February 10, 2023 

MEDIA CONTACT: Serena Larkin, Sightline Institute, serena@sightline.org  

FULL ARTICLE: Hey, Olympia! If you let them, cities could double turnout in local elections 

OLYMPIA, WA – Leaders in Olympia are currently considering a bill that would allow cities to consolidate their elections to “on cycle” timing—that is, aligning local races with higher-profile state and national ones that occur in even years. New analysis from the nonpartisan think tank Sightline Institute finds that synchronizing elections could double voter turnout in Washington state, among other benefits including: 

  • Boosting local turnout far more than any other reform available;  
  • Improving local representation dramatically, so that the local electorate and elected officials better reflects the demographics and beliefs of the population; and   
  • Improving accountability by better aligning local government decisions with local public opinion. 

At present, state law mandates that local elections occur in odd years, when voter participation rates are dismally low: just 29 percent of Washingtonians voted in 2021, with severe underrepresentation of young voters and voters of color. Senate Bill 5723, sponsored by Sen. Javier Valdez (D–46), would give cities the option to move their elections on cycle if they wished. 

“This bill would let cities decide for themselves—after considering costs, logistics, and benefits—whether they wish to do what voters overwhelmingly want them to: consolidate elections to one big Election Day,” says Alan Durning, author of the research. “It’s better for voters and better for democracy.” 

Read more in Sightline’s new analysis: Hey, Olympia! If you let them, cities could double turnout in local elections 



Alan Durning is founder and executive director of Sightline Institute. His current topics of focus include housing affordability and democracy reform. Read his full bio and view his latest research. 

Sightline Institute is an nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank providing leading original analysis of housing, democracy, forests, and energy policy in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, British Columbia, and beyond.  

February 10, 2023