Importance and Impact of Civic Engagement
Voting in local, state, and national elections as well as participating in other forms of civic engagement, such as filling out the Census, allows us, as ordinary citizens of the United States, to actively participate in our democratic government processes. This is a privilege, right, and responsibility that should not be overlooked or underestimated. When we all vote, when we will fill out the census, when we lift our voices collectively, we move toward a more representative democracy and a more just government that adequately represents and reflects the experiences and concerns of all of those in our country. To read more about the history, practicalities, and importance of the census, check out this blog post. If you have not already completed your 2020 census, and are reading this before 10/31/2020, please consider completing your 2020 census online here.
YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women. We know how crucial it is to support women, in particular women and girls of color, this election season and beyond. YWCA Spokane joins our parent organization, YWCA USA, and local YWCA organization branches across the country in encouraging robust, diverse voter participation during the November 2020 election. As part of YWCA’s nationwide Get Out the Vote efforts, we are especially committed to doing our part to make sure women get to the polls, and that our experiences and needs are valued, represented, and made a priority to those who represent us in elected office. We know that voting is critical to ensuring a healthy, safe, empowered future for us, our families, and our communities. This is your voice, your vote, your future. We invite you to watch the short PSA below, produced by YWCA USA, to hear what voting means to individual women across the country.
Current voter turnout is relevantly low. In Spokane, voter turnout for the primary election was under 50%. The total number of registered voters and the percentage of voter turnout from the primary election on 8/4/20 for each county in Washington state can be found here. This November 2020 is occurring during an unprecedented time, a global pandemic, a time of economic unrest, and a complex season of dynamic, rapidly changing public life. This makes it even more important to vote, as our decisions during this time will be notably impactful for all of us.
For individuals who are oppressed and marginalized, voting can be a form of resistance and a way to facilitate change. Our ancestors, our lineage of people of color, women, and young folks within the United States fought for the right to vote because they knew just how important and impactful it is. Some who have lived in the United States for years, perhaps their whole lives, and call this place their home are still unable to vote. Let’s do them all justice by collectively exercising our individual right to vote in this upcoming November 2020 election. To learn more about civic engagement and it’s ties to racial and social justice, visit this blog post.
How to Vote
To vote in the November 2020 election in Washington state, you must be a U.S. citizen, resident of WA, over the age of 18, and registered to vote. You can register to vote online here. To check your registration status, and learn if you need to update your mailing address if you have moved recently, you can visit Washington State’s Voter Portal.
In Washington State, for the November 2020 election, all of us will be voting by mail. Ballots are due by 8 pm on November 3rd, election day. For a detailed overview of all of the conditions and requirements of voting in Washington state, consider watching the short video below from How to Vote in Every State. If you reside in another state, know that you can explore How to Vote to Every State’s youtube channel to learn specifics about how to vote in your area.
Safety and Confidentiality Considerations
We know that survivors of Intimate Partner Domestic Violence may experience barriers to voting due to safety and confidentiality concerns. Registering to vote, among other things, makes one’s address public record. For those of us who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or stalking and live with genuine concerns for our safety, this fact can be absolutely terrifying. To learn more about the complex considerations that survivors have to navigate when considering whether to vote and to better understand why some may choose not to register to vote in order to protect themselves and their families, please read this article.
In the state of Washington, The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP), run by the Office of the Secretary of State, offers survivors a substitute address and public records protection. This can be an impactful part of a survivor’s overall safety plan. To apply for the Address Confidentiality Program, a survivor must meet with an advocate who has attended ACP training and been certified as an application assistant for the Address Confidentiality Program. YWCA Spokane has multiple advocates who are certified ACP application assistants and are able to assist survivors of intimate partner domestic violence in understanding, applying for, and navigating the Address Confidentiality Program. For an appointment, please call our front desk, 509-326-1190, and ask to meet with a counseling center advocate. To identify an application assistant at another organization within your community, please visit this website.
