You probably don’t need many more reasons to convince you that the 2020 election is SUPER important. But while you’re here, let me tell you about a really important issue on your ballot here in Washington: comprehensive sex education.
Referendum 90 (“R90”) is our opportunity to weigh in on a law that Washington lawmakers passed earlier this year. The law requires school districts to teach comprehensive, age-appropriate and inclusive sexual education. The curriculum varies significantly by grade, of course, but there are state standards for all K-12 students. This law will only go into effect if Washington voters (like you!) vote to APPROVE Referendum 90. Here are ten reasons why you should be pumped to support Referendum 90 on your ballot:
- Quality sex ed keeps young people safe. Young people who get a comprehensive sex education are less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, contract a sexually transmitted infection or have an unintended pregnancy. These are serious things and helping young folks avoid them is a big deal.
- R90 requires age appropriate education throughout K-12. Starting early means more time to learn, grow and understand important issues. Under R90, students in kindergarten and early grades focus on social-emotional learning. As students get older, the curriculum transitions to more mature and age appropriate topics covering sexual health, consent, STIs, and other topics.
- We NEED to teach young people about consent. Sexual assault and sexual violence are huge issues across our country, and especially among young people. Teaching youth the importance of consent, how to respect boundaries, how to ask for consent and how to understand withdrawing consent is a huge step in the right direction. This is a really important part of R90’s curriculum. R90 also includes lessons on bystander training and intervention.
- Our education needs to include LGBTQ+ youth in positive ways. Approving R90 means LGBTQ+ youth will be reflected positively in sexual health education. This is a valuable and impactful way to make our educational system more inclusive and to widen acceptance and respect among teachers and peers.
- R90 promotes racial equity. Students of color experience stigma and harmful stereotypes throughout our education system, and sex education is no different. Schools that teach disproportionately Black and Brown students are more likely to use abstinence-only education. Furthermore, students of color often experience increased societal stigma against their sexual freedom.
- Children at risk of abuse need a way to ask for help. R90 will keep children safer from abuse. Children who are being sexually abused often don’t understand what is happening until they are provided with the tools and language to communicate the situation with a trusted adult.
- This is about expanding access, not mandating it. Our community is safest and strongest when everyone has access to these lessons. That being said, R90 still allows parents to opt their children out of lessons if they choose to. This isn’t a state mandate, but rather an important expansion of access to critical lessons, information and growth.
- A ton of dope community orgs support R90! When our most trusted community organizations rally together to support a cause, you know it’s serious. R90 is endorsed by Washington Student Association, ACLU of Washington, Planned Parenthood, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Gender Justice League, Disability Rights Washington, Justice for Girls Coalition of Washington State, Northwest Progressive Institute, Sexual Violence Law Center, Washington State Association of School Psychologists and many others!
- Direct democracy is super cool and your voice matters. This one is a bit nerdy, but honestly who cares! We’re lucky to be in Washington where we have a lot of opportunities to weigh in on really, really big policies and issues as VOTERS. Every voter in Washington has the chance to support (or oppose) Referendum 90. A lot of states don’t work like this! We don’t need to call our lawmakers, go to Olympia, lobby, or anything like that. We vote. And if we vote to approve R90, young folks for generations to come will benefit from our decision to support sex ed!
- The Bus LOVES R90! It’s true! We’ve been working hard to get the vote out for R90 and remind young folks of why this referendum is SO important. Just the other night we texted over 25,000 young folks in one night about R90 (see pic below). If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a fan of the Bus and we think you should be a fan of R90 as well 🙂
Are you a new voter? Does everyone keep telling you to vote, but then forgetting to give you the details? ( We see you Facebook, Snapchat, and every Insta influencer ever). You’ve come to the right place. Let’s break it down.
How do I get registered to vote?
