2019 Legislative Priorities

The 2019 Washington State legislative session opened this week, and we wanted to share our priorities for this session. As always, our goal is to make voting as accessible and barrier-free as possible. Here’s a look at what Director Julie Wise will be supporting in Olympia over the next three months:

State pays its fair share.

Every other jurisdiction pays their share of election costs. Currently the state only pays for election costs in odd numbered years, the opposite of when there are state races on the ballot. For King County alone, the average unfunded state election cost in these years is about $4 million. New mandates, like additional drop boxes and same day registration have only exacerbated this issue. It’s past time for the state to pay its fair share.

Signature alternatives.

With more and more digital transactions, we are seeing society shift away from the signature as a primary tool for authentication. We need new options for verifying an individual voted their correct ballot. Washington State should get ahead of this issue and be a leader in exploring signature alternatives. This could include piloting options for voters with disabilities and overseas/service voters, both communities significantly impacted by the current signature requirement.

Washington State Legislature
(Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP)

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How social media is used to reach young voters

The year was 2000 and it was the first time I was eligible to vote in a presidential election. Since I lived on a college campus four hours away from home, I requested and filled out an absentee ballot. But then I procrastinated and forgot to mail it in. Oops! I remember one particular friend being appalled. We live in a swing state, he lamented. How could you forget to mail your ballot?

Honestly, why I didn’t vote could probably be boiled down to two reasons: apathy about the candidates and a lack of awareness about the issues. No one was reminding me to vote either. Back then, campaigns and civic groups didn’t really reach out to voters online. And how could they? I’m pretty sure we were still using Yahoo! as a search engine and the popular “social media” at the time was AOL instant messenger. 

Today, social media has massive reach and is a significant way millions of young people connect. About 90 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds use at least one social media platform, according to the Pew Research Center. Anyone who wants to reach young people is doing so through social media, and campaigns and civic groups are no different.  

Young voters consume a lot of their election information online. Nearly half of 18 to 24-year-olds heard about the 2018 elections from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, according to Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Voter registration reportedly spiked nationally in the 24 hours after singer Taylor Swift encouraged her 112 million Instagram followers to register to vote. King County experienced a voter registration bump after her post, though it was also the day before our registration deadline. Was T-Swift really that impactful? We’ll never know. But what we do know is that her social media following, much like her musical fan base, probably skews young.

King County Elections uses social media to reach out to voters every day. We’re on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Lately we’ve stepped up our Snapchat game to connect with younger voters. (The company says that 85 percent of its users are ages 18 to 34.) We launched our first Snapchat campaign to get out the vote during the 2017 General Election. For the 2018 midterms, we dived deeper with filters and animated ads reminding people about the Election Day deadline.

With Snapchat, we’re also hoping to reach future voters. Next year, 16 and 17-year-olds will be able to pre-register to vote in Washington State. Since Snapchat is the most popular social media network among teens, we’re already planning how to use it to reach out to them about pre-registration. 

Check out some examples from our 2018 Snapchat campaign:

General Election 2018: Ballot drop boxes with the most returns

Ballot drop boxes continue to be a convenient option for King County voters. About 390,000 ballots were returned through drop boxes during the 2018 General Election. The Ballard Branch Library location was the most popular, with 19,034 ballots returned there.

Top Ten Returns

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Meet our translators: KC Jung

We’re highlighting the great work our translators do helping to make our elections and services accessible to every member of the community. Here we sit down for a brief Q&A with KC Jung, our Korean language translator.

KCWhat is your background and what brought you to working in local government at King County?

I am originally from Seoul, South Korea. I first came to the U.S. to study English and decided to adopt this country as my new homeland because of the diverse background of people and places. After completing my education, I started my career in local government at the City of Federal Way. As the Korean Community Liaison, I helped bridge the gap between Korean residents and the city. I was able to create and engage in many programs that benefited residents. After years of working for the city, I was ready for a bigger role, so I joined the U.S. Department of Commerce where I was able to expand my community engagement on a larger scale. In this role, I was able to not only engage with the Korean community, but also with other minority communities all over Washington State.

In my off time, I volunteer at the Puyallup School District. Once my kids were enrolled in middle and high school, I needed to dedicate more time to them. That’s when I decided to look for a local government job that continued my commitment to serve the community, which led me to King County Elections. Continue reading

Meet our translators: Nhien Huynh

We’re highlighting the great work our translators do helping to make our elections and services accessible to every member of the community. Here we sit down for a brief Q&A with Nhien Huynh, our Vietnamese language translator.

