King county is seeing a rise in ballots already mailed in.
As of the morning of Oct. 31, the King County Elections Office reported receiving more than 411,000 ballots. By comparison, during the 2016 presidential election, there were about 420,000 ballots turned in in King County, at the point.
The King County Elections Office attributes the rise to this year’s launch of prepaid postage for ballots. An ordinance funding prepaid ballot postage was passed by the King County Council back in May, allocating $381,000 for the elections department to set up the system in time for the primary in August.
According to a post on the department’s blog, voter turnout was 43.4 percent, higher than the projected 40 percent. The post also said that the availability of prepaid postage led to more voters returning their ballots through the mail, with two-thirds of voters returning their ballots by mail. In previous general elections, a majority of voters favored drop boxes.
It appears that Seattle-area voters are coming out in force for this year’s midterm elections, but sadly that does not include the foreign-born population — which has grown each year.
A 2018 “Seattle Votes Survey” — done in 13 languages — found that immigrant communities do not register to vote or vote at the same rates as other Seattle residents.
It found that half the respondents did not know how and where to register to vote.
Among the Asian American community, almost half (45 percent) stated they never vote in state and local elections.
54 percent stated they had not been contacted by a candidate, party, or other organizations.
And for 64 percent, the internet is the top source of information on politics.
Other key findings of the survey:
- A lack of information was the main reason given for not registering to vote.
- Lack of English proficiency is a barrier to voter registration.
- A lack of information on the election and candidates in their language of origin increased the probability of non-voting.
- Only about one-third said it was “very easy” to find information about the candidates and the election in their preferred language.
King County translates the voters’ pamphlets into only four languages besides English. Federal law requires them to translate election materials into Chinese and Vietnamese, while King County Council passed an ordinance in 2015 that required Spanish and Korean.
These languages are largely spoken in only half of the top 10 countries of origin for Seattle immigrants measured in 2014: China, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, and South Korea. The translations do not include the main languages spoken in Philippines, Ethiopia, India, Somalia, and Japan. This is especially troubling when 43 percent of immigrants speak English less than “very well,” according to a report by the Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs. In 2016, King County Elections had a 60 percent increase in requests for materials in immigrants’ native languages, demonstrating a need for more translations.
When Democrat Sri Kulkarni started campaigning in a deep-red Texas district, consultants told him, ‘Don’t chase after Asian voters, they don’t vote.”
He didn’t listen and ran a campaign with volunteers speaking to voters in 16 languages.
Nationwide, the Asian American population grew 72 percent between 2000 and 2015. We have the numbers. Now let’s demonstrate the power that we have when we show up in those same numbers on Election Day.
For Northwest Asian Weekly endorsements, go to https://nwasianweekly.com/2018/10/endorsements-for-2018-general-election/https://goo.gl/FJgrsE.