Registering to vote is *easy* in Washington State. You can do it online, with a Washington State ID, or in person (you’ll need a valid form of ID, like your social security card). Register online up until 8 days before election day, at www.registerinwa.org. This election season, that means the deadline is October 26th. If you’d like to check if you’re registered, or update your address, you can visit the voter portal at www.votewa.gov. In Washington, you can register in person all the way up to election day at a vote center. On election day, we have same day registration and voting, meaning you can go to a vote center, get registered, and vote, all in the same day.
Side note… where are the Vote Centers? And what can I expect if I visit one?
Vote centers are available across Washington to register new voters, update current voter records, obtain a voter registration card and to provide assistance to voters who need help completing their ballot. Trained staff and specialized equipment are available to help voters with disabilities cast a private, independent ballot. Each county has at least one Vote Center, which is often the elections office. Many counties also open additional Vote Centers when ballots drop, which is 18 days before election day (Oct 16th this year!). Those hours might vary. You can google “Washington State Vote Centers”, or “King County Voter Centers”, if you live in King County. Your county’s election department website will let you know location and hours.
Am I eligible to vote?
In order to register or pre-register to vote, you need to be 16 years old and a US Citizen, living in Washington State. Sixteen and 17 year olds can pre-register, meaning you’ll automatically be registered to vote when you turn 18.
Ok, I’m registered to vote. Where’s my ballot?
In Washington State, we ALL vote by mail. This means that your ballot will come to the address on your voter registration 18 days before the election. The Secretary of State’s website always has these dates easily available, by the way, so check them out: www.sos.wa.gov. This is why it’s so important to check that your voter registration lists your current address, and update it if not! Again, you can do that at votewa.gov, or at a Vote Center. Did you miss the deadline to update your address, and really don’t want to go to a vote center? The voter portal (again, www.votewa.gov) let’s you print out your ballot. You can also track your ballot there, so you can see when it was sent to you, and when you return it, you can check if it was counted.
I got my Ballot. IT IS SO LONG. How do I figure out what to vote for?
Even pets like the Voter’s pamphlet.
You are right. It is long. In Washington State, we sometimes have up to SEVEN elections a year, depending on where you live, and the ballot can be three pages long, or more. Every voter gets sent a voter pamphlet by the Secretary of State, contains an explanation of the positions up for election on the ballot, and statements from each candidate. For referendums and initiatives, it contains an official explanation and a statement from each campaign stating why they think you should vote no, or yes.
Looking for more info? Another thing to do is check out voter guides. Local newspapers do voter guides and endorsements, issue based organizations do voter guides, and you could even check out local activists and media folks on social media. Fuse does a progressive voters guide, and issue based organizations like Washington Conservation Voters ( who are all about voting in green candidates) release a list of endorsements. The Washington Bus does the same. These are kind of like a cheat sheet – if you think that the organization that released the voter guide represents your values, it can be a good sign if they endorse your candidate or ballot measure. It’s always a good idea to check out several, and do your own research if you have time.
Depending on the year, you could be voting for representation at the federal level, like President, and at the state level, like your Governor and your state Senator. We vote at the county level for your County Executive (like the mayor of your county) and your county council representatives, and at the city level, for Mayor. You could vote for your School Board Representative, who controls so much about how education is funded and implemented, or your City Council-member, who passes municipal laws and helps control how city taxes are spent. Judges control how the criminal justice system is enforced, and can have huge influence on the school to prison pipeline.
Ballot measures are piece of proposed legislation which voters decide on. They are sometimes about implementing a local tax for specific funding, or they could be about implementing a law. Proposition 1, which is on the Seattle Ballot, implements a sales tax to fund public transportation (whoooo Buses!). Referendum 90 asks voters to decide whether comprehensive sex education should be implemented in K-12 schools.
