What the Vote? The Guide to Voting in WA for Young Voters

What the Vote? The Guide to Voting in WA for Young Voters

Leila is the Communications and Outreach Coordinator at the Bus. She’s passionate about making sure voting works for all of us.

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. 

 

Do you even vote, bro?

Do you even vote, bro?

This week’s Hella Bus Blog Thirsty Thursday post is all about elections! #knowledgeresponsibly

This week was a big week for democracy with primary election day on August 2nd at the center of it all!

We have some big races happening around the state and in King County from picking a new Seattle mayor to determining control of the state senate in the 45th district (Check out results from election night here). At a time when many young people feel like national politics is kind of like a montage of The Real World and musical chairs, getting down with local elections gives us the opportunity to connect with candidates and vote for people who will have a huge impact on our day-to-day lives (also, this is how we get free churros every Friday from City Hall #amiright? OR #amiright?)

Anyway, let’s talk about how many people voted (aka: turnout) – non-presidential and primary elections aren’t exactly known for hella people busting out to vote and it looks like this year isn’t exactly a combo breaker. Statewide turnout is at 20% (King County coming in at 33%) of registered voters, and with the average age of primary voters statewide being 62 years old (#tbh, I’m a bit disappointed).

That’s why the Bus spent the last few months out meeting young people and helping them register to vote at music festivals, college campuses, and community events! We reached thousands of young people all over Washington in-person and followed up with them through phone calls and our brand spankin’ new text outreach system! It helped us reach out to and remind young people to vote in a way that we hadn’t be able to do before. We even had Komo News stop by the office to learn more about it!

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, November 7th! We have the general election coming up and it’s coming in hot! You have plenty of time to register to vote, if you missed the primary voter registration deadline! You can head to registerinwa.org and reach out to us if you have any questions on how to register to vote, or how you can get involved to help other young people turnout on election day!

Get Out That Vote!

Get Out That Vote!

Thirsty Thursday blog post reminding you to VOTE! #knowledgeresponsibly

The deadline to vote for the primary election is August 1st. Don’t forget to mail your ballot or drop it in a nearby dropbox!

Your vote really matters – in state and local elections just a few hundred votes can make the difference. If you live in Seattle, you’ll be helping to narrow down a crowded mayoral primary from 21 candidates down to 2! Plus, voting to determine whether we should create and fund a cultural access program expanding students and underserved populations’ access to arts, science, and heritage programming in King County, as well as voting on a county Executive and city councilmembers.

The Bus was out this weekend doing our part to make sure young people are turning out for elections large and small.

In order to make politics fun and accessible, we meet young folks where they are – and sometimes that means music festivals! This past weekend the Bus brought out Fellows, interns, and a ton of volunteers to canvass at Capitol Hill Block Party, making sure young folks at the festival were registered to vote and reminding them to turn in their ballots.

In the booth we had a station to make your own buttons, candy, and make-your-own-meme cutouts. While people learned about the Bus and had some fun with us, we made sure their voter registration was up to date, reminded them to turn their ballots in, and engaged them around voting access issues with a survey gauging public support for several strategies that can make voting easier, such as pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds, automatic voter registration, pre-paid postage, same-day voter registration and language accessibility. By gathering information on the survey, we hope that we can impact the voting systems and make it more accessible. *And it turns out emojis are a very effective tool of measurement everyone can relate to.

Many people consider politics to be something serious and unapproachable, and we want to break down barriers that prevent people from fully participating in our democracy. We can express our values, achieve our goals, and make our communities better through voting. While we tackle serious issues, we still want to make sure people associate politics with something fun, something they want to be a part of.

Here I ask again, please get out to vote! Voting matters to you. Voting matters to the community. Voting matters to the entire city and state. Let’s make our voices heard!

This blog post was written by the Bus’s Duke Engage interns, Debra and Anqi.

