By Emily Strange
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more apparent than ever how important government policies are. And, bigger still, how important those policymakers are. In a few months, citizens of this nation will either choose a new president or re-elect the current one. At the same time, us Washingtonians will be voting for federal and state representatives, as well as for many other important civic roles and ballot measures. It’s time to start thinking now about whether you’re registered to vote and how to do so if you’re not.
Fortunately for us, Washington is a vote by mail state. That means when we pre-register to vote, we receive a ballot in the mail a few weeks before election day. After filling that ballot out, we can then mail it or put it into a ballot drop box. If you haven’t already registered by election day, you’re able to go to a voting center in your area and register to vote there.
However, given the reality of COVID-19, it’s unclear how voting centers will be impacted. It’s likely the best option to just pre-register ahead of time, either online or by mail, and plan on not attending the voting centers in person. If you’re unsure if you’re registered, you can check this website. Besides registering to vote, you can also use that website to update your voter information and learn more about what’s on your ballot.
At this point, it’s important to note that you cannot register to vote online without having a valid Washington state ID. However, you can still register to vote without an ID in-person and by mail, so long as you provide the last four digits of your social security number.
The Department of Licensing has closed all locations due to COVID-19, making it difficult to get a new license or ID for the time being. But if you already have one, the DoL has extended driver’s license expiration dates, and have tried to make the process a lot easier to renew online.
Voting and Past Convictions:
In Washington state, you can still vote even if you’ve been convicted of an offense. If you were convicted of a felony in a Washington State court, your right to vote is restored automatically once you are no longer under the authority of the Department of Corrections (in prison or on community custody). If you were convicted of a felony in another state or in federal court, your right to vote is restored automatically as long as you are not currently incarcerated for that felony.
If you have any questions about your voter status, please consult this website.
Voting and Having a Disability:
Steps have been taken seeking to ensure the voting process is truly accessible, such as with the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Voter materials have to be provided in accessible ways. Please read this Crosscut article for more information. If you have any other questions, please consult the Secretary of State’s election website about what services are offered for folks who need more support registering to vote.
Voting as a RAP Leader:
At the Resident Action Project, we believe in building power through storytelling, civic action and organizing. A lot of that hinges on voting – for the policies we want to see passed for affordable homes and for the policymakers who enact them. You know, as a RAP member, the power of collective action. Voting is one essential way we can come together, not just during COVID-19 and this important election year, but always. If you need additional support filling out your voter registration information, please feel free to reach out to your RAP peers or to us directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
With so much uncertainty during COVID-19, there is likely to be much more information on how the voting process and our Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts will be impacted. We look forward to revisiting this topic and answering any questions you may have in future newsletter issues leading up to the November election.