The bottom line is, you don’t have to vote for everything on the ballot – it’s your ballot. However, these local officials and local ballot measures often impact our daily lives so much – everything from whether your community has good public transportation, to if local businesses thrive, to testing requirements in schools. If you’re wondering who these elected officials are, because you’ve never heard of them – that could be a red flag. How much outreach are they doing to your community? Are they passing laws that benefit you and your neighbors? Making sure you vote with your values is the best way to change how local government works and who it represents.
Alright, I filled out my ballot. Are you sure it will be counted?
Heck yeah! You’re on it. Your ballot needs to be filled out in black or blue pen, and you need to make sure it is signed. Your signature needs to match either the signature on your driver’s license or ID, or the signature on your voter registration. Making sure your phone number or email is on your voter registration gives your county elections department a chance to contact you if for some reason your ballot gets flagged because your signature doesn’t match. You can add that information at the voter portal (votewa.gov), or go to a vote center to update your signature.
How do I turn in my ballot?
You can either put your ballot in the mail, no postage required, or put it in a ballot drop box. Every county has a map of where drop boxes are located. For King County, that map is here, and for Pierce County, that map is here. Often they are located at local community centers, libraries, on college campuses, etc.
You need to make sure your ballot is postmarked by Nov 3rd (election day) (meaning the post office received it and marked it as received that day) or put it in a Ballot drop box by 8pm Nov 3rd.
Ok, I did it. That was stressful. How can I make it more fun?
Washington Bus Staff and Friends, getting their vote on!
Call your friends! Do it together (over facetime? #pandemictimes). Get your neighbors to walk to your local ballot box together. Voting is something that our whole community can be a part of – even if you’re not eligible to vote – by reminding and educating each other about the importance of voting in every election.
Congratulations, you did it. Now go remind three friends to vote. You’re amazing for making it through and adding your voice to the ballot box.
Other good things to know:
- Folks with felonies can vote in WA. You need to re-register, and you have to no longer be in community custody (under the authority of the Department of Corrections, or on parole). Check out more details on the SOS website, here.
- Voting with a disability? Accessible Voting Units are available at each Vote Center. Find out more here. You can request reasonable accommodation from the Elections office, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By Michael Ninen, Washington Bus Summer Fellow
When I talk to my friends about voting, too often I hear that they do not plan on voting in an election because the person they wanted to represent them didn’t win and make it to the November general election ballot. A big argument against voting in the upcoming November election is dissatisfaction coming from a system that undermines the votes of many in the primaries. For example, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders were removed from the ballot, which essentially voided their votes. It doesn’t feel great when a system that is already lacking in its representation ends up leaving out many of those who may want to participate. While it is important to vote within the current system, that doesn’t mean we can’t actively work to change said system. You may be wondering; how can we change that? FairVote Washington, a non-profit advocacy organization, believes that they have the solution.
FairVote Washington is an advocacy organization that is fed up with the current way our voting system works. They advocate for ranked choice voting and they want to bring it to our home state. Ranked choice voting is actually a system used all around the world successfully to properly represent the population. Here’s how it works in simple terms. With ranked choice voting, voters have the opportunity to rank in order of preference who is on the ballot. If there is no overwhelming majority, then the candidate with the least amount of support is removed from the ballot and a second round is conducted. Instead of throwing out the votes of a lost candidate, like those from smaller political parties, they get a second choice to voice their support. If your top choice is removed, your vote is then moved over to your second choice. This process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes. There are no lost votes in this system.
A Call to Action:
If ranked choice voting interests you, then you can support FairVote Washington in launching this same system in our state. You can find out more about ranked choice voting and FairVote Washington’s chapter on their Website fairvotewa.org. While this blog briefly looks into the basics of this voting system; it does not cover the complexities of how it should work in complete detail. To find out more please visit their website and, if you so please, sign the petition to launch this voting system here.
In The Patriot Act on Netflix, Hasan Minhaj talks about ranked choice voting. Watch the 30-minute segment at this link to hear more about why our current voting system needs to change!
By JaNaya Hall
From the moment I can remember Seafair has been a high point in all my summers. Let’s talk about a summer without Seafair.
