by Mark Van Streefkerk
There’s never been a better time to run for office in King County. This year there are 334 local offices open to election, and if you or someone you know has ever entertained the idea of running for office, now is a great time to take the leap. King County Elections (KCE) is helping to demystify the process with upcoming Candidate Workshops.
These free, two-hour online workshops are hosted by KCE staff, and cover the basics anyone needs to file for candidacy online, including important deadlines, info on campaign finances, how to get listed in the voter’s pamphlet, and more. There are four opportunities to catch a workshop in March and April, with the first workshop taking place this Tuesday, March 16. Visit the KCE running for office webpage to register. The workshops are repeated on April 1, April 17, and April 29 (the material covered in each session is the same).
The workshops coincide with this year’s online candidate filing process, which takes place from May 17 through May 21.
“We are seeing more diversity, more women, more People of Color, more younger individuals running for office than we have ever seen before in King County,” said King County Director of Elections Julie Wise.
It’s a trend that KCE wants to continue building on. “We really are focused on encouraging communities of color, not only to vote, but to run [for office]. One of the key reasons why people don’t vote in local elections, or elections in general, is because they don’t see candidates on the ballot who look like them or represent their communities,” Wise explained. “It’s important that our democracy represents the diversity and all populations and interests here in King County.”
Local elections are just as important as those at the federal level, Wise emphasised. Local offices like the city councils, school boards, fire commissioners, and others directly impact daily life and make critical decisions on how funds are spent on education, streets and sidewalks, and transit — as well as guiding policies ranging from policing to schools.
Candidate Workshops are open to the public and perfect for those with little to no experience in running for office, or those who might be working on a campaign. The workshops are live, not pre-recorded, and feature slideshows that detail what the online candidate filing system looks like, what information potential candidates will need before they start the process, what fees are required, and more. Representatives from The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission will also be available to go over campaign finance questions.
KCE started Candidate Workshops in 2019 — at that time in-person — with the help of the Seattle Public Library. Those in-person workshops also included appearances by former candidates who shared their experiences of running for office. Wise is also someone who intimately knows the challenges of campaigning. “It can be overwhelming,” she said. “We really want to make sure that people are armed with information about how accessible running for office really is. We try to make it an approachable process, and we’re there to help.”
While the workshops will be in English, Wise said transcripts or materials in other languages can be arranged. Call 206-296-VOTE (8683) or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
KCE has also committed to increasing voting accessibility with the Voter Education Fund (VEF), a partnership between government, philanthropies, and community. At the beginning of the month, KCE and Seattle Foundation announced $950,000 in grant opportunities over the next two years to over 30 community organizations. These nonpartisan organizations will work within their own communities to increase voter outreach and education.
“Our focus communities for this grantee cycle include but are not limited to Black, Indigenous, People of Color, people experiencing homelessness, people convicted of a felony, limited English-speaking communities, people with disabilities, and youth of color,” Wise said. “We can’t ignore how systemic racism has kept communities of color from making their voices heard.
In the past, KCE and Seattle Foundation has invested in organizations like the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessnes, and United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance (UTOPIA).
Last November saw a record-breaking turnout of 87% of voters in King County and 8% more youth votes than ever before. Wise says part of the reason for this record-breaking turnout is the important work done by VEF and community organizations.
The application for funding is open until April 2, with selected grantees announced in early May. Find more information and apply on the Voter Education Fund webpage.
“We highly encourage any interested organization, any questions they have — don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions,” Wise said. “We’re encouraging organizations that have never even done this work before, or haven’t worked in voter engagement, civic engagement, to reach out and see if this is an opportunity for them.”
Featured Image: King County Elections and the Voter Education Fund are making voting, and running for office, more accessible than ever. Photo courtesy of King County Elections.
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