For the general public, voter information, including a voter’s home address, is public record and is therefore accessible by search to a wide variety of individuals or groups. It is a legal requirement that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), the Department of Licensing (DOL), Health Benefits Exchange (HBE), and the Health Care Authority (HCA), must ask everyone who is accessing their services if they want to register to vote. When a person registers to vote in any of these locations, or registers online through votewa.gov, their information is placed in public record. The Address Confidentiality offers an alternative for survivors to reduce the risk of harm associated with having one’s address be accessible through public record. People enrolled in the Address Confidentiality Program can participate in national, state, and local elections without endangering the confidentiality of their home address. By registering for ACP and voting as an ACP Protected Registered Voter (PRV), a survivor’s physical address will not appear in public records. Once enrolled in ACP, participants are strongly encouraged not to register to vote through any other process than through the Address Confidentiality Program using a specific form for Protected Registered Voters.
After applying for and being approved to participate in the Address Confidentiality Program, ACP participants will receive Protected Registered Voter registration paperwork and ACP specific voting forms. Again, ACP participants should not register to vote online or at any government office, because this will place their address in public record. In order to vote in the upcoming November 2020 election as an ACP Protected Registered Voter (PRV), a survivor must be enrolled as an ACP participant by October 30, 2020, at the latest. Depending on how close ACP enrollment occurs to the November general election, a survivor may need to register to vote in person with their local election office. An ACP Protected Registered Voter (PRV) must meet the same voting deadlines as the general public. Advocates at YWCA Spokane can help navigate this process with survivors of intimate partner domestic violence.
It’s important to know that the Address Confidentiality Program is unable to remove information that has already been placed in public records. For this reason, it is often safest for a survivor to enroll in the Address Confidentiality Program after moving away from an address that is known to their abuser or that has already been placed in public record. When considering applying to the Address Confidentiality Program, an advocate can help navigate these concerns.
What’s on the Ballot?
The Washington state November 2020 election features many impactful ballot components including selecting both state and national representatives and deciding on specific ballot measures. We would like to draw attention to a few specific sections of your ballot, the presidential election, and Referendum 90. You’ve likely heard quite a bit about the presidential election and may have already developed personal opinions of the major candidates.
Every four years, the U.S. presidential election provides us with the opportunity to participate in the selection process for the face of our government, determining who we would like to serve us and influence policies and public perceptions at the international, national, state, and local level. Informed voting in the presidential election is extremely important. To inform the developing, deepening, or altering of your options, we invite you to explore this non-partisan comparison chart of candidates’ positions on key issues.
Referendum 90 will determine whether we will upload the new Washington state law, SB 5395, and require all K-12 public schools to teach age-appropriate, comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education. If Referendum 90 were to be rejected, it would repeal Senate Bill 5395, passed during the 2020 legislative session. Opponents of Senate Bill 5395 submitted enough signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office from folks wanting to keep sex education out of public schools which qualified Referendum 90 to be added to this November ballot.
Multiple organizations, including Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) and Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs (WCSAP), have publicized messaging urging voters to approve R-90 and keep age-appropriate, comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education in public schools. We know that age-appropriate, comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education in public schools has strong potential to prevent intimate partner domestic violence and benefit our clients at YWCA Spokane through the use of education as an empowerment tool. To learn more about the impact that age-appropriate, comprehensive, inclusive sexual health education in public schools can have on individuals and communities across the lifespan, and to better understand why organizations like WSCADV and WCSAP are publishing messaging urging folks to approve Referendum 90, please visit Safe and Healthy Washington.
Our drawing your attention to these specific ballot components is not meant to undermine the importance of ballot components that we have not mentioned. All components of the ballot in the November 2020 election have the potential to be highly impactful. It is important that voters take the time to learn more about what they will be voting on and consider the impact of their decisions on each component of their ballot.
To learn more about all of the components of your November 2020 ballot, you can visit Washington State’s Voter Portal and explore the “Voter Guide” section. You must be registered to vote in order to use this resource. Whether or not you are registered to vote, you can view a personalized sample ballot on Ballotpedia. To view a personalized sample ballot on Ballotpedia, you will need to enter your street address and a valid email account. If you do not have a valid email account or if you are uncomfortable entering your street address, consider entering the information of a safe friend or relative after asking their consent. As long as they live close to you, the information on their ballot will likely mirror yours.
YWCA Spokane Is Here For You
If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or texting 509-220-3725.
To learn more about accessing additional services through YWCA Spokane during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit ywcaspokane.org/services.