1. Make sure you’re registered
If you’re not registered to vote at your current address in Seattle, stop what you’re doing right now, go to the Secretary of State’s website, and register to vote. It’ll take you about 2 minutes, and we’re extremely fortunate to be able to register to vote online here, so you should take advantage of it. It’s too late to register for the primary (unless you register in person downtown — and you should tell me if you do, because there are few things in this world that would make me happier), but at least you’ll be able to vote in the general election in November.
2. Be sure you have your ballot
If you are registered to vote at your current address, you should receive your ballot in the mail this week; they’ll be going out in the mail starting tomorrow (Wednesday, July 15th). If you haven’t received your ballot by next Wednesday, July 22nd, go to King County’s replacement ballot request form to ask for a new one, or call King County Elections at 206–296–0100.
3. Remind yourself why this is important
This November’s election — with district elections for the first time since the 70′s and all 9 Councilmembers running simultaneously — is basically the local electoral equivalent of combining the Super Bowl with the World Cup and the Breaking Bad series finale, except that it only happens once every 40 years, and instead of watching from the sidelines, we all have a part to play in how it turns out. I know you already vote in Presidential elections, like 85% of Seattleites. But if you care about affordable housing, mass transit, traffic during rush hour, public safety, police reform, or zoning changes in our neighborhoods, guess who makes the policies that effect all of those issues? That’s right — all these City Councilmembers we’re going to be electing. And turnout for local elections (which take place in odd-numbered years) is generally around 30% in primaries and 50% in general elections.
Who are the 30% of us who are going to vote in this primary, you ask? I took a look, using the most current data from the 2008–2012 American Communities Survey for population numbers (as parsed by Wolfram Alpha — click on the “more details” button underneath the graph) and data on the makeup of the 2013 primary electorate from Ben Anderstone. These were the results, by age range:
- 18–24: 13.8% of the voting population, 2% voter turnout (14.5% representation)
- 25–34: 24.9% of the voting population, 11% voter turnout (44.2% representation)
- 35–49: 26.6% of the voting population, 24% voter turnout (90.2% representation)
- 50–64: 18.3% of the voting population, 32% voter turnout (148.1% representation)
- 65+: 11.1% of the voting population, 31% voter turnout (236.6% representation)
As you can see, we can learn a lot from our elders. It’s important for everyone to vote, but if you’re in that 18–34 age bracket it’s especially critical — you’re going to be most affected by all of the changes that are happening to our city, but right now you’re the least represented when it comes to choosing the elected officials who are making those decisions. If you’re not registered to vote at your current address, go register right now so you can vote in the general. If you are registered to vote, be sure you actually do it! The August 4th primary is the election in which we’ll be narrowing the Council field down from the 47 candidates who are currently running to just the top 18 who will be on the ballot in November; it’s an important one.
4. Keep in mind how mind-numbingly easy voting is in Washington
It’s so easy that someone (your postman or postwoman) literally brings a ballot to your home; all you have to do is take 5 minutes to fill it out over a cup of coffee in your pajamas, put a stamp on it, and send it back in. If you prefer not to mail your ballot, you can also drop it off in person at one of 6 locations in Seattle. There’s honestly no excuse not to vote — unless of course you hate America, Seattle, and/or freedom.
5. Find your Seattle City Council district
To find your district, go to the City’s Council Districts page for maps of each district, or look up your address on the County’s lookup tool (note that this will also give you your state legislative district, your County Council district, your precinct, and your Congressional District). Now you know which of the 47 candidates running for City Council this year you’ll see on your ballot!
6. Figure out who you’re going to vote for
If you’re not sure which of them to vote for, there are a number of places you can go for assistance:
- King County Elections has customized Voter’s Guide tool on their website, if you want to read the official candidate statements for the races in which you’ll actually be voting but you don’t want to dig through the paper voter’s guide you get in the mail with your ballot to find them.
- The Progressive Voters Guide lists candidates they consider to be true progressives and tells you who they’ve been endorsed by, but in races with multiple progressive candidates they don’t tell you who individually you should vote for.
- The Municipal League rates candidates on a scale of “Not qualified” to “Outstanding”. Their user interface isn’t great, but if you sort by “Locality”, it’s easy to go down the list of Seattle candidates. They’re more interested in competence than they are in political leanings.
- The Stranger can always be counted on for severely biased, profanity-laced, and generally entertaining picks by their young, urbanist, progressive editorial staff.
- The Seattle Times, whose ed board is decidedly older and more conservative than The Stranger’s, makes a nice counterweight if that’s more your scene.
- KUOW did a series of short interviews with every candidate, if you want to hear them in their own words.
- And there have already been a bunch of candidate forums this year; search your neighborhood blog or do a quick Google search for candidate forums in your district to see what’s out there.
7. Vote by August 4th!
In order to be counted, your ballot has to be either dropped off at a drop boxby 8 pm on Tuesday, August 4th, or put in the mail and postmarked by, again, Tuesday, August 4th. Generally speaking most blue Post Office drop boxes have their last pickup at 1:30, and most post offices have their last pickup at 5:00, so keep that in mind.
8. Way to go, Seattleite :)
Once your ballot is safely on its way to King County Elections, hold your head up high and be proud of yourself — by voting in a local primary election, you just did something that 70% of your fellow Seattleites won’t do this year!
Welcome to the club.