by Phil Manzano
The Jan. 6 hearings have focused the country on the most basic foundation of American democracy: the right to vote.
Here at the South Seattle Emerald, we’re part of the Voter Education Fund, a King County nonpartisan project to encourage as many potential voters to register and vote.
As King County Elections Director Julie Wise said in a recent Emerald interview, “Democracy is at its finest when all voices are heard. That’s what it’s supposed to be. My dream is 100% voter registration rate and 100% turnout.”
This guide is part of an effort to get out the vote: It’s part calendar, events and news bits, and Q&A about how, when, and where to vote. It will be updated with events and news as needed so check back from time to time.
Key Election Dates
July 25: Deadline to register to vote online
July 30: Additional vote centers open
Aug. 2: Last day to register in person to vote in the Primary election.
Aug. 2: Last day to submit a ballot measure for the General election in November.
Aug. 2: Primary Election: Ballots must be postmarked by that day or returned to a ballot drop box by 8 p.m.
News and Events
Summer Vote and Vibe
BUILD 206 has a variety of efforts underway to encourage voter registration and participation through its BUILD the VOTE effort. In addition to its website packed with information, the group has partnered in July with the Rainier Arts Center for its Summer Vote and Vibe series with an upcoming event on Wednesday, July 27, from 5 to 7 p.m., free and open to the public at the Rainier Arts Center, 3515 S. Alaska St.
Music by DJ Mr. Nyice Guy and teens, ages 16–17, are encouraged to stop by and get registered. If you’re 17, you can vote in the August primary as long as you turn 18 by Nov. 8.
In a statement released this week, King County Elections Director Julie Wise called out voter intimidation tactics after signs appeared at some ballot dropboxes warning voters that the dropbox was “under surveillance.”
“King County Elections will not stand for intimidation or scare tactics,” Wise said in a press statement. “I believe this is a targeted, intentional strategy to intimidate and dissuade voters from using secure ballot drop boxes.
“My team is not going to stand by and allow any group to seed fear and doubt amongst our residents and voters, especially when they are simply trying to make their voices heard. My team will be removing these signs and referring any information about who placed them to the King County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation.”
State and federal laws prohibit attempts to intimidate voters or prevent them from voting.
King County, working with major political parties, coordinates observers at ballot boxes. The observers are educated about the ballot process and what to look for as election staff collect ballots. Observers, however, are prohibited from interfering with election workers or voters.
Ballots and Pamphlets
Voter pamphlets and ballots for the Aug 2 primary were mailed out to 1.4 million registered voters in King County. One of the largest vote-by-mail jurisdictions in the country, officials project 45% turnout of voters for this year’s primary, compared to 56% for the 2020 primary and 43% for the 2018 primary. Ballots are mailed about three weeks ahead of an election; if you’re registered to vote, you’ll receive a ballot. If you haven’t received your ballot, call King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683).
Who Can Vote?
According to the King County Elections website, almost any adult who is a:
- US citizen
- Legal resident of Washington
- At least 18 years old on election day
- Not disqualified by court order, not currently incarcerated for state or federal or out-of-state felony conviction.
A new Washington State law restores voting rights for those who have served a prison sentence. Upon release from prison, voting rights are restored, but people must reregister to vote. For more detailed information for voters with a felony conviction or people without a residential address, check the King County Elections website.
Also new this year are voting rights for 16- and 17-year-olds outlined in the Future Voter program. A 17-year-old who will turn 18 by the November general election can vote in the Aug. 2 primary. In Washington, 16- and 17-year-olds can sign up to be automatically registered to vote when they’re eligible.
How to Register to Vote
Registering to vote is easy. You can register to vote online or by mail up until 8 days before an election or in-person through election day. You’ll need a Washington driver’s license to register online but not for mail or in-person registration. See King County Elections’ website for more information.
Where Can I Vote?
In King County vote by mail means in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
In addition, King County opened its newest and 75th ballot dropbox location at Woodinville City Hall on July 14, the first dropbox in Woodinville city limits.
According to a press release, over 96% of registered voters live within a 3-mile radius of a drop box location. Typically, about half of voters return their ballots via drop box.
Drop boxes are open 24 hours a day and emptied at least once a day during an election.
“Drop boxes are key to accessible elections here in King County and Washington State,” said King County Elections Director Julie Wise. “Constructed of half-inch thick steel, bolted directly into concrete, equipped with multiple locking mechanisms and with tamper evident seals, drop boxes are not only convenient, but also secure.”
Find a list and interactive map of all the dropbox locations in King County on King County Elections’ website.
This story was funded in part by a Voter Education Fund grant from King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation.
Phil Manzano is a South Seattle writer, editor with more than 30 years of experience in daily journalism, and most recently was the news editor for the Emerald.
📸 Featured Image: Photo courtesy of King County Elections.
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