Here are answers to all your election questions.
Do we have your attention? Here are answers to all your election questions. Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images

You know that feeling of dread you get on most November election days, when you have to choose between a bunch of disappointing candidates, and you’re like, "Ugh, get a load of these jerks, why don’t I have any better options?” But then sometimes, every few years, you get that stunned feeling of delight when you can vote for someone you actually like?

It’s primary elections—those elections that occur on dates you can't remember, with crowded fields of candidates, months before the more high-profile general election—that decide which feeling you'll have come November.

This year's primary election lands on August 3 (that's next Tuesday!), and the results of that election will determine which candidates will manage to squeak through to the final round, which means that if you want to have any chance of actually liking the person you’ll be voting for in November, then you’ll need to weigh in by that August 3 deadline.

Please take this election more seriously than Jenna Elfman on Dharma & Greg.
Please take this election more seriously than Jenna Elfman on Dharma & Greg.

As of this writing, just over 12% of Seattle ballots have been returned—a paltry showing! Seattle, stop what you’re doing and fill out your ballot now. It only takes a minute—or less!—and your vote today will determine the pain levels of the election in November.

But perhaps you have some inquiries about the election? Well, wonder no longer—here are answers to frequently asked election questions:

How do I vote in Seattle & King County?

Oh my God, they’ve made it so easy. You really have no excuse to miss it.

First of all, you should have gotten a ballot in the mail. Just fill it out in pen—here’s our list of endorsements for every race—and then drop it in the mail (no need for a stamp!) or a dropbox. (Check the dropbox map here.) The ballot must be in a dropbox by 8 pm on August 3 or postmarked by August 3 to count!!!

It’s ridiculous how simple this is. No need to take time off of work, no need to wander down to a polling place and stand in a musty booth, no need to pull a chachunk-lever like it’s 1972. The first year I voted, I had to look up the one specific address where I was registered, then make my way down to a local senior center, and then make small talk while standing in line—an absolute nightmare, especially since I was living in LA at the time and the small talk was with a group of production accountants on the show Dharma & Greg. You don’t have to worry about any of that. Just fill in a few bubbles and you’re good.

And on top of that: “You can vote in any color pen,” says Halei Watkins, communications officer with King County Elections. “Whatever color makes you happy.”

But if you really want to show up in person to vote (and you should have a good reason to do so, since there’s still a global pandemic going on), you can swing by one of six voting centers around King County. There’s a list of them here; the only one in Seattle is at the Lumen Field Event Center, 800 Occidental Ave S.

How do I know if I’m registered to vote?

Once again, King County has made this ridiculously easy. You can check your registration online at VoteWa. Not only will that website tell you whether or not you’re registered, it’ll tell you when your ballot was sent and to which address. It’ll even tell you which of the past elections you’ve voted in.

If you’re not registered, you could have registered online a few days ago, but now it's too late for that. Instead, you can register in-person by going to one of those six IRL voting centers on or before election day (Tuesday, August 3, 2021).

Can I just show up to vote without registering first?

Yes! Just walk right in to one of those voting centers! That is, as long as you’re a U.S. citizen, a legal resident of Washington state, at least 18 years old by election day, not disqualified from voting due to a court order, and not under supervision for a felony conviction.

And about that whole felony thing: For years in Washington, if you were convicted of a felony, you were allowed to vote only once you were no longer under supervision by the Department of Corrections — so, in other words, you couldn't vote if you were on parole. But a new bill signed into law this year will soon simplify things a bit by allowing people convicted of a felony to vote once they're no longer incarcerated. That goes into effect in 2022 — too late for this election, but at least it improves voting access going forward.

"We’re very excited for the new legislation to take effect," says Watkins. "It makes it so much clearer for our voters – [Once it goes into effect in 2022] as long as you’re not currently incarcerated for a felony, you’re eligible to vote."

If you're not currently registered and you want to register in person, you’ll need to bring the number from your Washington state drivers license, a state ID, or the last four digits of your Social Security number. No permanent address needed.

If you don’t have a state ID, you can get one here. It costs $54, and you’ll need to go through a whole weeks-long thing of providing proof of identity and getting your photo taken and waiting to get it in the mail.

What if I don’t have a ballot?

No ballot? No problem. Registered voters can use King County’s online ballot marking program to print a new ballot and mail it in. All you need is an internet connection and a working printer. Honestly, finding a working printer is more challenging than filling out the ballot.

How do I vote if I’m out of town?

You can print a ballot and drop it in the mail, but I wouldn’t delay—it must be postmarked by Tuesday, August 3. You’re better off doing that a few days in advance, just to be safe.

“If you’re sticking it in the mail on Tuesday, we’ve heard from too many folks who missed their mail pickup,” says Watkins.

If you’re overseas or serving in the military, you can return your ballot by email or fax. Fax!? Yes, fax. God, remember the 1990s?

Will the Post Office really deliver my ballot?

Yes, they really will.

“We haven’t seen any hiccups with our local USPS,” says Watkins. “We have a great relationship with them.”

Just make sure you drop it in the mail a day or two early — really, Friday’s the ideal deadline — or use a ballot dropbox if you’re nervous.

Who should I vote for?

Oh, right, this step. Look, politics is complicated and boring, and it’s completely fine if you aren’t sure who you ought to vote for—we’re here to help. The Stranger makes it our business to bother as many candidates as humanly possible (and then several more) to compile our election endorsements, and after hours of painstaking interviews and meetings and deliberations, you can trust that we really have picked the best of the bunch. Just copy our election endorsements and you’ll be fine.

(Sidenote: These are all nonpartisan seats, so that’s why there are no parties listed on the ballot.)

Why should I vote?

Because you probably don’t have millions of dollars to sway the election, and voting is your only recourse.

This primary election will determine quite a few important issues, such as whether luxury homeowners should be taxed a little bit to pay for highly effective youth programs. (Obviously they should.) And it’ll also decide which of the many (many many many) candidates in the mayor’s race will advance to the final round of voting—we like Lorena González because she’s got great policy ideas, works well with colleagues, and can actually win an election.

So there you have it, local slobs. King County made it easy, and we've made it even easier. Go fill out your ballot now, send it on its way, and then go about doing what you were doing: Imagining who you would cast on a modern-day reboot of Dharma and Greg. (The correct answer is Nicole Byer and Rami Malek.)