by Mark Van Streefkerk
There has never been a better time to run for office in King County. This year, 334 local offices are open for election, and if you or someone you know has ever had the idea of âârunning for office, now is the perfect time to take the plunge. King County Elections (KCE) is helping demystify the process with upcoming candidate workshops.
These free two-hour online workshops are run by KCE staff and cover the basics everyone needs to apply online, including important deadlines, information on campaign finances, how to apply. ‘register in the voter brochure, and more. There are four opportunities to attend a workshop in March and April, with the first workshop taking place this Tuesday March 16. Visit the KCE Running for Office web page to register. The workshops are repeated on April 1, April 17 and April 29 (the material covered in each session is the same).
The workshops coincide with this year’s online application process, which runs May 17-21.
âWe are seeing more diversity, more women, more people of color, more young candidates for a position than we have ever seen before in King County,â said King County Electoral Officer, Julie Wise.
This is a trend that KCE wants to continue to build on. “We are really focused on encouraging communities of color not only to vote, but to run. [for office]. One of the main reasons people don’t vote in local elections, or elections in general, is that they don’t see candidates on the ballot who look like them or represent their communities, âWise explained. . âIt is important that our democracy represents diversity and all populations and interests here in King County. “
Local elections are just as important as those at the federal level, Wise said. Local offices like city councils, school boards, fire marshals and others have a direct impact on daily life and make crucial decisions about how funds are spent on education, streets and communities. sidewalks and public transportation, as well as to guide policies ranging from police departments to schools.
Candidate workshops are open to the public and perfect for those with little or no experience running for office, or those who might be working on a campaign. The workshops are live, non-pre-recorded, and feature slideshows that detail what the online application system looks like, what information potential applicants will need before starting the process, what fees are required, and more. Representatives from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission will also be available to examine campaign finance issues.
The KCE launched workshops for applicants in 2019 – at the time in person – with help from the Seattle Public Library. These in-person workshops also included appearances from past applicants who shared their experiences of applying. Wise is also someone who knows the challenges of the campaign intimately. âIt can be overwhelming,â she said. âWe really want to make sure people are armed with information about the real accessibility of running in the office. We try to make it an accessible process and we’re here to help.
While the workshops will be in English, Wise said transcripts or materials in other languages ââcan be arranged. Call 206-296-VOTE (8683) or email [email protected] for more information.
The KCE is also committed to increasing the accessibility of voting with the Voter Education Fund (VEF), a partnership between government, philanthropic organizations and the community. Earlier this month, the KCE and the Seattle Foundation announced grant opportunities of $ 950,000 over the next two years to more than 30 community organizations. These non-partisan organizations will work within their own communities to increase voter awareness and education.
âOur target communities for this cycle of beneficiaries include, but are not limited to, Blacks, Indigenous people, people of color, homeless people, those convicted of a crime, limited English-speaking communities, people of with disabilities and young people of color, âsaid Wise. . âWe cannot ignore how systemic racism has prevented communities of color from making their voices heard.
In the past, the KCE and the Seattle Foundation have invested in organizations such as the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), the Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessnes, and the United Pacific Island Territories Alliance (UTOPIA).
Last November saw a record turnout of 87% of voters in King County and 8% more youth votes than ever before. Wise says part of the reason for this record high turnout is the important work being done by VEF and community organizations.
The funding request is open until April 2, with the selected beneficiaries being announced in early May. Find more information and apply on the Voter Education Fund webpage.
âWe strongly encourage any interested organization, any questions they have – feel free to reach out and ask questions,â Wise said. âWe encourage organizations that have never done this job before, or have not worked in voter engagement, civic engagement, to reach out and see if this is an opportunity for them.
Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based freelance journalist and writer living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. He often writes on specialty coffee, LGBTQ + topics, and more. Visit his website and follow him on Instagram at @markthewriter.
Featured Image: King County Elections and Voter Education Fund make voting and running for office more accessible than ever. Photo courtesy of King County Elections.
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