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Don’t wait. Find that ballot and send it in, Washington!


(Nov. 2, 2016) — Have you had your ballot on the kitchen counter — for almost two weeks now — and still not opened it up to vote? Or maybe you forgot where you put it? Or maybe you recycled it, and now don’t know where to get your ballot to vote. Or maybe you just want to wait until the last minute to vote. I hope that is the case.

Voter receiving ballot through mailLooking at the ballot return statistics statewide, it seems a lot of people are in at least one of these situations. In Snohomish County, as of Halloween, 16.5% of voters have returned their ballots. That’s one out of eight voters, not too much to cheer about. Statewide, 25% of voters have returned their ballots. Hey, Snohomish County: time to wake up and vote!

Two areas do stand out. One is the tiny corner of the 7th Congressional District in Edmonds, Woodway, and Mukilteo, where two Democrats are contesting the general election. The other is the town of Woodway itself. Voter turnout in both areas exceeds 20% already. These areas, especially Woodway, are more affluent than the county as a whole. It’s a microcosm of the problem, or really the bias, in American voting in general.

Wealthy people vote more than the rest of Americans.

In 2014, almost half of Americans had household income under $50,000, while less than one quarter had income greater than $100,000. But the more affluent were almost twice as likely to have voted in the 2014 elections. And as you go down the income continuum, voter turnout just drops and drops. In 2012, for families with income greater than $150,000, turnout was over 75%. For families with income between $50,000 and $75,000, turnout was about 65%. For families with income between $40,000 and $50,000, turnout fell to 60%. Every step down in income equals a drop in voter participation.

In our state we can’t blame this on not being able to get to the polls on a work day. We vote by mail, and we have almost three weeks to mull over our decisions and mark up our ballots. We are hindered by a voter registration deadline a full eight days before the election. That definitely trips up people who have moved, are juggling jobs and family, or are just disconnected to the value of voting in a democracy.

But back to those who are already registered to vote (more than 460,000 people in Snohomish County), have received their ballots, but haven’t voted. If you just don’t care and don’t want to exercise the most fundamental right in a democracy, I urge you to reconsider. No doubt there are good reasons to feel disconnected from the process, but walking away just opens the door to more consolidation of power and privilege for a smaller and smaller cohort of more and more affluent Americans.

You say you don’t like either candidate for president? Well, your ballot has more — including your opportunity to actually make or change the law, by voting on initiatives which more than 350,000 Washington citizens have signed in order to put them on the ballot. These could have a direct impact on you, your neighbors and your community.

So take your ballot out from that pile on your counter or your table and fill it out. Exercise your rights under the Washington State Constitution: “the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature.”

Did you lose that ballot? You can get a replacement right now. Go to to download a replacement ballot. If you don’t have a computer, go to your local library.

Don’t wait any longer. Don’t wake up on Wednesday, Nov. 9, and spy that ballot and think, oops, missed another one. We are Americans. We vote!


John Burbank is the executive director and founder of the Economic Opportunity Institute in Seattle. John can be reached at

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