Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Our Favorite Made-Up Holiday of the Year!

Okay Washington, now that our true favorite seasons has arrived….

we have some important things on our to-do list. After you figure out your fall look and come to terms with that reading list you’ve been neglecting all summer, we need to talk about about a v. important holiday coming up.

No, no, you still have months to figure out your Halloween costume.

I want to talk to you about National Voter Registration Day (NVRD). NVRD is exactly the kind of holiday it sounds like. It’s an opportunity to register to vote, update your registration and remind your friends, family and community to do the same. You may have heard about one of the Bus’ favorite holidays from our friend President Obama. But maybe you haven’t and you’re wondering why we need a holiday to encourage folks to register to vote. If that’s the case, you’ve come to just the pithy blog to fill you in.

In 2014 alone there were 1,454,738 Washingtonians that were of voting age that didn’t register to vote and weren’t able to participate in last year’s election. Of course voting excludes our immigrant, refugee, undocumented and formerly incarcerated friends, family and communities. But for those that do have access to register to vote, we want to make sure that no one misses an opportunity to participate in an election in Washington State. We all do better when everyone can participate in our democracy. We have so many important decisions ahead of us as a state: funding for public education, moving climate justice forward, banning reparative therapy, and addressing the housing accessibility crisis. You know, just to name a few small things we need to tackle.

Every year in the state of Washington, 96,000 people turn 18. That’s a lot of people who need to register to vote.

If you care about those things or are moved by our impressive .gif collection, knowledge of pop and sports ball things, there are a few things you can do to help us spread the word on NVRD:

  1. Take a look at the Bus’ Facebook page and share our posts. Be sure to use the hashtag #celebrateNVRD
  2. Spread the online voter registration link via social media. In the state of Washington you can register online. Fancy, huh? Check it out: registerinwa.org

You can check out what’s happening in Washington state on National Voter Registration day here on this handy map. If you have any questions or want to get involved send me an email at contact@washingtonbus.org.

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.

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 3

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 3

This is the final installment of a series by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person. Check our part 1 and 2 here and here respectively.

Election Day is here!

Voting is an individual act of pure power; that’s one of the things I’m learning as a first time voter. It’s like we’re a group of millions of ants, all collectively working together, pulling a giant leaf of citizenship to make it to the top of a political anthill. That anthill is not a candidate being voted into office or a law being passed; the top of that anthill is our collective voter registry, our unified willingness to show up for our country and make the best of this democracy. I feel a greater responsibility now to hold my fellow citizens accountable to step up and utilize their personal power. After completing my last phone call tonight, I feel a deep sense of empowerment that I’d participated in the process. In a small way, I was able to contribute to tangible democracy and make a difference.

So what did I learn in this journey of first-time voting in the past few weeks that I will apply the next time around when I’m going a second-time voter?

Show Up.
Mark my calendar and make time and space to show up and be at the town halls, candidate meet-and-greets, and local debates. I was quite puzzled by the amount of judges and some of the positions that were elected into office on my ballot: insurance commissioner anyone? I want to show up and personally get to know these people who are vying for my vote.

Ask Questions.

There are so many things I still have questions on after filling out my ballot! I would make more time to get all my questions, concerns, and critiques addressed. Though I did do my due diligence and read through the materials and made my decision based on multiple sources, asking and having more of my questions answered  would’ve made me feel a little bit more confident about my decisions.
Participate.
I participated this time by phone banking. Next time, I would try some door-to-door canvasing, go to more group events, and find more opportunities to participate and advocate for issues and candidates I believe in.

Decide & Conquer.
My ballot is filled, and I’m not sure if you can tell from the picture in my second post, it was a very hard series of decisions. Making an informed choice, then sticking with it, was no easy feat. Maybe that’s why they make us do it in black ink pen. There are no second chances or guesses when it comes to voting—you get one vote to pen in what you believe and hope that it sticks and makes a dent in our democracy. I hope that next time around, I feel much more of a sense of conquering and completion when I’m done with my ballot.

