Although it shouldn’t anymore, Primary Election Day takes me by surprise some years. We used to cast our primary ballots in September. Now, in Washington state, our primary election is held the first Tuesday in August. Ballots are mailed to registered voters on July 15. That means you can complete your ballot and return it in July—or any time prior to when the polls close on August 2.
Voting is important to the success of our Aging Network. The people we elect to represent our interests and the ballot measures we pass or reject influence decisions made at every level of government. Your votes influence the tenor of political discourse and government investments in services and supports that can help people live independently.
July is a month full of anniversaries. We can look back to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Older Americans Act of 1965, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as well as creation of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. But we cannot rest on those laurels. Funding decisions that support those acts are made on an ongoing basis by people who may or may not share our values. Who we elect and the decisions they make can make a difference for decades.
In addition to sharing values, I believe we must elect people who are civil to one another, respectful of all people—all races, all income levels, all ages, and all abilities—and open to learning about and holding empathy for constituents whose lives may differ radically from the ones they have lived.
So, how do you learn about candidates and ballot measures, and how do you get a sense of their true character? Following are some tips you may wish to consider:
- Find out who represents you at every level right now, using the nonpartisan League of Women Voters’ They Represent You booklet.
- Learn what’s on your ballot before it arrives. In King County, click here. Elsewhere in Washington state, start here.
- Look for your voter’s pamphlet (sometimes both county and state pamphlets) in the mail a few days after your ballot arrives.
- Consider the endorsements made by organizations that you know and trust. These may be online or print news sources, political organizations, labor unions, professional organizations, or others.
- Read, listen, and verify. I recall a presentation that Jevin West from the UW’s Center for an Informed Public gave on an Age Friendly Seattle Close to Home Episode in December 2020, “Fact vs. Fiction: How to Find TRUTH in an Infodemic,” and resources available at the Center. Misinformation runs rampant. “How to Spot Fake News” (FactCheck.org) is also a good read.
- Attend candidate forums (often offered online now) and/or look for online videos that feature the candidates you are evaluating. It’s always good to hear why someone is running for public office and what they expect to accomplish, in their own words.
The most important thing to remember is that you must act in order to make a difference. Civil rights leader Coretta Scott King once said, “It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power for positive change, you are indeed part of the problem.” Two of the most powerful actions each of us can take: Vote in every election. Ensure that our friends and family members do, too.
Contributor Joe Hailey chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Mark Your Calendars
Following are virtual events that ADS Advisory Council members will recognize in July:
- 58th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act: Saturday, July 2
- Independence Day: Monday, July 4 (all day). July 4 has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775–1783). Enjoy!
- NW Universal Design Council: Tuesday, July 5 (3–4 p.m.). To receive the meeting link, e-mail Stephens@seattle.gov in advance.
- ADS Advisory Council: Friday, July 8 (12 noon–2 p.m.). For more information or to request the virtual meeting link, e-mail Sariga.Santhosh@seattle.gov.
- 57th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act: Thursday, July 14
- Mayor’s Council on African American Elders: Friday, July 15 (2:00–3:30 p.m.) online only. This month’s meeting will feature a presentation about the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. To receive the meeting link, e-mail Karen.Winston@seattle.gov in advance.
- Washington Senior Lobby: Monday, July 18 (10 a.m.). To participate in the Senior Lobby’s monthly virtual meetings, e-mail email@example.com.
- Age Friendly Virtual Civic Coffee: Thursday, July 21 (10:30 a.m.–12 noon). Log on via our Virtual Events webpage or on Facebook. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 32nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Tuesday, July 26
- 57th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid: Saturday, July 30
- Night Out Against Crime: Tuesday, August 2. Follow the link to the national site or search for Night Out events in the city or neighborhood you live in (e.g., Seattle).
- Primary Election Day: Tuesday, August 2 (Washington state residents, click here).
For more local Aging Network events, click here.