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Informed Civic Engagement Resource Guide: Civic Action

Civic engagement, or civic action, is individual or collective activity aimed at addressing issues of social and political concern. It is a way for individuals and communities to speak up for their rights and influence the policies made by elected officials. Civic engagement is a way of countering the institutional oppression and inequality perpetuated by under-representation of various groups and communities within government and institutions. You can use your voice to effect change.Types of Civic Action include:

Leverage Your Voice by Contacting Representatives

You can use your voice no matter your voting eligibility to effect change in your communities.

Contact local and regional legislators and officials to tell them what you think of law and policy that is being worked on. These officials are meant to represent you and are beholden to all people in the communities and districts they serve.

Below are resources for calling and writing your law and policy-makers.

Contact Your Representatives

Voting Disenfranchisement & Suppression

Introduction

Voting access is not guaranteed to every resident in the United States. Some states engage in voter suppression efforts, such as requiring photo ID which turns away or intimidates people from voting. Other actions actively disenfranchise voters, such as preventing people with felony convictions from voting or denying voting access to transgender people whose documents have not been updated to reflect their name and gender.

Read more about voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement below. 

The basic eligibility criteria to vote in federal elections in the United States are:

  • You are a U.S. citizen (either by birth or naturalization)
  • You meet your state's residency requirements
  • You are 18 year old. (Some states allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries or register to vote if they will be 18 before the general election).

However, some states deny voter eligibility based on:

Are you eligible to vote in the state of Washington? Do you know if you are registered to vote?

To learn more about WA state voter eligibility and to make sure you are Vote Ready, check out the Voter Registration Guide.

Voter Suppression

Voter suppression involves rules and policies such as redrawing boundaries of electoral districts (gerrymandering), reducing polling places, and Voter ID laws that create barriers and limit who is able to cast votes. Many states also restrict mail-in voting so that people who cannot afford to leave work, or who can be threatened and intimidated away from polling places, are unable to cast their ballots. Most often, these laws disproportionately impact Black Americans, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups.  Read more at the links below:

Voter Disenfranchisement

Disfranchisement is the practice of revoking, depriving, burdening, or preventing an individual's right to voting. Some historical examples of voter disenfranchisement include: poll taxes, literacy tests, and property tests. Felony status is just one current example of voter disenfranchisement. 

You do not lose the right to vote for a misdemeanor conviction or a conviction in juvenile court, only felonies. However, you may have your voting rights restored following a felony conviction.

  • If you were convicted of a felony in a Washington State court, your right to vote is restored automatically once you are no longer under the authority of Department Of Corrections (in prison or on community custody). 
  • If you were convicted of a felony in another state or in federal court, your right to vote is restored automatically as long as you are not currently incarcerated for that felony.

Restore Voting Rights in Washington State:

Protesting and Direct Action

Protesting and direct action are other ways to use your voice to demand and effect change. Protesting and demonstrating can draw the attention of the general public, businesses, and elected officials, and are powerful tools for prompting policy change and raising awareness of injustice. The uprisings in summer 2020 over the police murder of George Floyd have already driven changes in many cities' police budgets and practices, and have caused many other organizations and individuals to look more closely at the role of systemic racism in their lives and operations.

Below, find some resources for how to protest safely, especially in the time of COVID-19.

Vote in All Elections

"Voting is a first step in a long and complex process, tedious but vital. You can have a car with all the bells and whistles, but if it doesn’t have wheels, you can’t move forward."

-Stacey Abrams, "I Know Voting Feels Inadequate Right Now"

The dates of the general and midterm elections for the federal government are widely publicized. But there are many other elections happening throughout the year. Use the resources below to learn when elections in Washington will be happening - and make sure you mail in your ballot for every election.

Recent Voter Turnout Statistics

Voter turnout varies from state to state and between federal and mid-term elections. Click here for Washington State Voter turnout statistics.

60.1% of eligible voters in the United States voted in the 2016 federal election. The highest voter turnout in a federal election was in 1876 with 82.6%.

The 2018 mid-term elections saw historic voter turnout at 50% of eligible voters. The last time voter turnout during mid-term elections was above 50% was in 1914 at 50.4%.

Statistics from: Voter Turnout Rates, 1789- 2018 FairVote.org

Understanding Local Elections (King & Snohomish Counties)

Most decisions made about criminal justice, finances, access to education, affordable housing, and public utilities are made by local officials. These elections are situations where your vote has a more immediate impact on local policy, and they typically receive very little media attention.

Use the resources below to learn about the elected positions in Washington and the impacts that these positions have, and make sure you are registered to vote in those elections.

There are many elected positions in Washington state. Do you know what each position does? Check out the Washington State - Descriptions of Elected Offices to learn more!

What's On the Ballot?

Voter Registration Information

Voting Access and Turnout

Take a look at the websites of these organizations that are working to increase access to voting and voter turnout. These websites also offer opportunities to get involved with canvassing, supporting candidates, registering people to vote, etc.