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Spokane County Commissioners to take action on lawsuit aiming to block expansion of board

November 23, 2018

Spokane County commissioners will vote on whether to approve a lawsuit to block expansion of the board from three to five members – which would be filed on behalf of the county – at a meeting on Tuesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed the five-commissioner bill into law earlier this year, which requires counties with populations of more than 400,000 residents to have a board of five commissioners elected by district in both the primary and general elections.

Spokane County commissioners currently run in the primary election in the district where they live and then run countywide in the general election.

Board members from the Washington State Association of Counties voted unanimously at their annual conference last week to file their own lawsuit to block the five-commissioner law.

Spokane County Commissioner Al French has voiced opposition to the new law, stating it’s unconstitutional and takes voting rights away from citizens who voted down an expansion to five commissioners in 2015.

French also said the current election system ensures commissioners are responsible for the entire county – not just their district – which is 20 percent of the population.

“I’m gratified that the board of directors of the Washington State Association of Counties agrees with Spokane County commissioners that the Legislature violated the Washington State Constitution when they passed this bill,” French said.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, the primary sponsor of the bill, called the county’s potential lawsuit unfortunate.

“I think it’s a bit concerning that they are filing this lawsuit,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate that the commissioners and the Association of Washington Counties are spending their efforts and taxpayer dollars preventing a bill that gives greater representation to our area.”

Riccelli added that the five-commissioner bill gained bipartisan support from 3rd, 4th and 6th district legislators and “it brings the political process closer to the people.”

If commissioners approve the lawsuit, it likely would be filed in Spokane County Superior Court and move on to the Washington State Supreme Court, which would make a final ruling.

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