Election szn is here!
We have said goodbye to our Summer Fellows, Candidate Survivor gowns, and Capitol Hill Block Party gear for the year. Don’t worry — things are far from winding down. High school and college campus voter registration drives are in full-swing and we are here for it. Bus staff and volunteers took over Western Washington University for Move-In Weekend. In partnership with Western Votes, a student-led organization, we registered 1,700 students to vote in just three days. As incoming students grabbed their dorm keys, our team ensured they updated their voter information to receive their ballots at their current mailing address. Many students registered for the first time!
Why register students to vote on college campuses? Registering college students every year is a major way to drive up voter turnout among young people. We need to be meeting students where they are. Despite Washington’s newly extended voter registration deadline of October 28th, students will still need to update their information if they moved over the summer. Since a majority of university students are renters, this is an important effort.
We want to make it easy to register to vote. Many students are juggling school with work (sometimes more than one job) and family responsibilities. More and more student organizations are investing in civics education and voter registration to amplify the voices in their communities. And guess what? It’s working. Last year, midterm turnout for young voters (ages 18-29) is up to 31% — that’s millions more than in 2014.
Civic engagement brings together communities on campus. Voter registration efforts like Western Votes attract students from various of backgrounds, majors, and political passions. Western Votes alum, Ari Winter, explains, “Coming to Western was easier for me because I had other passionate folks volunteering around me. Western Votes has been a transformational experience for me as a student, voter, activist, and human being.” This is why we do the work we do: youth-led movements are powerful and deserve support.
We believe our democracy works best when everyone can participate. Good things happen when elected officials know who’s voting. Young voters who advocate for affordable housing, climate justice, reproductive justice and more can make a real difference in their legislators’ priorities. In just the last two weeks, the Bus has registered more than 700 high school students to vote — now we want to turn that energy into turnout in November.
Sound like fun and you want to volunteer? Or, do you want to run your own voter registration drive? Reach out to Emma Scalzo at emma[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
A Personal Message from the Board of Directors
Dear Bus Family and Friends,
The Board of Directors is excited to announce Amy Wasser as the Interim Executive Director of The Washington Bus. Amy joins the Bus as a seasoned nonprofit leader and a skilled organizational strategist. She most recently served as the Interim Executive Director at University Beyond Bars. We are confident that Amy’s energy and collaborative approach will be great assets to the Bus.
Over the course of the year, Amy will lead our board, staff, and stakeholders through a strategic planning process and the search for our next Executive Director. We’re so grateful to the Bus community for your steadfast support and look forward to announcing opportunities to meet Amy and the team. Please join us in welcoming Amy to the Bus and read a message from Amy below.
Seferiana Day, Michael Hill, and Aaron Robertson
Executive Committee, Board of Directors
A Letter from the Interim Executive Director
I am honored to have been named the Interim Executive Director of The Washington Bus, an organization that has a direct impact on the issues important to young people today and for the future. I have been a nonprofit professional for over 20 years and have spent the majority of my career assisting organizations with success/strategic planning, operations, and human resource development. I look forward to doing the same for the Bus and to meeting you at one of our events or programs soon. If you would like to meet with me one-on-one, please feel free to reach out to me via email at amy[at]washingtonbus[dot]org.
If you haven’t yet, please click here to read about our work last year in our 2018 Impact Report.
Interim Executive Director
Interested in contributing to our work this year? Just click here.
Written by the 2018 Washington Bus Fall Interns: Octo, Avery and Maya
One of the best things about interning at the Bus is the sense of community we build and the way we empower people through our work. This fall, we worked tirelessly to register voters before the election, and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) after ballots were mailed. We focused on bringing voter registration to students instead of making them come to us. We organized with high schools and local community colleges, giving class presentations and canvassing on college campuses. We also had tables with information about voting and about the Bus at events at the Vera Project, a youth-based arts organization, as well as at events like the SEIU 775 conference. At the Bus, our mission is to combat misinformation about voting, let people know how easy it is to vote in Washington, and help youth and other marginalized groups better engage in politics. Our GOTV work consisted of phonebanks in our office and doorknocking events in King County and Pierce County. We could not have accomplished our GOTV goals without our amazing volunteers. We fostered a sense of community at our phonebanks as we ate snacks, discussed interesting calls and watched fun movies together. For us, it’s important to remember that politics isn’t just about people in suits making decisions – it’s about people like us, being able to have fun while taking charge of our lives and working to improve the world around us. Our work this fall made a difference in local elections. All of our endorsed candidates won their elections. We registered 3,811 people to vote, made 16,503 phone calls and knocked on 1,397 doors. We had meaningful conversations with many young people about why they need to vote and, most importantly, we had fun doing it!
On GOTV weekends, we door knocked with Bus staff in the 30th and 47th legislative districts around Kent and Federal Way. Like phone banking, this activity required us to talk to strangers about their excitement for voting. The main difference is that we were meeting people in person in front of their house on a Saturday or Sunday morning. In addition to inquiring about people’s excitement to vote, we also asked people if they would be willing to endorse progressive candidates. Luckily, we had partners when we went door knocking around different neighborhoods, so there was always a good support system in case someone forgot a talking point or an unexpected conversation developed. The partnerships were perhaps the most engaging part because it meant closely working with someone you may not know. My most memorable experience was with a volunteer from Nathan Hale.Working with this volunteer meant I got to share how I step outside of my comfort zone to engage in conversation. He was definitely nervous about talking to strangers, but throughout the day I provided opportunities for him to speak about ballot submission and the endorsed candidates. Through partnerships like this one, we could exchange our knowledge on how to engage voters, which helped everyone build on their experiences. We are proud of the community fostered in these personal and shared experiences because it contributed to greater voter turnout. Staff, volunteers, and interns alike grow into a community while working together to canvass. It was amazing to see people from various backgrounds feel united around political activism and we’re glad to tell you that it was a blast.