The Beginning Of An Era?
From the moment the famous virus known as “Ms. Rona” arrived, I’m sure no one expected it to linger this long and certainly not to scare this country as much as it has over the months.
Since Corona, our communities as a whole in Seattle have faced so much heartbreak and hurt, from police brutality, all the way to being quarantined for nearly four months. Though we understand the importance of the Stay at Home Stay Healthy order, it has definitely impacted the mental health of our youth not being able to be social, see friends, or enjoy the summer we were all looking forward to. Since its arrival in July of 1972, Seafair has had ahuge effect on the Seattle community and has always been known for the big crowds. Obviously with our current health crisis, big crowds can no longer be. One might ask, “why couldn’t there be virtual Seafair festivities?” I know I did. With that being said, here are some questions you could ask yourself, as well as activities to stay both physically and mentally healthy.
Could the future of our summers really be all in our hands? What could you do?
- Limit social gatherings
- Social distance
- 6 feet apart
- Air hugs 🙂
- Elbow taps
- Sanitize after touching things others might’ve touched
- Wear your mask anytime your outside your household and around others
- Find new indoor activities
- Learn a new language
- Learn a new recipe
- Try new foods
- Play some board games or imessage games
- Work on mental health
- Get a therapist/find resources
- Accept your feelings and sit with them but don’t let them consume you
- Focus on the present
- Write down your feelings and try to understand them
- STAY HOME, STAY HEALTHY!
- Get involved with ‘Defund The Police’
- Sign petitions
- Share links to petitions on your social media
- Take this beyond a hashtag & continue the fight when the “trend” doesn’t
- Listen to your Black and POC friends on what you can do as an ally
- Take walks
- Volunteer with The Bus!!!
Although this may be frustrating, it is not impossible. This summer, in the Washington Bus Fellowship I have learned how to expand my mind as well as an understanding of what it is to appreciate your community. This may be long, but I assure you, we’ll be back soon!
Written by: Megan Thao, Washington Bus Fellow July 21st, 2020
Whether you are coming into the age of voting or you haven’t exercised your right to vote before, here’s why you should vote in the Primaries this year!
What are the Primaries?
The Primary Election is the race that leads to the General Election. Your vote in the Primaries dictates who is going to be on the ballot for the General Election. Your ballot will also include nominations for your state legislatures, state Governor and plenty of other local officials awaiting your vote. Ballots went out July 17th and stay open until August 4th!
YOU SHOULD! Primaries allow you to choose who you want to vote for in the General Election, allowing you to take part in the statewide change that will happen after the election of the next President. The Primaries also affect you locally. The local officials you vote for will be the ones controlling your state’s budget, advocating for your state’s schools, and even affecting your state’s parks and recreation. Voting in the Primaries allows you to build the community you want to live in.
I’m ready to vote, what do I need to do?
- Make sure you are registered to vote!
- Do your research! Take accountability and learn about the candidates, statewide and locally. You can also reflect on the issues you care about and see how different candidates align with what you value.
- Put the pressure on your friends and community to vote. Every vote counts and what matters to you should be heard!
Written by Miki Kusunose, High School Bus Volunteer
We are pumped to announce The Washington Bus’ first round of endorsements! These candidates are advocating for a future we believe in and are empowering young people every step of the way.
T’Wina Nobles– State Senator, LD 28 (parts of Tacoma, Firecrest, University Place, Lakewood, Steilacoom, DuPont)
Running for State Senate in Legislative District 28, the current President of the Tacoma Urban League and two-time University Place School Board Director is pushing for access to quality education, workers’ rights, empowerment of women and girls, and addressing the housing crisis in her campaign.
She champions working with the community: “I will not create policy that is attempting to deal with discrimination due to race, ability, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression without ensuring that there are activists, community members, and organizations at the table in partnership.”