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

Guest Post: 6 Things I Learned from Running a Fake Mayoral Campaign

This week’s special edition of Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by former Bus staffer, Candidate Survivor 2017 panelist, and current CID Public Safety Coordinator Sonny Nguyen. #knowledgeresponsibly

Everybody in this city is running for mayor. Back in May, after Mayor Murray withdrew his campaign for reelection, mayoral candidacies became more ubiquitous than fidget spinners. Seriously, from Larry “Oh Boy!” Oberto to the guy who Nazi salutes the city councilmembers, we have enough mayoral candidates in this city to fill a usually nearly-empty First Hill Streetcar.

Now, I am nothing if not a trendspotter. After much consideration, I decided I couldn’t be the only person in Seattle without a campaign launch party. Imagine the embarrassment! So, as anyone would do, I jokingly announced a write-in campaign to run for mayor.

Photo Credit: The Evergreen State College

At least, it started out as a joke. And then things got weird. Since then, it’s become a weird performance art piece about the state of municipal elections because I went to Evergreen and that’s just what happens for us. (I think my entire college was just an elaborate performance art piece about academia or something..)

Anyway, throughout the last two months of fake-campaigning for real-life mayor, here are the things I’ve learned about running for office.

1. Running for office is super expensive.

It can costs upwards of half a million dollars to win a mayoral race in Seattle. For those of us in student loan debt, that number looks like this: $500,000. Where does that money go? Campaign staff and consultants, mailers, facilities rentals for events, all kinds of stuff. In fact, filing to run for mayor can cost about $2,000 alone. Unfortunately, I did not have $500k waiting to be spent (see above re: student loan debt) but neither do most people running for office. That’s why we have programs like the democracy vouchers for use in municipal (i.e. city) races, to close the gap between people who have or can raise that kind of money and people who don’t have as much easy access to that kind of money.

Photo Credit: Fuse WA

(My only disappointment with the program is that Democracy Vouchers don’t come in lower denominations, making us mostly unable to make it rain stacks on candidates.)

Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I have years of practice living on a shoestring budget. I printed my hundreds of campaign stickers on Avery nametags that I got from Prime Now with a coupon code and gift card. I got over 100 bottles of beer donated to me for my campaign launch party. I borrowed a button maker to make campaign buttons. I printed my yard signs on the biggest sheets of paper my office’s printer could handle, and gluesticked them on to cut up boxes that once held ice cream sandwiches. All in all, I spent about $80 on my campaign materials, that’s a total saving so far of $794,657 compared to Ed Murray’s 2013 campaign.

 

2. I am excellent at campaigning.

I worked with the Washington Bus for about 10 years, so I knew my way around a campaign. I’ve spent many summers surrounded by stressed out candidates and campaign managers, and I’ve gotta say this was much easier than I thought. Maybe it’s because I’m not trying to win, but most of campaigning was just hanging out at events and being charming. Aside from filling out surveys and raising money, it’s pretty much just flirting with an entire city and I am an excellent flirt.

Photo Credit: CityArts

< But probably not as good a flirt as City Council Position 8 candidate, Dr. Hisam Goueli. Woof.

A lot of campaigning is learning how to make any conversation about you and what you can do. As someone who grew up in a household with seven other kids, this comes naturally. When you’re competing for attention with that many other people, you either learn to be proud of your own accomplishments or seek out new ways to gain external validation. And I ran a fake campaign for mayor, so you can guess which path I chose.

But this isn’t a blog post about my childhood development. This is a blog about Hisam Goueli’s delts. Or something.

 

3. Campaign events don’t need to be stuffy and boring.

Not every campaign event needs to be a no-host cocktail hour where strangers have to make small talk or a listening session in a rented conference room. And not every candidate forum needs to be the same questions with the same audience.

Were you at Candidate Survivor? If you were, I don’t need to explain this to you. If you weren’t, well, #vapeflute explains it all.

4. There’s no excuse for ugly campaign aesthetics.

Can we talk about this? Can we talk about how boring campaign materials look? My graphic design experience peaked at high school Yearbook Editor, and yet I must say I’ve got some of the best campaign materials of any candidate – real or otherwise. I made them on Canva! The free version!

(This post not sponsored by Canva. But it can be. Hit me up, Canva marketing team.)

