacted by lawmakers.

To see if an initiative or referendum has been filed in a certain jurisdiction, contact the jurisdiction. If you plan on filing a petition, be sure to talk with the jurisdiction about deadlines and other requirements. File early to allow time for signature verification.

Petitions go through a four step process

  • Organization

    Petition organizers must first contact the jurisdiction in which they would like to circulate a petition. Requirements for petitions can vary depending on the jurisdiction. The jurisdiction will provide their specific petition requirements, including layout, content, number of valid signatures required and deadlines.

  • Gathering

    For most petitions, signers must be registered voters within the jurisdiction. Voters who sign petitions should print their name and address clearly and legibly and sign as they would on their ballot. Petition organizers can provide registration forms to citizens when they sign the petition, but the completed forms must be submitted to King County Elections within five business days. The petition signer must also be registered by the time their signature is checked.

    The number of valid signatures required varies depending on the jurisdiction. Petition organizers should gather at least 20 to 30 percent more signatures than required in order to ensure they have an adequate number of valid signatures.

  • Submittal

    Once the petition is circulated it must 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 signature verification. King County Elections sends a letter to the jurisdiction informing them when Elections will begin checking the signatures of the petition. In the majority of cases, no signatures may be added and no signer may withdraw their signature after Elections begins signature verification.

  • Signature verification

    In order to ensure that petition organizers have collected the required number of valid signatures, Elections staff must check each signature in the petition. The staff confirms signers are registered to vote 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 in signature verification by the Washington State Patrol, the state's authority on signature verification and fraud. If a petition signature cannot be verified then it will not be counted.

    King County notifies the jurisdiction as to whether or not the required number of valid signatures has been reached. The original petition is then returned to the jurisdiction.