Party!
The Facebook feed and my Gmail are infiltrated with invites to election parties.  Where have I been all these years? I’ve never attended an election party before, and by the sounds of it, there’s going to be big celebration in Seattle tomorrow. Parties are being hosted at the homes of politicians, in hotel lobbies, at banquet halls, restaurants, ballrooms, and music venues! What a great summation to the democratic process…working really hard to rally for what we believe in, then collectively celebrating when the ballots are in. That’s potentially the greatest thing about being a voter: we’re individually free and have the right to contribute to a collective, fair, and equal process in this country—and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

This whole voting journey takes alot more time than I’d thought from my first post. In answering the question I’d posed for myself, am I a good citizen? I feel like I’m one step closer by submitting my first ballot and doing everything in my power to be as informed as I possibly can in making each decision. I feel more obligated to encourage others to research, understand the impact and power of their vote, and to show up and submit their ballot. The true answer is that a good citizen is someone who strives to continually be a better citizen.  There’s always more we can do to fulfill our civic duties.

See you next time, fellow ballot conquerers!

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 2

Guest Blog! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 2

This is installment #2 of a new series by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person. Check our part 1 here.

Read & Research

This next step is perhaps the most crucial in the journey of voting and good citizenship: reading and researching about the issues and the candidates.

Since you heard from me last, I survived Hurricane Sandy and the many trains, planes, and automobiles as a part of a LA-NYC-Boston-Detroit-Seattle extravaganza. I’m also in between deadlines for community and professional commitments, and of course, am completely behind on finding that perfect poem to read during the ceremony at my friend’s destination-wedding next week. I get it, we’re busy.

Young people are caught between our balancing ambition, reality, budgetary and time constraints, being there for our family and friends, answering a deep desire to make a difference in shaping our local and global communities, and seeking strategic ways to get into that not-so-secret Macklemore & Ryan Lewis show. How do we fit voting into this equation?

It’s less than a week until Election Day (Nov. 6), and a second Voters’ Pamphlet greeted me when I opened my neglected mailbox after my week away. They call this one, the King County Local Voters’ Pamphlet, apparently it’s different than the State of Washington Voters’ Pamphlet I’d received the week prior. Most of my more experienced-voter friends have already posted humble-brag Facebook photos of their completed ballot, with snapshots of their choice political candidates and ballot measures. With my trip, and the limited time on my hands with all the things I’m balancing, I’m a bit behind. I also don’t want others’ biases to affect my own voting opinion. Voting is a new freedom of mine, as I’d mentioned extensively in my first post, I don’t want to mess it up by being easily influenced. So where do I find unbiased information?

It’s a much more nuanced and difficult question than I’d imagined. In order to choose my candidates and be informed about these ballot measures, I have very finite options to get objective information, most people merely scoffed and laughed at me when I’d asked for unbiased voters’ resources:

  • Voter’s Pamphlet. The pros: It’s sent to my door, both State and County versions are available online, and has everything covered. The cons: It’s lengthy, and allows candidates, initiatives, and ballot measures to describe things in their own words, how can that possibly be objective?
  • The Municipal League. The pros: objective grading system of everything from candidates to ballot measures, all available online. Full disclaimer: I have multiple friends on their board, and have volunteered with the candidate evaluation process in the past before I became a citizen, so have some vague familiarity and recollection. Cons: It’s yet another set of information I have to sludge through.
  • Blogs and the Media. The pros: Up-to-date coverage with multiple perspectives on multiple platforms that I can read and catch up on my many devices. The cons: As a journalism graduate, I’ve been ingrained with a lot of idealism about objectivity, but we all know that most media outlets have political agendas, and even the most objective ones tend to lean a little to the left or right. Many people pointed me to The Stranger’s Cheat Sheet as a Seattleite and because of my age, though it’s definitely not objective (and, to it’s credit, very openly so). Others mentioned The Atlantic, and Publicola which, while certainly not without biases, strive for a more objective and centrist voice.
  • Other resources: family, friends, mentors, community members, my Facebook and Twitter feed. Pros: I trust, and have real rapport and relationships with them. Cons: They’re human and come with their own set of biases and beliefs, which may nullify the quest of getting objective informants.

