Chapter 1.08


1.08.010    Purpose.

1.08.020    Definitions.

1.08.030    Procedures for processing initiatives and referendums.

1.08.040    Time limits.

1.08.050    Preparation and filing.

1.08.060    Form of petition – Assignment of number.

1.08.070    Duty of the prosecuting attorney.

1.08.080    Ballot title – Notice to the proponents – Appeal.

1.08.090    Petition – Required number of signatures.

1.08.100    Petition – Acceptance or rejection by auditor.

1.08.110    Adoption by council of substitute initiative measure.

1.08.120    Majority vote rules – Requisites for approval.

1.08.130    Effect of petition.

1.08.140    Veto not allowed.

1.08.150    Limitations and applicability.

1.08.160    Mini-initiative – Allowed.

1.08.170    Mini-initiative – Requirements.

1.08.180    Mini-initiative – Public hearing required.

1.08.190    Mini-initiative – Rejected initiative to qualify as mini-initiative.

1.08.200    Recall.

1.08.010 Purpose.

A. This chapter recognizes rights reserved to the people of Whatcom County to propose certain measures at their option and to enact or reject them at an election, independent of the county council and to propose mini-initiatives direct to the county council. In addition, it is recognized that the people of Whatcom County have certain rights reserved to discharge a public official.

B. This chapter is intended to be a supplement and a clarification of the Whatcom County Home Rule Charter, existing statutes, and Constitutional provisions concerning subject matter hereof. (Ord. 2018-021 Exh. A; Ord. 80-22 § 1; Ord. 79-31 §§ 1, 5).

1.08.020 Definitions.

For the purposes of this chapter, the words set out in this section shall have the following meanings:

A. “File” means to register, to put on public record (used for recording measure wish on ballot before signatures).

B. “Measure” means legislative enactment, statute, or law (used to refer to the complete and appropriate text of ordinance or act requested).

C. “Petition” means a document embodying a request, often signed by a number of petitioners (used for form with signatures that which voters sign).

D. “Proposed” means to set forth consideration or acceptance (used only as a verb or adjective).

E. “Register” means to record officially (refers to recording petition with signatures). (Ord. 83-55 (part); Ord. 79-31 (part)).

1.08.030 Procedures for processing initiatives and referendums.

The procedures set forth in WCC 1.08.040 through 1.08.150 shall govern the processing of a proposed initiative, mini-initiative or referendum. (Ord. 80-22 § 2; Ord. 79-31 § 2 (part)).

1.08.040 Time limits.

A. Time limits for filing initiative and referendum measures proposed to be submitted to the people must be filed with the county auditor, and, furthermore, referendum measures shall be filed within 45 days after the ordinance is passed by the county council.

B. Mini-initiative measures proposed to the county council with accompanying petitions must be registered with the county auditor. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.1).

1.08.050 Preparation and filing.

Any legal voter, or organization of legal voters of Whatcom County, may prepare and file an initiative, mini-initiative or referendum measure with the county auditor, who, within five days excluding Saturday, Sunday and holidays, shall confer with the petitioners to review whether the proposed measure is deficient as to form or style the petitioner(s) shall be so advised by the auditor to allow correction to be made before filing. (Ord. 83-55 (part); Ord. 80-22 § 3; Ord. 79-31 § 2.2).

1.08.060 Form of petition – Assignment of number.

A. Each petition, at the time of circulating, signing and registering, shall consist of not more than one sheet and not more than 20 signatures on numbered lines on each sheet with the prescribed title, except the mini-initiative which does not require a ballot title, and a full, true and correct copy of the proposed measure referred to therein printed, which may be printed on the reverse side.

B. The persons proposing the measure may prepare blank petitions and cause them to be printed upon single sheets of paper of good writing quality (including but not limited to newsprint) not less than 11 inches in width and not less than 14 inches in length with a margin of one inch at the top, bottom and sides of the petition for office use only.

