City Council candidate Tanya Woo only voted in two local elections during her nearly 30 years as an eligible voter in Seattle. She could not be bothered to register to vote until 2015 at the age of 37.

Since then, she has voted in eight elections total. Of those eight contests, she only made her voice heard locally in the 2021 primary (but not in the general), and also in the recent Crisis Care Levy. 

She also told The Stranger on two separate occasions that she voted for her opponent, council incumbent Tammy Morales, only to later grow frustrated with Morales's alleged lack of engagement with the Chinatown International District (CID). While she may be frustrated with Morales, her voting record shows she never voted for her own city council member. 

As if to reinforce that point, during a meeting with the Stranger Election Control Board last week, she revealed that she had to look up Morales’s name during her fight with the County against the SODO Services Center (aka “homelessness megaplex”) at the end of last year. 

In that same interview, Woo claimed she was too busy to vote.

“I don't have staff. I am just one person trying to help a community that I feel like slipped through the cracks,” she said. 

In the meeting, Morales countered: “They mail it to your house. All you have to do is circle it and put it in the mail.”

Woo stuck to her excuse. She said the CID Community Night Watch she runs feels “all-encompassing.” But even if she had thrown herself into the night watch so much that she could not check her mailbox, that would only account for elections she missed from the summer of 2020 onward. 

In her defense, she went on to argue that she runs her family business, the Louisa Hotel Apartments, unpaid, and she spends most of her time putting out metaphorical fires–ones that must have burned up her ballots. 

To be fair, research shows that people of color and those with low incomes participate in elections at low rates for many reasons. Some marginalized people distrust the government because the government has fucked them over so much. Low-income people move around a lot, making it difficult to keep track of their ballots. And some people are genuinely too busy to vote because they work multiple jobs, they take care of kids, or they do not have the spare time to read the local news, which would remind them of an upcoming election. 

However, the claim that she is too busy strains credulity coming from a well-off community advocate who obviously knows the power of local government. 

The most charitable read of her response is that she focuses so much on improving her community herself that she forgets to also use her capacity as a voter to influence government on behalf of the Chinatown International District, an area local officials historically ignored. 

It is unclear what made her a strong-enough believer in electoral politics to decide to run for local office. That activation may have occurred in 2021, when she donated $850 to Renton Council Member Kim-Khánh Văn’s campaign to unseat Reagan Dunn. In any case, it seems her schedule has cleared up enough to run for an office for which she’s never voted.