Law, Rules and Information for Filers

FAQs

Are Seattle Councilmembers elected by districts?

Yes. Seven councilmembers are elected by district and two at-large councilmembers are elected city-wide. Candidates must live in the district they run in and are voted on by voters in that district. At-large candidates are elected by all the voters in the City.

How can I find my Council District?

Contact King County Elections or call (206) 296-VOTE(8683) to find which City Council District you live in.

Who/What's on the Seattle ballot in 2023?

The seven District City Council positions (Position Numbers 1 - 7) are on the ballot in 2023.

Regular elections for Mayor, City Attorney and City Council occur in odd-number years in Seattle.

What is the Contribution Limit for Seattle candidates on the ballot in 2023?

The contribution limit for all contributors to City candidates is $600. Candidates who opt in to the Democracy Voucher Program have additional limits. See next question.

What are the contribution limits for Candidates participating in the Democracy Voucher program?

In the 2023 election cycle, all candidates will have the option of participating in the Democracy Voucher Program. Participants will be subject to the following contribution limits:

City Council - $300 plus up to $100 in Democracy Vouchers.

Under certain conditions candidates can request to be released from the $300 contribution limit. If they are released their contribution limit would revert to $600 including up to $100 in Democracy Vouchers.

 Please visit our Democracy Voucher Program website to learn more about Democracy Vouchers.

 How much can a corporation contribute to City candidates?

$600. The contribution limit for all contributors to City candidates is $600. Candidates who opt in to the Democracy Voucher Program have additional limits. See last question.

Are there limits on contributions to ballot issue campaigns?

Currently, there are no contribution limits on ballot issue campaigns. [See next question for additional information.]

What about limits on ballot issue campaigns during the final 21 days before the election?

In 2015, the City Council amended SMC 2.04.265, eliminating the $5,000 contribution limit during the final 21 days before the election. However, State Law still limits contributions to campaigns to $5,000 during the final 21 days.

With State and Federal Elections a person can contribute a certain amount in the primary and then the same amount in the general election. Is it the same with the City?

No, it is not the same. The contribution limit for Seattle candidates applies to the entire Election Cycle, there is not a separate limit for the primary and another limit for the general.

I thought State Law changed, and that State contribution limits now apply to Seattle candidates?

While it's true that State law was recently changed to apply contribution limits to many local candidates, Seattle's contribution limit laws do not exceed the State limits and are still in effect.

What is the deadline for filing for office?

There are two "Filing Deadlines": 1) Candidates must file for Campaign Disclosure reporting, and 2) they must file a Declaration of Candidacy to put their name on the ballot.

For campaign disclosure purposes, a person running for office must file PDC Form C-1 (Statement of Organization) and the PDC Form F-1 (Personal Financial Affairs) and the SEEC Form F-1 within 2 weeks of becoming a candidate.

The deadline for putting your name on the ballot in 2023 is Friday, May 19. This is called the Declaration of Candidacy. Candidates file the DoC with King County Elections. The filing fee or signatures in lieu of a filing fee must be included with the DoC during the week of May 15 to May 19, 2023.

When do I have to start filing reports?

You become a candidate when you a. publicly announce you are a candidate, b. raise or spend money for your candidacy, c. solicit contributions or pledges contingent on your candidacy, d. reserve office or advertising space, or e. allow someone to do b. c. or d. on your behalf. The C-1 and the PDC F-1 are filed with the PDC, and the C-1 and SEEC F-1 are filed with the Seattle City Clerk.

When can I start raising money for my Seattle campaign?

Candidates can solicit or accept contributions only during the Election Cycle. The Election Cycle begins on January 1 in the year before the election and ends on April 30, the year after the election. For 2023 Seattle campaigns, the start of the election cycle is January 1, 2022.

A candidate running for office in 2023 may file a C-1 prior to January 1, 2022 but cannot solicit or receive contributions until January 1, 2022.

I want to run for office or start a ballot issue campaign, who should I talk to first?

If you are interested in becoming a candidate for Seattle Mayor, City Attorney or City Council, or running a City ballot issue campaign, we've created a Candidate Committee Guide

While the Guide is thorough and informative, it can't possibly answer all your questions, so we invite you to Contact our Campaign Finance or Training staff as early in your decision-making process as possible.