So what do I do and whom do I trust for my research and information? My approach is going to be a combination of the aforementioned, browsing through the voters’ pamphlets, checking out what the Muni League has to say, paying attention to what’s trending on major local and national media outlets and blogs, and of course, keeping a close ear on the ground and eye on my feed of what my friends and family are saying.

Next post…Show Up & Question.

Guest Post! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 1

Guest Post! My Tam’s Guide to Citizenship and First Time Voting Pt. 1

This post was written by My Tam Nguyen, friend of the Bus and all around awesome person:

Are you a good citizen?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for the past three months. I was born in Vietnam, a country not known for its democratic process. The first eight years of my life were spent in a fishing village. I did not grow up with running water, running toilets, or electricity, much less a culture of democracy, voting, or civic engagement. I immigrated to the United States in 1992, and 20 years later, I’m finally a citizen.


Wooooooo!

I currently volunteer in the community and work in community engagement, you’d think that I would know how this political stuff works by now. Somehow my involvement always felt distanced from the foray of power and political play and process. Secretly, I had feared that although I was a green card holder, it could be taken away if I was too politically opinionated or involved. The moment I was sworn in three months ago on July 31, something changed–I gained a sense of duty along with the great privilege of being an American citizen. I am now a voter, can fully participate in the democratic process, and no longer have to operate with the fear of living at the fray.

It is of great relief to gain the freedoms of being an American, and it is also a great obligation to our community and country that I do my due diligence to be an informed voter. I am not taking this responsibility lightly.

This post, will be the beginning of a series on how I navigate this process. I hope that my civic adventures can help shed light on your own experience of voting a complex ballot this year!
My very first voter’s ballot arrived in the mail this week, and I’m a bit overwhelmed on how to approach this thing. I know it’s important, and there is so much in there that is relevant to our generation: legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, how state universities are able to spend their money. Along with the ballot, is a 135-page voter’s pamphlet full of pictures of smiling politicians and text describing how awesome they are and why they should get my vote. Am I really supposed to read this whole thing? OK, I tried. I was supposed to find answers in the pamphlet, and all I have are a bunch of questions:

Is there a CliffsNotes for the voter’s pamphlet? How in the world does someone make time to fully engage and make informed decisions with the mere two-week window between getting the pamphlet and turning in the ballot? Especially in between Facebooking, tweeting, Instagramming, and not to mention leading an awesome life and finding a way to pay the rent.

I started to ask around, and with some good ‘ole Googling, I present to you three steps I think are my pathway to becoming a well-informed citizen and voter:

1. Read & Research
2. Show Up & Question
3. Decide & Conquer

Next post…Reading and Researching. Stay tuned!

No ID? No Vote, No Voice

No ID? No Vote, No Voice

Twenty percent of 18 to 24-year-olds do not have a government-issued photo ID. In the ten states shown below, those young people without IDs will be unable to vote in November.

States with Voter ID Laws

Obtaining a photo ID is more difficult than you would expect. Offices that issue photo IDs have limited business hours and are often found in rural areas where there is limited public transportation. On top of that, it can cost between $8-$25 to obtain a birth certificate (which is needed to get a photo ID). The Brennan Center for Justice outlines the difficulties of obtaining a photo ID in this comprehensive report.

What’s the reason behind these laws? Proponents argue that voter ID laws help ensure the integrity of elections by preventing voter fraud. The reality is that voter fraud does not exist. While there are allegations of non-citizens voting in elections or people voting twice using fake names, that is simply not the case. A report by the Brennan Center for Justice in 2007 found that, “it is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

Lightning Strikes Vote Fakers Dead

Your ability to vote in elections should not be determined by how much money you have in your pocket or whether you can visit an office to get an ID. Instead, we should encourage voting and make it easier for everyone to participate in elections. The problem is not apathy, it’s access. Laws like the voter ID laws we have seen place an unfair burden on young people.

Who Doesn't Have Government ID

A recent report by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts found that 44 percent of young adults didn’t know if they had to show a government photo ID or a driver’s license to vote. Thankfully, here in Washington State photo ID is not required to vote. But if you’re attending college out of state and are considering voting there, I encourage you to check out this voters’ guide from the Brennan Center for Justice.

This blog post was written by 2012 Fellow Tyler Sadonis.

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