For the past ten-weeks, all 15 Fellows poured their energy into leading some of the most important campaigns in our area: De-Escalate Washington I-940, Decline to Sign I-1552, Washington Voting Justice, and banning conversion therapy in Renton.
Combined, the Fellows obtained over 3,000 signatures and registered dozens of new voters. This translated into over 3,000 individual conversations around LGBTQIA+ advocacy, voting access, and police accountability.
For those who have ever lead campaigns, you know first hand the difficulties of creating field plans, pulling turf, lobbying elected officials, and canvassing. These tasks were no exceptions for this Fellowship class. Through extreme canvassing temperatures, difficult conversations around oppression, and yes even rejection out on the field, the Fellows continued to be intentional and committed to their campaigns. Nothing wavered them. They went out into the field every week engaging young people and pushing forth progressive policies.
This last Sunday was the final day for the 8th Washington Bus Fellowship Class. It was a bittersweet moment. What started with 15 Fellows sitting around our conference table in the office, nervously making small talk ended with a deep commitment to each other, an understanding of collective healing, and passion for building people-led power. I know they will go back to their schools, workplaces, and communities to continue to put into practice what they learned this summer.
I have said this before, and I will say it again, with these Fellows out in our communities we are going to be ok. The social equity change we want to see will happen. Follow the work they will be doing in their communities.
Read statements from the Fellows below to get a glimpse at their experience this summer.
-Cinthia Illan-Vazquez, Fellowship Organizer
And a word from the incredible staff who led our summer Fellowship program…
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:
- Take a look at the Bus’ Facebook page and share our posts. Be sure to use the hashtag #celebrateNVRD
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!