For all other offices, (i.e. Seattle School Board, Port of Seattle Commission, Judges, etc.) contact the WA State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

What about the initiative itself, filing it, creating petitions, getting a ballot title, gathering signatures, etc...?

Please check out the Seattle City Clerk's site or call the Clerk at (206) 684-8344 to learn more about putting an initiative on the ballot.

Where do I go to Electronically File?

https://web6.seattle.gov/ethics/seecFiler/login.aspx

Can I electronically file the C-1?

Yes! Start by filing with the WA State PDC.

Can I electronically file the F-1?

Yes. File the PDC F-1 with the PDC. File the SEEC F-1 with the Seattle City Clerk. Find fillable SEEC F-1 forms on the Seattle Elections Law & Filer Info page. Click on the tab for SEEC F-1.

Where do I send reports filed on paper?

Seattle City Clerk
PO Box 94728
Seattle, WA 98124-4728

What about the candidates themselves, do they have a limit on what they can contribute to their own campaign?

No, for the most part they can give as much of their own funds as they want to their own campaign. Candidates participating in the Democracy Voucher Program are subject to the campaign spending limits. Click on the Democracy Voucher link in the bar across the top of this page for more information on the Democracy Voucher Program.

Please note that the State PDC places restrictions on the amount a candidate can be repaid for loans made to the campaign. Contact the PDC to learn about candidate loans before making any campaign loans if you have any expectation of recouping those funds.

How can I get contact information for each campaign?

You can find that information on the Campaigns page.

How do I learn more about what I need to file?

The Seattle Ethics & Elections Commission offers training to all candidates, treasurers, campaign staff or volunteers who would like to learn more about disclosure regulations. The training takes approximately two hours. If you would like to make an appointment for a training session at our office please Contact our Campaign Finance or Training staff.

The Democracy Voucher Program also offers training and videos for candidates participating in the Democracy Voucher Program. If you have any questions about the program, or the qualifying process, please contact them directly.

City Elections Rules no longer require sponsor identification on lawn signs. Sponsor ID is still required on most other forms of political advertising. See Administrative Rule 9 for more information.

Placement, size and duration of Lawn Signs is not under the jurisdiction of the SEEC.

Lawn Sign Regulations in the City of Seattle can be downloaded here: Seattle Lawn Sign Regulations

The Seattle Department of Transportation has policies and penalties for signs placed in City Right of Ways. The updated SDOT Guidance can be found here.

Campaign signs are treated the same as any other sign, whether a real estate sign, latte cart sign, garage sale sign, etc... because of this the SEEC has no jurisdiction over the sign regulations and is not a good place to file complaints about violations of the City's sign ordinance. Please review the linked documents above for the relevant information on filing complaints.

Electronic Filing

Most Seattle political committees are required to file their disclosure reports electronically, as follows:

1) Candidate, Ballot Issue or Independent Expenditure Committees that expect to raise and spend $5,000 or more must file electronically with the City,

2) Continuing Political Committees that expect to raise and spend $5,000 or more in a calendar year must file electronically with the City,

3) Committees that are required to file electronically with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission must also file electronically with the City.

Campaigns will use software to create a formatted computer file containing all information that would appear on a paper C1, C3 or C4 report.

Campaigns that do not participate in the electronic filing program will continue to submit reports on paper no later than the filing deadline. Sometime after the postal service delivers these reports the SEEC staff will data enter and publish them on our website.

For more specific information on electronic filing please review these links: 

Seattle City candidate and ballot measure committees must file campaign disclosure reports with the WA State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) and the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC).

Begin the filing process by filing a C1 to register your campaign with the PDC. From there, you will be able to upload reports to the SEEC. The instructions below explain how to complete the filing process with the SEEC.

Remember to check the box to indicate you have a filing obligation with the City of Seattle when you register your campaign with the PDC.

Upload Reports to the SEEC using ORCA

In ORCA, go to Submit Report
Select the C3 or C4 to upload
Click 'File,' then 'File Report'
The box "Upload to Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission" should be checked.
Type 'I Certify', then click 'Submit'

You're not finished yet. Continue reading to see how to complete the filing process with the SEEC.

