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Voting: A Sacred Obligation

Vote. Hands in the colors of the flag of the United States of America

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves—and the only way they could do that is by not voting at all …

Every man and every woman in this Nation—regardless of party—who have the right to register and to vote, and the opportunity to register and to vote, have also the sacred obligation to register and to vote.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made these statements in a radio address from the White House on October 5, 1944. The entire text is well worth reading.

Four months prior to his address, Allied forces crossed the English Channel to land in Normandy, signaling the end of World War II in Europe. The average cost of a new house was $3,450. Average wages were $2,400 per year. Gas cost 15 cents per gallon and a loaf of bread cost 10 cents.

Times have changed, but the importance of exercising our right to vote is as important today as ever before. And it’s easier than ever before—so it’s disturbing that so many people sat out the November 2017 general election. King County saw 43 percent turnout—and that was considered above-average! Statewide, nearly two-thirds of registered voters did not vote.

Some will blame individual politicians, issues, the news media, and the general political climate for their own laissez-faire attitude. Did those who did not vote get what they wanted? Probably not. Meanwhile, voting rights have been threatened in many parts of the country for many who are eligible to vote and attempting to fulfill their obligation and privilege as a citizen.

President Roosevelt’s words are worth revisiting: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of their right to vote except the American people themselves.”

Let’s turn this trend around! While AgeWise readers are likely to be registered voters, it’s possible that family members and friends are not. If in doubt, ask everyone you know: Are you registered to vote? Do you plan to vote in the next election? Have you returned your ballot yet?

Voter registration

Any U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old by election day, a legal resident of Washington state, and not disqualified from voting due to incarceration or a court order can register to vote. In Washington state, you do not have to register by political party or state a party preference in any state primary or general election.

Did you note the age requirement “by election day?” If you know a young person who will turn 18 before the next election, encourage that person to register now, today, right this minute!

To register, you have several options:

  • Register online, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Download a registration form (available in 18 languages) and mail it in.

You can pick up a registration form at the King County Elections office (Renton) or King County voter registration annex (downtown Seattle). You can also contact your nearest King County Community Service Center or City of Seattle Customer Service Center.

The deadline to register online or by mail for the August 7, 2018, primary election is July 9. You may register in person as late as July 30. To vote in the November 6, 2018, general election, you must be registered by October 29.

If you’re unsure about your voter registration status, need to update your address, or look up the candidates and ballot measures in your district and precinct, visit My Voter Information.

Voter information can also be updated online. Ballots are sent to the address on record, so it’s important to keep voter registrations up-to-date.

Did you know that inactive voter registrations can be canceled? If a registration remains on inactive status through two consecutive federal general elections (e.g., the post office returns a ballot because it is undeliverable), the registration is canceled. This complies with state law and the federal National Voter Registration Act.

Voting made easy

Today, almost every voter in King County votes by mail. If you’re new to this area or you haven’t voted before, you may not know what that means.

  • Mail: If you are registered to vote in King County, you will receive a ballot in the mail. Ballots are mailed 20 days prior to each election to the address on your registration.
  • Accessible voting: There are additional ways to vote besides voting by mail, including an online ballot marking program and accessible voting centers. Click here to learn about options, or contact King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683) or
  • Overseas and service voters: You have a right to cast a ballot in every election. See your options here.

Returning your ballot

Returning your ballot has never been easier!

  • Pre-paid postage: In May 2018, Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council approved prepaid postage on returned ballots, leading the way for the State of Washington, which now funds prepaid postage on returned ballots in all other Washington counties. Returned ballots must be postmarked no later than election day, so mail early.
  • Ballot boxes: For those who prefer the ritual of dropping completed ballots in a ballot box, or missed the mail pick-up on election day, click here for a list of ballot drop boxes. The ballot boxes are available about 30 days prior to election day.

What’s on my ballot?

King County publishes a voters’ pamphlet about three weeks prior to each election and mails it to registered voters. At about the same time, you can also view a PDF online. The pamphlet contains candidate and ballot measure information submitted by candidates and campaign organizations. Personalized ballot information is available via My Voter Information.

If you need a King County voters’ guide in an alternate format (such as audio), contact King County Elections at 206-296-VOTE (8683).

Nonpartisan video voters’ guides produced by King County TV and The Seattle Channel can also help you make an informed choice. Listening to candidates give their own statements can be informative. The video voters’ guides are broadcast and available online approximately one month prior to each election.

Who represents me?

The nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County publishes They Represent You, an annual statewide directory of current elected officials in King County, Seattle, and suburban cities; school boards; Port of Seattle; and courts. In addition, you can look up state legislators from every district in Washington state and all state and federal elected leaders representing Washington residents. Listings include contact information and the year that official is up for election. This is a useful guide for advocacy year-round.

Contributor Irene Stewart manages communications for Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. She registered to vote on her 18th birthday and considers voting a sacred privilege—she has never missed an election.