Today, Mayor Murray announced plans to create the Seattle Votes campaign, a comprehensive effort to significantly increase civic engagement among immigrants, refugees and communities of color in Seattle. The public education campaign aims to engage key communities in the political process through voter registration, voter participation and advocacy.
“Engaging immigrants in the civic life of our City is critical to the health of our democracy,” said Mayor Murray. “Voting is one of our nation’s greatest privileges and we must make every effort to reduce any obstacles that block immigrant communities from active civic and political participation. The Seattle Votes campaign represents an opportunity for Seattle to do what we do best—innovate and serve all of our residents.”
The Seattle Votes campaign incorporates many strategies included in a report by the Immigrant Voting Rights Task Force, which was convened to identify, analyze and address the issues that affect civic and political participation by immigrant communities. The task force included immigrants, refugees, advocates and attorneys who represented diverse demographics.
In his annual budget proposal next fall, Mayor Murray will include funds to implement many recommendations in the report, including work around Seattle Votes campaign and naturalization:
- Transfer the New Citizen Program to the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and expand its scope and reach.
- Develop research tools and examine current data to better understand how to best serve current and potential immigrant voters.
- Work with King County Elections to identify additional locations for ballot boxes in Seattle and explore additional opportunities for civic engagement.
- Educate, register and inform immigrant voters with general information about voting.
“By gathering reliable data, we can accurately measure the impacts of policies designed to increase new American voting and civic engagement, such as targeting outreach to new American voters in their native language,” said Cuc Vu, director of the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. “The Seattle Votes campaign represents the creative and practical approach Mayor Murray takes toward making Seattle inclusive and welcoming.”
In its report, the task force recommends addressing the language needs of new American voters and expanding the New Citizen Program which would help ensure that Seattle’s naturalization efforts are aligned with other City priorities reflecting immigrant economic, workforce, and political integration. The report also encourages the City to work with King County Elections to place permanent ballot drop boxes in neighborhoods with large concentrations of immigrant voters.
“Congratulations to the Seattle Immigrant Voting Task Force for the completion of the report,” said Sherril Huff, Director of King County Elections. “King County Elections will be supporting your goals, most notably in our planning for expanded ballot drop locations throughout Seattle and King County as well as continued support to expand civics education for all of our communities.”