Set Your Password

To certify uploaded reports, first you must set your SEEC login password.

Go to the SEEC Electronic Filing System Login Page:
https://web6.seattle.gov/ethics/seecFiler/login.aspx
(Bookmark this page! You'll be using it regularly.)

A. Enter your SEEC User Name and Password

The first time you log in, you will be using the 'setup' password provided by the SEEC. The system will ask you to change your setup password to one of your own choosing before going any further.

Please understand that your password is yours (and not the campaign's!). If you file reports for more than one campaign, or you register as a lobbyist, you will use the same login. We are happy to provide others on your committee with their own passwords so they can post reports. For your protection, please do not share your password with anyone.

B. Set your Verified Email

Once you're logged in to the SEEC e-filing system,
Go to Manage Account
Select 'Change your Verified Email Address'
Enter the email address you used to create your SAWs account with the PDC.


Review and Certify Reports

Now that you're logged in to the SEEC e-filing system, click Review to open the report you uploaded.

Scroll to the bottom of the report to see a series of boxes to click.

One of the options will be to remove the report from your queue - in case there's an error, for example, and you don't want to file it.

Please note: You cannot remove a report after it has been filed.

Check all the appropriate boxes and then click 'Proceed'

Repeat for each report in your queue.

Remember to let your candidate or Treasurer know that there are reports waiting to be certified.


Check to see that your Reports have been filed

Open a new browser and go to the Seattle Elections page at https://web6.seattle.gov/ethics/elections/home.aspx

Click on the Filings link on the left

If your report was properly filed, you should see it in the list of filings.

Alternatively...

Click on the Campaigns link on the left

Click on your campaign, and find the box labeled "5 Most Recently Filed Disclosure Reports." C3s and C4s will show up here.

The filed C1 will show up as a link in the box labeled "Other Information Popups." If you can't click on the link to open your C1, it means that the C1 has not been properly filed.

Reports will show up on the Elections page immediately after they've been filed. If your report does not show up, log back in to the SEEC e-filing system, and make sure you've checked all the boxes for each report you filed.

The SEEC began accepting voluntary submittals of electronically filed disclosure reports in 1995. Several committees helped us test this process by voluntarily submitting electronic files, they were:

November, 1995 Election

Friends of Sue Donaldson
May, 1996 Election

Commons Park Campaign
November, 1996 Election

Bob Rohan for City Council
November, 1997 Election

Families Yes
Citizens for Sherry Harris
Neighbors for Nickels
Friends of Jane Noland
 

Beginning in 1999 electronic filing became mandatory for most large City campaigns.

From 1995 to 2002 campaigns submitted electronic files as attachments to an email. These were then manually processed by SEEC staff.

Beginning in late 2002 campaigns began submitting electronic filings by uploading them using the SEEC's eFiling web application.

In early 2006 the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission introduced their Orca software. City campaigns began submitting electronic filings by connecting to an SEEC web service (via SOAP). Campaigns would use Orca or another client program designed to connect to our service.

Electronic filing of campaign finance reports requires that campaigns submit computer files that are formatted in a very specific way. The SEEC writes software to receive these files and append them to our database. This software must know how to interpret each line of the submitted files. To do this it must be able to rely on some sort of consistent formatting.

As of early 2007 all new campaigns must submit reports utilizing the Washington State PDC's Orca eFiling software, or software that replicates the standards embodied in the Orca client.

Orca eFiling software can be obtained from:

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission

Elections Code

The following campaigns are subject to the City of Seattle's public disclosure law:

  • Seattle City Office Candidates - Candidate campaigns for Seattle Mayor, Seattle City Attorney and Seattle City Council
  • Seattle Ballot Issue Committees - Committees that promote or oppose a City of Seattle ballot issue
  • Continuing Political Committees that contribute to Seattle City Office Candidates or Seattle Ballot Issue Committees
  • Makers of Independent Expenditures that promote or oppose a Seattle City Office Candidate or Seattle Ballot Issue
  • Other Political Committees that promote or oppose a Seattle City Office Candidate or Seattle Ballot Issue

The Seattle public disclosure law, Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 2.04, and other City Elections-related codes, can be obtained from the Seattle City Clerk's web site at: Seattle Elections Codes

Thanks to Ernie Dornfeld in the Clerk's office for his help in providing this.

