A lawsuit seeks to force Pierce County to change the ballot language on three charter amendments voters will consider in November.
Sherry Bockwinkel, a term-limit supporter, and Kelly Haughton, a supporter of ranked choice voting, filed a lawsuit late Thursday in Pierce County Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit the county auditor and prosecuting attorney from publishing ballots and the voters pamphlet with the current language.
Bockwinkel and Haughton say the ballot language for the amendments is inappropriate and that the county did not provide them adequate opportunity to challenge it. County official say the ballot language and the process used to develop it are proper.
Voters will consider three amendments to the county charter in November:
• Proposition 1 would move the election of the county executive and council to odd-numbered years by 2015 and increase term limits for those offices from two consecutive four-year terms to three consecutive four-year terms.
• Proposition 2 would move the election of auditor, assessor-treasurer and sheriff to odd-numbered years by 2015.
• Proposition 3 would eliminate ranked choice voting and restore the primary and general election system for all county elected offices.
Bockwinkel will help write the voters pamphlet statement against Proposition 1. Haughton will help write the statement against Proposition 3.
Both say the language used to describe the charter amendments on the ballot is inappropriate.
First, they note that each amendment asks voters to “approve” or “reject” the amendments. They say that’s a departure from the language used on 18 other charter amendments proposed since 2006. Those proposals used “yes” or “no” language.
Haughton and Bockwinkel say the proposed language may confuse voters. And Haughton said his group had already ordered campaign materials based on the “yes” or “no” language before receiving a copy of the proposed ballot language last week.
Second, they argue the ballot language on Proposition 1 is argumentative. It states the amendment would make term limits for executive and council “consistent with term limits in effect for auditor, assessor-treasurer and sheriff.” Haughton said the phrase is unnecessary and constitutes an argument in favor of the proposal.
“The county followed the statutory procedure to the letter,” said Doug Vanscoy, chief civil deputy. “We’ll resist the petition.”
On Friday, Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit for Aug. 31.
Haughton and Bockwinkel had hoped to influence the ballot language before Monday, when they must submit their statements.
But the issue can still be resolved before the ballot language is printed.
County Auditor Jan Shabro said the “drop-dead” date for printing the ballots and voters pamphlets is Sept. 11 because they need to be mailed to military personnel serving overseas.
David Wickert: 253-274-7341