Earlier this year, King County Elections and the Seattle Foundation launched a pilot program to engage limited-English speaking voters. After soliciting two rounds of proposals, 22 organizations received funding for their voter outreach field plans. In total, the pilot program has awarded nearly $242,000 for community-based voter engagement.
Today, those community-based organizations officially kicked-off their work at Elections Headquarters in Renton.
“This represents a new way of doing voter outreach and community engagement in general,” said Director of Elections, Julie Wise. “Rather than assuming we know the right way to engage King County’s many diverse communities, we are partnering with and resourcing the organizations who have been doing this work for decades.”
Organizations that received funding include:
- Asian Counseling and Referral Services
- Eritrean Community in Seattle and Vicinity
- Inter*Im Community Development Association
- International Community Health Services
- Iraqi Community Center and South King County Emerging Communities for Equity partners Bhutanese Community Resource Center of WA, Nsanga Corporation and Partner in Employment
- Korean American Coalition
- Latino Community Fund and partners South Park
- Information and Resource Center and Colectiva Legal del Pueblo
- Open Doors for Multicultural Families
- Rajana Society
- Somali Community Services
- Somali Family Safety Task Force
- Somali Youth and Family Club
- White Center Community Development Association and partner Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color
“Together, in this room, we will all work together to raise our voice and create change in King County,” said Farhiya Mohamed of the Somali Family Safety Task Force.
The goals of the pilot project include registering more voters in these communities and helping voters who are already registered receive their ballot in their preferred language. As a result of legislation approved by the King County Council last year, King County voters can now receive their ballot in English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish or Korean. They can even change their language preference online.
“This kind of work – to engage my Samoan community – I’ve been doing it for years,” said Violet Lavatai, a community ambassador. “A lot of people tell me they don’t vote because they don’t know where to start – and that’s where we come in.”
The 22 community-based organizations will provide voter education through a variety of mechanisms, including educational workshops, candidate and ballot forums, voter registration drives and other community events. Collectively, they expect to reach between 20,000 and 40,000 limited-English speaking voters this fall.