A searchable and browsable version of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission Administrative Rules can be obtained from the Seattle City Clerk's web site.

Elections Code Rules--includes Democracy Voucher Program Rules

Voters Pamphlet Rules

Video Voters Guide Rules

Annotated Advisory Opinions from 1974 to present and settlements from 2005 to present are available to provide general guidance on Elections and Ethics Code issues. Variations of facts or circumstances may result in a different conclusion. For further assistance, contact SEEC staff.

SEEC Advisory Opinions

A .pdf version of each form is available from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission at:

Blank Forms for Disclosure Reporting

Click on the Filer Resources tab, then select the Forms button.

rev. 3/08

A .pdf version of the 2021 Candidate Committee Guide is available.

You will need a .pdf reader to view this file.

The IRS does have disclosure and other rules for some political organizations. These regulations may affect you and you should read through their materials carefully.

IRS Tax Information for Political Organizations

NEW: Voters Pamphlet calendar for Seattle City Council and Ballot Issue Committees participating in the 2019 election. 

The Voters' Pamphlet Rules explain the process for submitting a Voters' Pamphlet statement and photo.

You will need the Adobe software to download the Rules and Calendar.

A searchable and browseable version of the current Voters' Pamphlet Rules can be obtained from the Seattle City Clerk's web site.

Disclosure Filing Deadlines

During the 3 weeks before the election, reporting obligations intensify. Please review the Top 21- and 7-Day Tips to learn about important reporting and record-keeping information. (This document is 6 pages long.) 

Filers, remember to Contact Wayne Barnett or Polly Grow to notify them of the time and location your records will be available on the Monday, one week before election day (Primary and General) for Public Inspection.

Video Voters' Guide

Who can participate in the Video Voters’ Guide?

Seattle Port, School District and City Council candidates and King County county-wide and County Council candidates along with Seattle and King County ballot issues are invited to participate in the Video Voters’ Guide. Separate Voters’ Guides are produced for the Primary and General Elections.

If three or more candidates file for the position in a non-partisan office, their names will appear on the primary ballot. The top two vote-getters in the Primary will advance to the General Election in November. All of these races are non-partisan. Only candidates who are on the primary ballot will be taped for the Primary Election Video Voters' Guide.

In the case of ballot issues, representatives of both the pro and con sides may participate.

How do I schedule an appointment to tape my statement?

After filing week in May, contact Seattle Ethics & Elections, for appointment information.

What is the purpose of the Video Voters’ Guide?

The Video Voters’ Guide supplements the printed Voters’ Pamphlet by providing an alternate format for citizens to learn about candidates and issues.

Candidates and issue representatives should prepare separate statements for the video guide and the printed guide, with the separate formats in mind. Be aware that different deadlines and rules apply to the video vs. the printed guides.

Who produces the Video Voters' Guides?

Seattle and King County have jointly produced Video Voters’ Guides every other year since 1993. Separate Video Guides are produced for the Primary and the General elections. In 2014, we began producing the Guide in even-numbered years as well.

Two editions of each guide are produced; one that includes Seattle and School District candidates and issues, and one that includes King County and Port candidates and issues.

The statements are taped at the studios of The Seattle Channel, with post-production services by King County Television. Taping and publicity are coordinated by Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission staff.

Where are the Video Voters’ Guides available?

The guide is broadcast repeatedly over Seattle Municipal Channel 21, King County TV Channel 22, and other local public cable stations for at least two weeks prior to the election.

It is also viewable on line at The Seattle Channel, King County Television, and the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission’s web sites at least two weeks prior to the election. Archived copies are also currently viewable at the Seattle Channel Elections Videos web site. Past Video Voters' Guides for Seattle races are also available at Seattle Ethics and Elections Voters' Guide webpage.

Why is there a fee?

A fee is charged to help defray the cost of production. Campaigns that do not have the $100 fee, may request a waiver.

Participants who are in both the Primary and the General Election have an opportunity to use their Primary Election tape in the General Election video guide and pay a $50 fee, or tape a new statement and pay a $100 fee, or request a waiver.