[Image description: Octo smiling at camera]
For me, Avery, one of the best experiences of my internship was visiting a school that is a part of Seattle Interagency Academy. Seattle Interagency Academy is a network of small high schools that provide education for students who have been unable to continue their schooling in the mainstream Seattle Public Schools. We visited the school to host a voter registration drive and to do class presentations about civic engagement. During our presentation we all sat in a circle to talk about voting and what voting meant to us. When we asked who in the group was planning to vote, only two or three of the thirty-odd students raised their hands. We went around the circle asking people why they didn’t vote, their answers weren’t surprising: “I don’t think it matters,” “The government doesn’t care about people like me,” “It’s not worth my time.” These are all things we’ve heard from a lot of other students from marginalized backgrounds, as there isn’t a lot of evidence they can see about politicians caring about their needs. Will, the Bus staff lead, and I, shared stories about believing those same things when we were younger. A single vote may not feel like it matters, but as a group our votes count. We explained to the students that voting is a way they can take the future into their own hands and try to ensure it’s not just politicians who get to make decisions about their lives. By the end of our time there, almost every eligible student had registered to vote. A lot of students thanked us and said the presentation made them feel like they had a voice for the first time in a long time. To see these students feel more confident and empowered to advocate for themselves was an incredible feeling.
[Image description: Avery in front of Seattle Center fountain]
People who work in the election cycle often talk about how draining GOTV season is – and with good reason. It’s hard to be face-to-face (or on the phone) with someone who simply doesn’t want to talk to you attempting to convince them that their vote really matters. And what do you say to really engage a classroom full of 17- and 18-year-olds who may not even realize there’s an election just around the corner? I think everyone who works for a campaign or volunteers at a GOTV event eventually figures out a message – or even just an opening line – that works for them, and that feels true and genuine. There were a few conversations with voters that really stuck out to me. One voter I talked to while doorknocking in South King County thanked me and my canvassing partner profusely for the work we were doing and told us that his daughter – who was the person we’d been attempting to reach – had moved to Texas but was canvassing for Beto O’Rourke. Unsurprisingly, we left that house feeling energized! But it often still feels like a big challenge to educate and inform the public. However, the fact that it’s challenging is the very reason that our work through the Bus is so urgent – because so often it’s a sign that the people we’re talking to aren’t used to being reached out to. A new voter in South King County may not feel that voting is important to them because no one has ever bothered to ask for their vote – and that’s where the Bus steps in. Our message is simple: their vote matters.
[Image description: Maya smiling at camera]
The 2019 HEA Internship Application is now closed.
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Executive Director’s Announcement
To the Bus family,
I’m writing to share that I will be stepping down from my role as Executive Director of The Washington Bus by the end of this year. I am so proud of what we’ve achieved over the last two years. In 2017, we hosted Candidate Survivor, the largest candidate forum in the state for the Seattle mayoral election. This legislative session, our work with The Washington Voting Justice Coalition helped pass Automatic Voter Registration, Same Day Voter Registration, and Pre-Registration for 16- and 17-year olds, a major step forward in reducing barriers to voting in our state. This summer, we welcomed 14 impressive young people to our Fellowship alumni. I’m honored to be part of this growing network, now 169 people strong.
As I look ahead, I couldn’t be more excited for the Bus’s future. We’re refining our winning strategies for voter engagement, building momentum for a new strategic plan, and recruiting new expertise to our Board of Directors. It’s been an honor to work with a staff of talented young people so dedicated to fulfilling our mission. As always, the Bus will continue to support the leadership of young people from underrepresented communities: people of color, young women, LGBTQ+ youth, working class youth, and first-generation students.
I’m grateful for the support of our board as we work closely together on a transition plan over the coming months. I’m committed to supporting our staff and board in this process through the election season to ensure we end this year stronger than ever and ready to tackle 2019 and beyond. I am also grateful to all our volunteers, donors, alumni, and friends for your unwavering support of the Bus. This community is what makes this work possible. We still need you — there is so much more to come.
Emilio R. Garza
A Personal Message from the Board of Directors
On behalf of the Washington Bus Board of Directors, we want to share our utmost gratitude to Emilio Garza for his leadership as Executive Director over the past two years. In driving the Bus, Emilio has both embodied our values holistically and helped to accomplish significant victories for the communities we serve and their ability to take part in the political process. As a longtime member of the Bus family, Emilio has given us a chance to benefit from his passion and dedication to making the Bus a better, more welcoming place for all. His meaningful collaboration with community partners has led to momentous wins in increasing political access and participation, not just for young people, but for all people in Washington State. Under his leadership, we’ve seen the Bus grow and mature into a place where our expertise in the field is undoubted. His contributions to the Bus, in both concrete wins and culture, will leave a meaningful legacy for our community.
While we will be sad to see Emilio go after this year’s election, we are excited to watch the next part of this journey unfold – for both him and the Bus. We look forward to celebrating Emilio’s tenure as Executive Director at this year’s Victory Fund event on October 16th at FareStart in the Pacific Tower at 6PM. We hope you can be there. Please join us in expressing our deepest gratitude to Emilio for his leadership and his continued partnership to ensure success in November and beyond.
Please feel free to reach us directly with any questions or thoughts. Sera and Aaron can be reached via email at contact[at]washingtonbus[dot]org. Victory Fund event details and registration can be found here.
Seferiana Day and Aaron Robertson
Washington Bus and Washington Bus Education Fund Board Presidents
Our Internship application is currently closed. Please check back in March 2019!
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