C. The auditor shall give the proposed initiative or referendum a number which shall thereafter be the identifying number for the measure and refer it to the prosecuting attorney. The auditor, when assigning numbers to initiatives, referendums and mini-initiatives, shall use a separate sequential series for each category. No number shall be reissued once used.

D. Petition forms for submission to the people for their approval or rejection at the next ensuing general election shall be substantially in the following form:

WARNING: Every person who signs this petition with any other than his true name, or who knowingly signs more than one of these petitions, or who signs this petition when he is not a legal voter, or who makes herein any false statements, shall be punished by fine or imprisonment or both.


TO ______________________________, Auditor of Whatcom County.

We, the undersigned citizens of Whatcom County and legal voters, respectfully direct that the proposed measure known as County Initiative (or Referendum) Measure No.______ entitled (insert here the established ballot title of the measure), a full, true and correct copy of which is printed hereon, shall be submitted to the legal voters of Whatcom County for their approval or rejection at the general election to be held on the ____ day of __________, 20___; and each of us, as signers of this petition, state:

I have personally signed this petition, I am a legal voter of Whatcom County, State of Washington, and my address is correctly stated on this petition.

Petitioner’s Signature

Print Name for Positive Identification

Residence Address, Street and Number, if Any

City or Town

(Here follow up to 20 numbered lines divided into columns as below)













Return to:




(Ord. 2004-025; Ord. 90-50; Ord. 83-89; Ord. 83-55 (part); Ord. 80-22 § 4; Ord. 79-31 § 2.3).

1.08.070 Duty of the prosecuting attorney.

Within 10 days after the receipt of an initiative or referendum, the prosecuting attorney, in consultation with the petitioner, shall formulate the ballot title which shall consist of: (A) a statement of the subject of the measure; (B) a concise description of the measure; and (C) a question: “Shall this be enacted into law?” The statement of the subject of the measure must be proposed as a positive statement, be sufficiently broad to reflect the subject, and be sufficiently precise to give notice of the measure’s subject matter, and not exceed 10 words. The concise description must contain no more than 30 words, be a true and impartial description of the measure’s essential contents, clearly identify the proposition to be voted on, and not, to the extent reasonably possible, create prejudice either for or against the measure. (Ord. 2018-021 Exh. A; Ord. 79-31 § 2.4).

1.08.080 Ballot title – Notice to the proponents – Appeal.

A. Upon the filing of the ballot title for an initiative or referendum measure, the auditor shall notify the proponents of the exact language of the statement.

B. Proponents dissatisfied with the ballot title formulated by the prosecuting attorney have 10 days from the date of filing of the title with the Whatcom County auditor to appeal to the superior court of Whatcom County. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.5).

1.08.090 Petition – Required number of signatures.

Following expiration of the 10-day period referred to in WCC 1.08.070, the petitioner shall have 120 days to collect signatures of the registered voters of the county equal in number to not less than eight percent of the number of vote cast in the county in the last regular gubernatorial election. Each petition shall contain the full text of the proposed measure, ordinance, or amendment to an ordinance, and the ballot title. (Ord. 2018-021 Exh. A; Ord. 2009-029 Exh. A; Ord. 79-31 § 2.6).

1.08.100 Petition – Acceptance or rejection by auditor.

A. Upon receipt of an initiative or referendum petition, the county auditor shall verify the sufficiency of the signatures on the petition and, if it is validated, submit the measure to the people at the next general election that is not less than 120 days after the registering of the petition for the measure, unless the county council enacts the proposed measure without change or amendment.

B. Decisions to refuse to validate petitions may be reviewed by the superior court within 10 days after the refusal. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.7).

1.08.110 Adoption by council of substitute initiative measure.

A. The county council may enact a proposed initiative after such petition has been validated and registered by the county auditor.

B. In the event that the county council does not adopt a proposed measure and instead adopts a substitute measure concerning the same subject, the substitute measure shall be placed on the same ballot with the proposed initiative. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.8).