Are there Rules?

Candidates for Seattle Mayor, City Attorney and City Council and Seattle ballot issue committees must comply with the Seattle Video Voters’ Guide Rules.

County, Port and School District candidates and ballot issues must follow the King County Video Voters' Guide Rules.
 

See the Fact Sheet for more information or contact Seattle Ethics & Elections.

Independent Expenditures

During the 3 weeks before the election, individuals or groups making independent expenditures have a series of reporting obligations.

Please review the Independent Expenditure Reporting Guidelines to learn about important reporting and record-keeping information.

Certificate of Independence to be signed and filed by each person and each officer of the committee or entity who makes the IE. SMC 2.04.275A.

Q: What are the laws and rules that apply directly to independent expenditures?  

SMC 2.04.265
SMC 2.04.270
SMC 2.04.275
SMC 2.04.290
Elections Code Administrative Rule 8


Q: What is an Independent Expenditure?

SMC 2.04.010(21) provides that “Independent expenditure" means expenditure on behalf of, or opposing the election of, any candidate, or any City ballot proposition, when such expenditure is made independently of the candidate, his/her political committee, or agent, or of any ballot proposition committee or its officers or agents, and when such expenditure is made without the prior consent, or the collusion, or the cooperation, of the candidate or his/her agent or political committee, or the ballot proposition committee or its officers or agents, and when such expenditure is not a contribution as defined in SMC Section 2.04.010(13). An independent expenditure is made by a person on the earliest of the following events: (a) the person agrees with a vendor or provider of services to make an independent expenditure; or (b) the person incurs the obligation to make an independent expenditure; or (c) the person pays for an independent expenditure.

Q: What are the Sponsor Id requirements for independent expenditures?

A. All written political advertising, regardless of who pays for it, must show the sponsor’s name and address, and in the case of broadcast political advertising such as radio, television or automated phone calls, the sponsor Id must be clearly spoken, but does not have to include the sponsor's address.

As for political advertising paid for by an independent expenditure, State law (RCW 42.17.510) has a special requirement that the advertisement show the following language:

FOR WRITTEN ADS –
"No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by (name, address, city, state)"

Further, if this type of ad is sponsored by a political committee, the following must also appear:

• “Top Five Contributors” followed by a list of the names of the five persons or entities making the largest contributions in excess of $700 to the PAC during the 12 months before the ad runs. If a political committee keeps records necessary to track contributions according to the use intended by contributors, that committee may identify the top five contributors giving for that purpose; AND

• The full name of the individual or entity that established or directly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee (or indirectly maintains or controls the sponsoring committee through the formation of one or more political committees).

Recommended format:
No candidate authorized this ad. It is paid for by The Committee for Good Government (Gotham City Merchants Assn.) Top Five Contributors: …

FOR Audio and Video ADS –
The following statement must be clearly spoken: “No candidate authorized this ad. Paid for by (name, city, state)” followed by the Top five contributors if required.

State law allows the sponsor id on TV ads to be in print as long as it, appears and is visible for at least four seconds, is in letters greater than 4% of the visual screen height, and has a reasonable color contrast with the background. There is no such provision in City law. Therefore the sponsor ID must be clearly spoken.

The Top 5 contributor names, as discussed under “written advertisements,” are necessary if the ad is sponsored by a political committee required to file with the PDC. The top 5 contributor names are also required for telephone transmissions. Independent expenditure advertising in the form of yard signs, bumper stickers, skywriting or other items exempt from sponsor ID is also exempt from the Notice to Voters, Top Five Contributors, and controlling individual/ entity ID requirements.

Q. Is there a reporting obligation for independent expenditures?

A. Yes, there is.

If you spend $100 (in the aggregate) or more on an independent expenditure for a particular candidate or campaign, you must file a C-4 report with the City Clerk within five days. If you make an independent expenditure of $1,000 or more (in aggregate) in the 21 days before an election, you must file a special report by 4:30 p.m. the following business day. Please see SMC 2.04.270.

