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.

We’re All Students at the Electoral College

We’re All Students at the Electoral College

This week, seniors across the nation are receiving their university decision letters and choosing their future colleges. I think this means that it’s time to talk about another very important college: the electoral college.

The electoral college was created way back in 1787 by our founding fathers, intended to be the best method for choosing our presidents. They shot down the idea of Congress electing the president (not enough separation between branches of government) and direct popular vote (because then the South would have to figure out what to do about slaves), and ultimately settled on a system where a handful of electors choose the president for the country a few months after the popular election takes place.

Nowadays, however, some flaws in the system are pretty apparent.

  1. Only a few states actually matter. Because most states electoral college votes are winner-take-all (50% + 1 vote gets you 100% of electoral college), only the  swing states really matter on election day. Historically blue (sound familiar, Washington?) or red states don’t get much time, money, or attention from the candidates – while swing states like Ohio and Florida are inundated with endless campaign propaganda.
  2. Faithless electors. This is admittedly rare, but not unheard of. Electors “pledge” to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state, but aren’t legally bound to honor that pledge. This means that some sneaky electors have voted for another candidate than the one who won their state, going directly against voters’ mandate.
  3. 1876, 1888, 2000. Because of the way electoral math works out, a candidate who did not win a plurality of popular votes has been elected President three times in our history. Yikes! Popular interest and electoral vote aren’t always one and the same.

On that note, I have two pieces of news. First: the electoral college isn’t going away anytime soon. Second: this doesn’t mean we can’t have a popular vote.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement between states that is currently being debated across the nation, would utilize the electoral college system to create what is effectively a popular vote. Since the Constitution permits states to decide the method of appointing and pledging their electors, states who join this compact pledge their electors to whoever wins the national popular vote. If enough states do this – however many it takes to get to 270 votes, or a majority of the 538 needed to win – then whoever won the November popular election would be guaranteed an electoral victory as well, meaning we would effectively have a direct popular vote.

Progress of national popular vote bills by state. Credit: www.nationalpopularvote.com/map.php

In recent news, New York just became the 11th state to join the interstate compact since 2007. This means that 165 electoral votes, or 61% of the votes needed to achieve a direct popular vote, have been pledged to support the popular vote winner. That’s no surprise, since over 70% of Americans support a popular vote.

There’s not much Washingtonians can do now – our state has already joined the compact and passed the bill! However, keep a look out for this issue nationwide. If this passes, candidates will have to win everyone’s vote, and Washington voters will finally get the love we deserve!

This Blog post was written by 2014 Bus Intern and Hella Bus Content Lead Isabella Fuentes!

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!

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