1.08.120 Majority vote rules – Requisites for approval.

A. Validated initiative or referendum measures shall be approved by a majority of the vote.

B. In the event that a proposed initiative and council substitute measure are placed on ballot, the voters shall be given the choice of accepting or rejecting both and then shall be given the choice of accepting one and rejecting the other. If a majority of those voting on the first issue is for accepting either, then the measure receiving the majority of the votes cast on the second issue shall be deemed approved. If the majority of those voting on the first issue is for rejecting both, then neither measure shall be approved regardless of the vote on the second issue. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.9).

1.08.130 Effect of petition.

A. The effect of the referendum measure is to reject any act, measure, or portion of such measure which has been enacted by the county council. Upon registration and validation of a referendum petition, the previously enacted measure will be ineffective pending the outcome of the referendum procedure. The registering of a referendum petition against one or more items, sections or parts of any act, bill, or ordinance will not delay the remainder of the measure from taking effect.

B. An approved initiative measure is to be given the same effect as any adopted ordinance. No ordinance enacted as a result of an initiative shall be amended or repealed within two years after enactment, except as a result of a subsequent initiative or referendum. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.10).

1.08.140 Veto not allowed.

The county executive shall not have the power to veto measures covered by initiatives and referendums. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.11).

1.08.150 Limitations and applicability.

A. Referendum measures shall not be applicable to enacted ordinances that may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or the support of the county government and its existing public institutions.

B. No initiative measures requiring the expenditures of additional moneys for an existing activity, or of any funds for a new activity or purpose, shall be filed unless provisions are made specifically therein for new or additional sources of revenue which may be required. (Ord. 79-31 § 2.12).

1.08.160 Mini-initiative – Allowed.

An ordinance or amendment to an existing ordinance may be proposed to the county council by registering initiative petitions and the proposed measure with the county auditor. (Ord. 79-31 § 3 (part)).

1.08.170 Mini-initiative – Requirements.

A. Any legal voter or organization of legal voters of Whatcom County may file a mini-initiative proposal with the county auditor, who within five days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, shall confer with the petitioner to review the proposal as to form and style. The auditor shall give the proposed mini-initiative a number, which shall thereafter be the identifying number for the mini-initiative. The auditor shall then transmit a copy of the proposal to the petitioner who has 120 days to collect the signatures of registered voters of the county equal in number to not less than three percent of the number of votes cast in the county in the last gubernatorial election. The 120-day period shall begin upon receipt of official notification to petitioner(s) by the auditor’s office either by certified mail or messenger.

B. The original proponent or his designee may turn in signatures at any time within the 120-day signature-gathering period. After the initial filing, the proponents can continue to turn in signatures for an additional 30 days, but in no case shall additional petition signatures be submitted after the initial 120-day signature collection period. Upon receipt of petitions containing more than the required number of signatures for validation, the auditor shall verify the sufficiency of the signatures within 60 days.

C. Initiative petitions must bear the signatures of qualified voters equal in number to not less than three percent of the number of votes cast in the county in the last gubernatorial election. (Ord. 2009-029 Exh. A; Ord. 80-22 § 5; Ord. 79-31 § 3.1).

1.08.180 Mini-initiative – Public hearing required.

Upon verifying the sufficiency of the signatures, the auditor shall transmit the initiative petitions and proposed measure to the council which shall introduce the mini-initiative at the next regular county council meeting. The council shall, in all instances, hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance and enact or reject the ordinance within 60 days of its introduction. (Ord. 80-22 § 6; Ord. 79-31 § 3.2).

1.08.190 Mini-initiative – Rejected initiative to qualify as mini-initiative.

If a proposed initiative measure fails to obtain the required number of signatures, but gets sufficient signatures to qualify as a mini-initiative, it may be treated as a mini-initiative at the request of the proponent(s). (Ord. 79-31 § 3.3).

1.08.200 Recall.

The people further reserve the power of recall as provided in the Constitution and the laws of the State of Washington. (Ord. 79-31 § 4).