Part 3: Seeking voter approval

Writing concise descriptions for ballot measures

The city or town attorney, or the county prosecuting attorney is responsible for preparing the concise description. In practice, the taxing district staff and/or their independent counsel may propose language for a ballot measure, but appropriate counsel is legally responsible for writing and defending the measure.

Local government (other than city/town/county)

Appropriate counsel
City attorney
Town attorney
County prosecuting attorney
Prosecuting attorney of the county within which the majority area of the district
is located

Department of Revenue recommends the assessor or assessor’s levy staff review the ballot measure prior to filing with the auditor. This provides the assessor’s staff an opportunity to bring forward potential issues they may have with interpreting the levy.


To place a measure on the ballot, the county auditor must receive the taxing district’s ordinance or resolution no later than 45 days before a special election or 84 days before the primary or general election. The appropriate counsel must review or write the ballot title language and provide their approved language to the county auditor.

The county auditor provides notice of the ballot title language (as approved by appropriate counsel), to the district proposing the measure, the county or municipality, and any other person who requests a copy. RCW 29A.36.080

Anyone not satisfied with the ballot title as written may appeal to the superior court of the county where the question is to appear on the ballot. Petitions of appeal must be submitted within 10 business days of the time the ballot title is first filed with the county auditor. The court will render its decision and provide the county auditor a ballot title that it determined meets the requirements of chapter 29A.36 RCW. The decision of the superior court is final. The ballot title or statement as certified will be the established ballot title. RCW 29A.36.090

Due to the time constraints for submitting resolutions, approval of ballot title language, and the appeal of ballot title language, your county may have a coordinated process. Check with your county auditor and your city or town attorney/county prosecuting attorney to verify the established process used in your county.

Election dates

Election dates determine when a county can begin collecting the tax levy. Most levies require tax collection within 12 months of receiving voter approval. To collect tax next year from a levy you are considering during the current year, the election can be no later than November. A tax levied in November would be due on April 30 of the following year.

General obligation bond and EMS levies do not have a requirement for collection within 12 months of receiving voter approval.

Election type

Election date


The first Tuesday in August


The first Tuesday after the first Monday of November


For elections held 1/1/2012 and after

  • The second Tuesday in February.
  • The third Tuesday in April (for 2012 only).
  • The fourth Tuesday in April (for 2013 and after).
  • The date of the Primary Election.
  • The first Tuesday after the first Monday of November.
  • Any time to meet the needs resulting from an act of God ~ RCW 29A.04.330(4).
  • The Legislature may set additional special election dates by statute.

Election dates revised in 2011 by ESSB 5171