 

 5. Seattle wants young progressive candidates.

You would think that with 21 people making it to the ballot, we would have enough variety in candidates to call ourselves covered for the mayor’s race. It turns out people were actually super stoked to hear my (fake) announcement. Before finding out it was fake, people were offering to host fundraisers and events for me, connect me to possible endorsements, and even pay my filing fee!

And only partly because I’m incredibly charming. It was mostly because Seattle needs more young progressive candidates. Yes, we have a few already in this race and in others this year. Still, I learned you can never have too many passionate young people with a vision for the city’s future.

All across the state this year, we’ve seen amazing young candidates running for office. From Seattle School Boards to Federal Way City Council and beyond, we’re running tough races to make a difference (and almost all of them real!). It counters the mythos that millennials are dispassionate selfish jerks who only care about MTV skinny jeans and killing the diamond industry by saying “Look. We’re here and we love our local communities and we have these great ideas about how to make it better. Also we apparently don’t by napkins and I guess that’s a problem.

A packed Neumos full of mostly Millenials, ready to meet their candidates instead of playing golf.

6. You should run for office.

I mean, why not? We’ve created this idea that a candidate has to know everything about everything, but candidates are real humans who are constantly learning about the issues and building teams of experts around them. You know how to do that. You know how to make friends, be charming, and speak from the heart.

There are people and organizations out there that will donate to your campaign. There are people and organizations out there that want to hear your ideas for improving your community. You can ask your county elections office what seats will be opening up next year and start planning now, or reach out to organizations like unions, churches, or Amplify for resources. Amplify, as stated on their website, “recruits, trains, elects, and supports progressive champions for state and local office in the Northwest, prioritizing people of color, women, young people, and LGBTQ candidates.”

Sure, I didn’t actually run for office this time around. The most important thing I learned, however, is that the idea of my candidacy isn’t absurd enough to be an obvious joke. It’s a plausibility, a possibility, and with each passing day, a growing likelihood. I know now more than ever that you don’t run for office because you think you’re the best person for the job. You run for office because you know that the communities you’re a part of and that you have connections with, they deserve a voice. You run because there are issues that need to be talked about and nobody else will start those conversations. You run because if you don’t, who’s like you that will?

So do it. Run a mayoral campaign on $80 or raise $800,000. Run for school board. Run for Insurance Commissioner (10 years in politics, still barely understand what the job does). Your community is waiting for you.

As more and more amazing young people run for office, I become more and more sure that together, #WeCanNguyen.

8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Voting in Washington State

8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Voting in Washington State

Voting! You turn 18 and BAM! Everyone you know is doing it.

In this case, I think we’ll all agree that a little peer pressure is a good thing. You vote, but how much do you know about it? Here are a few quick facts to get you started.

1. Women didn’t have the vote in Washington State until 1910.

And that was progressive! Here’s to 104 years of gals with ballots. Being the 5th state to o grant those rights, the rest of the country didn’t catch up until 1920.  Women nearly had the vote in 1854, but the movement was overturned by one vote. Sometimes one vote can make all the difference.

2. The first Washington State voters pamphlet was published in 1914.

Nowadays, the pamphlet is distributed to 3,000,000 households for voting in the General elections. Here’s to 100 years of non-spam, informative mail!

3. Before 1971, the voting age was 21.

In 1971, the Constitution was amended for the 26th time and the voting age was changed to 18 across our fair country. Why you ask? The Vietnam War. People were getting a little riled up about the fact that you could be put in the army at 18, but you couldn’t use your civil liberties to make your voice heard in politics.

4. The average age of an off-year, primary voter in Washington is 62.

Do you remember what you were doing in July and August of 2013? I know your grandparents do. So remember as you cast your ballot this November – there’s an election, every year, two or three times per year. (And yes, each one is important definitely counts.)

5. Washington State is one of two states to be completely vote by mail.

Since 2012 there are absolutely 0 polling locations in the Evergreen State. Ballots are sent out about two and a half weeks before the election. Voters have until the first Tuesday in November (#ElectionDay #Nov4th2014) to either mail their ballots in, or find their nearest ballot dropbox.