With experience in education, Nobles advocates for the voices of youth. She wants to ensure all students have their voices heard and pursues equity in the education system. As a co-founder of Ladies First, a program supporting young women in schools, she wants to elevate and amplify the voices of women. Nobles seeks to serve her community as she channels her experience from previous community work, from the Poverty Action Network to Multicare’s West Region Mary Bridge Board.
Jamila Taylor– State Representative LD 30 (Federal Way, Des Moines, Auburn, Algona, Pacific, Milton)
Taylor seeks to represent Legislative District 30 as a State Representative. As a business owner, attorney, and a consultant to businesses and nonprofits, she believes the state needs leaders who can address the “shared concerns about post-COVID-19 economic recovery, homelessness and affordable housing, public safety, health care, and equity.”
“I believe that despite Washington’s attempt to be a progressive region, the vestiges of racially discriminatory practices and policies still have impact on communities of color.” Taylor continues: “My presence as a woman of color in the state legislature is not enough. I must be willing to have the difficult, and critical conversations, in public AND behind the scenes.”
Taylor believes incorporating the voice of youth is critical to politics and strives to embody that ideal in her campaign for State Representative: “ I support a fair and equal democracy and will urge all of my constituents towards civic engagement.”
Mari Leavitt– State Representative LD 28 (parts of Tacoma, Firecrest, University Place, Lakewood, Steilacoom, DuPont
As a champion of health care, Leavitt strives to address inequities in her community. Leavitt is running for State Representative of Legislative District 28. Her experience as a State Representative, a PTSA leader, a business owner, and a mother makes Leavitt a multi-faceted community leader.
“As a daughter of a Japanese mother and mother of two African American children, and one who has lived in multicultural environments as a military kid, I’m especially aware of the critical nature that equity is to health, education, and employment options for the success of disadvantaged young people. Every decision I make is viewed through a lens of equity for communities.”
Leavitt values the voice of youth in the community: she has worked with college leadership groups to increase civic engagement and co-founded the Community and Technical College Student Voice Academy. Her experience as Vice Chair of the College and Workforce Development Committee let her listen to the voices of student leaders from across the state.
Jesse Johnson– State Representative LD 30 (Federal Way, Des Moines, Auburn, Algona, Pacific, Milton)
As one of the youngest figures in the State Legislature, Johnson advocates for young voters: ” I think having the perspectives of more young people in elected offices and other positions of power is essential if we are going to address the challenges facing young people — affordability, education, and opportunity and the global challenge of addressing climate change.”
He channels his experience as a community leader and council member in Federal Way as he works to address the disproportionate effects of climate change on low income communities, continues to support De-Escalate WA for gun reform, and pledges to fight for criminal justice reforms.
Johnson carries a plethora of experience when it comes to involving youth in politics. He currently works as a Staffing Analyst in Workforce Planning and Development for Highline Public Schools and has committed countless hours in organizing youth forums, youth violence prevention programs, and providing apprenticeship/post-secondary education opportunities.
Marko Liias– Lieutenant Governor (Statewide!)
The current State Senator to the 21st Legislative District now seeks to run for Lieutenant Governor. As the first millennial elected to State Office himself, Liias is a fervent advocate for incorporating young voices in today’s world of politics.
Liias channels his commitment to serving the youth and translates it into legislative action: “I have put an emphasis on the issues that matter to young people in Washington, including higher education and debt reform, increased wages, and investments in a clean energy future.”
As one who identifies as LGBTQ+ as well as a white man, he has used his experience and understanding of his position to represent the voices of Washingtonians that are often marginalized and underrepresented. He is a member of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, which addresses affordable housing and homelessness, has helped create the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, and champions mental/behavioral health measures, along with many others. Liias writes: “I am a proud, lifelong Washingtonian. I would not be who I am or what I am, without this place. As I take this next step, I am more committed than ever to expanding opportunity and building on the progress we have made together.”