Well, here we are again, another off-year election for extremely important offices with inevitably low voter turnout. That means that a shockingly small number of people will get to decide who’s running the show in Seattle and King County—but it also means that your vote will have a larger-than-usual impact … provided you actually vote.
Hopefully you have returned your ballot already, because you are a good and responsible citizen who also picks up after your dog and remembers to floss. But in case you’re a big old slob and your ballot’s still sitting in that bin where you put papers marked “URGENT” that you never look at again, here’s everything you need to know about getting your vote in on time.
As of this writing, just over 19% of King County ballots have been returned, and voters have been overwhelmingly old. People in King County 65 and above have returned over 110,000 ballots, while 18-to-24-year-olds have returned just over 8,500.
Fortunately, we’ve told you exactly how to fill out your ballot, and it only takes a minute—or less!—to do so. But perhaps you have some inquiries about the election? Well, wonder no longer—here are answers to your frequently asked election questions:
How do I vote in Seattle & King County?
Oh my God, they’ve made it so easy. You really have no excuse to miss it.
First of all, you should have gotten a ballot in the mail. Just fill it out in pen—here’s our list of endorsements for every race—and then drop it in the mail (no need for a stamp!) or a ballot drop box. (Check the drop box map here.) The ballot must be in a drop box by 8 pm on November 2 or postmarked by November 2 to count—which means that at this point, a ballot box is your best bet.
It’s ridiculous how simple this is. No need to take time off of work, no need to wander down to a polling place and stand in a musty booth, no need to pull a chachunk-lever like it’s 1972. When I was a kid, I would accompany my mother to polling places and the voting people were such sticklers about privacy that I wasn’t allowed in the little curtained-off booth with her even though I was five years old. What did they think I was going to do, make her change her vote for Michael Dukakis? Anyway, you don’t have to worry about any of that nonsense.
And on top of that: “You can vote in any color pen,” says Halei Watkins, communications officer with King County Elections. “Whatever color makes you happy.”
But if you really want to show up in person to vote (and you should have a good reason to do so, since there’s still a global pandemic going on), you can swing by one of six voting centers around King County. There’s a map and list of them here; the only one in Seattle is at the Lumen Field Event Center, 800 Occidental Ave S.
How do I know if I’m registered to vote?
Once again, King County has made this ridiculously easy. You can check your registration online at VoteWa. Not only will that website tell you whether or not you’re registered, it’ll tell you when your ballot was sent and to which address. It’ll even tell you which of the past elections you’ve voted in.
If you’re not registered, you can register online, but that registration won’t go through in time for the current election. Instead, you can register in person by going to one of those six IRL voting centers on or before election day (Tuesday, November 2, 2021).
Can I just show up to vote without registering first?
Yes! Just walk right in to one of those voting centers! That is, as long as you’re a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of Washington state, at least 18 years old by election day, not disqualified from voting due to a court order, and not under supervision for a felony conviction.
And about that whole felony thing: For many years in Washington, if you were convicted of a felony, you were allowed to vote only after you were no longer under supervision by the Department of Corrections—so, in other words, you couldn't vote if you were on parole. But a new bill signed into law this year will soon simplify things a bit by allowing people convicted of a felony to vote once they're no longer incarcerated. That goes into effect in 2022—too late for this election, but at least it improves voting access going forward.
"We’re very excited for the new legislation to take effect," says Watkins. "It makes it so much clearer for our voters – [Once it goes into effect in 2022] as long as you’re not currently incarcerated for a felony, you’re eligible to vote."
If you're not currently registered and you want to register in person, you’ll need to bring the number from your Washington state drivers license, a state ID, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. No permanent address needed.
If you don’t have a state ID, you can get one here. It costs $54, and you’ll need to go through a whole weeks-long thing of providing proof of identity and getting your photo taken and waiting to get it in the mail. This process is dumb and out-of-date, and Washington should invest in making it easier, cheaper, and faster for everyone—citizens and non-citizens—to get an ID.
What if I don’t have a ballot?
No ballot? No problem. Registered voters can use King County’s online ballot marking program to print a new ballot and mail it in. All you need is an internet connection and a working printer. Honestly, finding a working printer is more challenging than filling out the ballot. (Try the library.)
How do I vote if I’m out of town?
You can print a ballot and drop it in the mail, but I wouldn’t delay—it must be postmarked by Tuesday, November 2. You’re better off doing that a few days in advance, just to be safe, so at this point you’re really down to the wire.
“If you’re sticking it in the mail on Tuesday, we’ve heard from too many folks who missed their mail pickup,” says Watkins.
If you’re overseas or serving in the military, you can return your ballot by email or fax. Fax!? Yes, fax. God, remember the 1990s?
Will the Post Office really deliver my ballot?
Yes, they really will.
“We haven’t seen any hiccups with our local USPS,” said Watkins during the August primary election. “We have a great relationship with them.”
The best time to drop it in the mail is a day or two early—really, last Friday’s the ideal deadline—or use a ballot drop box if you’re nervous.
Who should I vote for?
Oh, right, this step. Look, politics is complicated and boring, and it’s completely fine if you aren’t sure who you ought to vote for—we’re here to help. The Stranger makes it our business to bother as many candidates as humanly possible (and then several more) to compile our election endorsements, and after hours of painstaking interviews and meetings and deliberations, you can trust that we really have picked the best of the bunch. Just copy our election endorsements and you’ll be fine.
(Sidenote: These are all nonpartisan seats, so that’s why there are no parties listed on the ballot.)
Why should I vote?
Because you probably don’t have a shit-ton of dollars to sway the election, and voting is your only recourse.
This election won’t just determine our next mayor/tear-gasser. It’ll also fix a typo in the county charter, determine whether a Trump-aligned Republican will be our new City Attorney, keep an “anti-anti-racist” from gaining a seat on the school board, and hopefully give the Port of Seattle a progressive nudge.
So there you have it, local slobs. King County made it easy, and we've made it even easier. Go fill out your ballot now, send it on its way, and then return to what you were doing: Working on your Halloween 2022 costume of big-helmet Michael Dukakis.