6. Voters are increasingly identifying as Independent.

This really depends on whom you ask, and at what time, since people tend to identify differently closer to election time and in off years. However, in an Elway Foundation study looking at a 20-year average, almost 40% of voters identified as independent.

7. In 2012, Washington State had the highest voter turnout in the nation.

Issues such as Referendum 74 (legalization of same sex marriage) and Marijuana Legalization, plus the fact that it was a presidential election year, drew a record number of voters to the polls.

8. In 2013, voter turnout was the weakest in a decade.

This was despite ballots being mailed out to every voter, making it more convenient to vote by mail. Let’s all forget this happened and make 2014 so much better.

Let’s make 2014 another record year. You should have received your ballot by now. If you haven’t, contact your county elections department ASAP for a replacement. You can find that information here.

Otherwise, pull that ballot out from under all those magazines on your kitchen table, whip out a blue or black pen, get busy filling in what may seem like a multitude of little circles, stick a stamp on that baby, and march out to your mailbox to exercise your civil liberties (and your legs).

Go. I said go. Yes now. Or at least by November 4th. Happy Voting, y’all.

This blog post was written by Leila Reynolds, sophomore at the UW and Volunteer Coordinator with the 2014 Fall Internship.

Hope For The New American Electorate

Hope For The New American Electorate

It’s always bizarre to see the political phenomenon you learn about in class manifest outside in the field. This weekend I got an up close and heartbreaking look into why politics work how they work.

This weekend the YVEC campaign took to Broadway street in the lovely city of Tacoma in a valiant effort to get all of its eligible residents registered to vote. Walking around Tacoma pride, I myself was encouraged to see droves of queer brown youth, out and proud. What would happen if all these beautiful people were registered and excited to vote, I thought? What kind of world would we live in then!

The afternoon went on and although the sun seemed to follow us more closely, voter registrations were piling up at our booth. Yet my excitement and energy to register members of the new American electorate: young people, queer identified people, people of color, low income residents and young single women, began to dwindle. Time after time again I ran into Black folk, queer identified folk, youth folk and any combination of them, who did not believe their vote would count.

One particular incident with a black man gave me a glimpse of how severely these communities were impacted by years of under representation in politics. I asked him if he was registered to vote, and he told me he was not. Disheartened, I moved on but he called me back and continued on to explain why he did not think Black people even had a place to vote when they had years and years of oppression they had yet to overcome. I tried to tell him what we were doing at the Bus and how we thought we could change that, but he was not the first or second or even the third individual of color I tried to engage who expressed that sentiment. I decided to put down my clipboard, sit down and hear what he had to say.

At the end, he did not register, but I got his name, thanked him for his time, and we agreed to disagree. During the entire 15 minute conversation I watched as one of my fellow fellows registered 2-3 enthusiastic older white voters and wondered if I had wasted my time. Later, during a debrief conversation with Karter (our field leader and Fellows Staff member), he told me that although many individuals do feel disillusioned with voting, sometimes it’s not about convincing them to register. Sometimes it’s about taking the time to listen and understand why they feel the way they do.
Although this interaction got me to think significantly about what work is actually possible in changing the dynamics in politics, I did leave Tacoma with hope. Earlier on that day, I managed to register a voter, a young black man who Karter had spent a while trying to register. I knew he only registered with me because he was trying to flirt with me but still. The fact that he was more comfortable registering with a young black girl rather than (no shade) Karter, says we got something right about who should be out here doing this work. If we see people like us encouraging us to do something, it might not erase years of disillusionment – but, sometimes, that might be just the trick. And we have to keep trying until all the young queer black folk are registering all the other young queer black folk. Until then, no ask has gone to waste.

This blog post was written by Gladys Gitau, 2014 Bus Fellow and Campaign Manager for the Youth Voter Engagement Campaign (YVEC), a campaign aimed to engage the new American electorate by registering young voters as well as underrepresented voters.