Also, each person involved in making the independent expenditure has to sign a statement certifying under pain of perjury that the expenditure “was made without consultation, collusion or cooperation” with the campaign benefiting from the expenditure. See SMC 2.04.275. File the certificate(s) together with the actual report of the expenditure.

One more thing to remember – if you disseminate (eg. mail, broadcast, robocall)1,000 pieces or more of a political advertisement supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot initiative during one calendar year, then within two days after that dissemination, you must file with the SEEC a copy of the advertisement along with a statement disclosing the number of pieces sent, or persons reasonably expected to view the advertisement. See SMC 2.04.270(C).

Q. How do I file a Special Report?

If you have not already registered as a user on the SEEC e-filing system, contact our Campaign Finance Auditor or IT Professional to get set up.

Once you have logged into the SEEC e-filing system:

1. File a C4 to report Special Reports of Independent Expenditures.
2. File C3s to report Special Reports of Late Contributions.


Use the description field for in-kind contributions. Be specific if someone purchased something on behalf of the campaign. Include vendor names and amounts. If the purchase is for advertising, include the number of pieces, and a description of the advertising (eg. signs, mailing, tv, robocall) in addition to the vendor information.

For Independent Expenditures:

In the Date field, use the date the Expenditure was incurred (which may be before you received a bill or an invoice).

Remember to identify the candidate that the expenditure supports or opposes in the description of your expenditure and the dates the ads are available to the public.

Description Examples:
Description: 10,000 postcards mailed 7/21 in support of Dale Evans for Mayor.
Description: 57,893 robocalls 7/15-7/18 opposing Roy Rogers for City Council.

Candidate Introduction Information

Candidate Introduction Form.Each City of Seattle candidate who has filed a C1 with the City is invited to submit one, 150-word introduction to inform Seattle residents about their candidacy. Introductions may be submitted to the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission January 28, 2019 – June 7, 2019.

Candidate introductions will be translated into 14 languages and made available on the Democracy Voucher website once all translations have been received.

Click on the link for the Candidate Introduction Form.

Candidate Introduction Rules

Click on the link for a copy of the Rules for candidates submitting their Candidate Introduction.

SEEC F-1

All City of Seattle elected officials and candidates for Seattle City Office are required to file the Personal Financial Affairs Statement with the WA State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC form F-1) and a separate Seattle Statement of Personal Financial Affairs (SEEC form F-1) with the Seattle City Clerk.

Contact the PDC to file the PDC F-1.

SEEC F-1, F-1a, and F-1 Supplement can now be completed using your computer. The forms can be electronically signed and emailed to clerkfiling@seattle.gov. Or you can deliver a signed hardcopy to the Clerk at the address on the form.

Click on the links below for the Seattle forms.

SEEC form F-1

SEEC Form F-1 Supplement

SEEC form F-1a

 Please contact our office if you would like to obtain copies of these statements.

PDC and SEEC F-1 are due within two weeks of becoming a candidate or at the time you file the C1 -- whichever comes first. 

If you have questions about filling out either the PDC or SEEC F1, please refer to the PDC instructions on Completing The F-1.

Voters' Guide Submissions

Voters' Guide

NEW: Voters Pamphlet calendar for Seattle City Council and Ballot Issue Committees participating in the 2019 election.The Voters' Pamphlet Rules explain the process for submitting a Voters' Pamphlet statement and photo.

A searchable and browseable version of the current Voters Pamphlet Rules can be obtained from the Seattle City Clerk's web site.

Video Voters' Guide

The 2019 Primary Election Video Voters' Guide will begin airing on the Seattle Channel and streaming online here beginning in mid-July.

Production on the Primary Election Video Voters' Guide will take place weekdays beginning in mid-June. SEEC staff will contact campaigns after filing week in May to set up taping times.

Candidates for County Assessor, County Council, Seattle City Council, Port of Seattle candidates and Seattle School Board candidates will all be invited to participate. Issues that will appear on the ballot in 2019 have the opportunity to participate in the Seattle - King County Video Voters' Guide as well.

See VVG FAQs for more information.

Key dates and deadlines for the 2019 Voters' Pamphlet and Video Voters' Guide can be found in this handy Calendar.

Contact the SEEC for additional information, (206) 684-8500.

Non-Foreign Influence