NhienWhat is your background and what brought you to working in local government at King County?
I was the Student Government Community Service Chair at South Seattle College. That experience taught me the importance of being involved and making a difference in the community. For that reason, I was attracted to working in local government. Additionally, King County was a good fit for me, because we share many of the same values, particularly those related to diversity and inclusion.

Why did you choose to work in Language Services for King County Elections?
I was excited for the opportunity to be involved in the democratic process, to engage with the community, and to be a linguistic and cultural bridge to Vietnamese residents of King County. Also, my dad is a translator, so I suppose it’s in my genes.  Continue reading

Meet our translators: Signe Chan

We’re highlighting the great work our translators do helping make our elections and services accessible to every member of the community. Here we sit down for a brief Q&A with Signe Chan, our Chinese language translator.

SigneWhat is your background and what brought you to working in local government at King County?

My family immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager. Often times I have to interpret for my parents and elderly friends who speak limited English.

Helping people is one of my specialties; I started helping others when I was in grade school by tutoring my neighbor’s kid who was in kindergarten. I taught “English as a Second Language” and “Become a citizen” classes as a volunteer. I also worked as a Chinese translator and secretary in an over 500 member nonprofit organization.

I also attended several naturalization examinations as an interpreter. I was excited and encourage to help people become citizens of the United States, to enjoy the freedom and benefits that this country provides for ALL Americans. I shared their joy when they passed the examination.

Voting is not only a privilege and responsibility for a citizen, but it also helps shape and define our country, our state and our counties. When I was asked to work as a Chinese translator in 2010, I gladly accepted the offer. Continue reading

Meet our translators: Juan Vazquez

We’re highlighting the great work our translators do helping make our elections and services accessible to every member of the community. Here we sit down for a brief Q&A with Juan Vazquez, our Spanish language translator.

What brings you to working in local government at King County?

I was born in Mexico, but immigrated to the United States when I was thirteen. I attended Seattle University for my Bachelor of Arts, then completed my Master of Arts at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. Afterwards I went on to work for the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer serving in Cape Verde and Brazil.

I enjoyed living overseas and working for the federal government, but I wanted to come back home to make a difference in my community so I decided to join King County Elections. I want to be part of an organization that strives to provide all citizens with the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. Continue reading

Thousands of King County citizens register to vote on National Voter Registration Day

More than 4,000 King County citizens registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), a number almost 10 times the daily average! A total 3,454 people registered online when NVRD kicked off on September 25. Another 574 people mailed in paper registration forms, but we also saw a second surge of 837 forms delivered on October 1.

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September 25 is National Voter Registration Day

Today is National Voter Registration Day! NVRD is a non-partisan, unofficial national holiday, on which thousands of community groups and volunteers across the political spectrum register people to vote. It’s designed to create an annual moment when the entire nation focuses on helping citizens to exercise their most basic right—the right to vote.

Voter Registration at Goodwill Job Training & Education Center
King County Elections staff registering voters at the Goodwill Job Training & Education Center in Seattle.

So, what can you do? First, you can make sure your registration information is up-to-date. Next, you can encourage family, friends, neighbors – everyone! – to register to vote.

Countdown300x300-public-2018-red-todayJoin us as we register voters from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m. today at the Goodwill Job Training & Education Center, 700 Dearborn Place S, Seattle, 98144.

Of course we are focused on voter registration all year long, but it’s great to have a day when everyone spends a few minutes thinking about it and spreading the word. Happy National Voter Registration Day!

And the winner is…. King County Elections!

The Election Center announced today that King County Elections won its Democracy Award for the department’s 2017 media campaign, “Why Vote.” The campaign featured two powerful videos, the “Multiplier Effect,” an animated spot designed to illustrate the importance of voting, and “The Struggle,” a more somber depiction of the hard fought battle for voting rights in this country. They aired on a variety of digital platforms.

“We wanted to send the message that your vote matters and you shouldn’t take it for granted,” said Director of Elections, Julie Wise. “And with all the noise out there right now, we knew we needed to do something fresh and even a little provocative.”

King County Elections partnered with Seattle-based public affairs agency Mammoth on the campaign, which ran on network and cable TV, YouTube, connected TV, and social media platforms. It also aired in movie theatres across the region.

The Election Center is the preeminent organization for training and certification of election and voter registration administrators. Awards were announced at the annual conference in New Orleans, which included hundreds of election officials from across the country.

Read more in the official press release. View photos from today’s awards ceremony below.