Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


OLYMPIA — The Attorney General’s Office today issued Attorney General’s Opinion 2016 No. 1 in response to an inquiry from Senator Pam Roach (R — Auburn).  The Opinion, which does not advocate a policy position, finds that a non-charter code city in Washington can adopt a district-based general election procedure to avoid a potential violation of the federal Voting Rights Act under circumstances that the Opinion describes.

The Opinion finds that a non-charter city — a city organized under RCW Chapter 35A, such as Pasco, the subject of Sen. Roach’s inquiry — “may both nominate and elect positions on its city council by district, but only if the city has a strong basis in evidence to conclude that its proposed change is necessary to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.”

The Opinion notes that the potential legal risk facing a city whichever course it may take could be addressed by the Legislature:  “If the legislature allowed code cities to conduct general elections by district, cities like Pasco would not face the dilemma and uncertainty described here.”


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov