Search form

Ballots Were Mailed Out on Wednesday – Are You Ready?

Spark Public

Ballots Were Mailed Out on Wednesday – Are You Ready?

There’s more than just the question of the presidency on the November ballot — here’s an essential guide.

October 20, 2016

Ballots for the Nov. 8 elections were mailed out Wednesday. Are you ready to vote? If you’ve found yourself distracted by all of the noise around the presidency and are feeling lost when it comes to other candidates and initiatives, we’ve got your back. We’ve prepared a handy guide on some of the positions and most talked-about issues you’ll see on your ballot.

Here’s a sample ballot to give you an idea of what to expect. 

The Big Races

United States Senator:

What does this position do?

The Washington State Senator works in the U.S. senate in Washington D.C. to help pass federal bills that directly affect our state. There are two senators that represent Washington State and one is up for grabs on the ballot. U.S. Senators serve six-year terms.

The two candidates are Patty Murray (D.) and Chris Vance (R.). Murray has been representing Washington State since 1992 and her biggest accomplishments include being a leader on budget, transportation, health care, and veterans’ issues. Vance is campaigning to bring down the country’s debt, replace the Affordable Care Act, and to balance energy consumption and climate protection.

To see their latest debate, click here.

United States Congressional Representative:

What does this position do?

A U.S. Representative works in the United States House of Representatives in D.C. on behalf of a certain district in the state of Washington. There are 10 representatives from Washington State in the house — one from each district — and they serve two-year terms. They also advocate for federal dollars to help the state. However this position differs from state senators in that they represent their district’s interest, not simply the entire state. For example, District 7 representatives specifically represent Seattle and King County in D.C.

Don’t know what congressional district you live in? Here is a map and you can find your congressional district by address here

Washington congressional districts.

If you happen to live in King County, you are in District 7. The race in District 7 is between Pramila Jayapal and Brady Walkinshaw. One will replace Rep. Jim McDermott (D.), who is retiring after 28 years in the same position. 

Jayapal’s platform is based on her advocacy for women’s, immigrants', civil, and human rights . Her main promises include raising minimum wage, expanding social security and Medicare, and clean air and water. Walkingshaw’s platform is based on building bridges with the community he represents. His main promises include taking a progressive stance on the issues of housing, addiction, mental health, and transit.

To watch their debate, click here.


What does this position do?

The governor is the highest ranking elected official in the state of Washington. They have the power to veto bills from the state legislator or sign them into law. They serve four-year terms and have no term limits.

The two candidates for Governor are Incumbent Jay Inslee (D.) and Bill Bryant (R.). Inslee has been representing Washington since 2013 and prioritized clean energy and innovative industries (like IT and aerospace). Inslee says if re-elected, he will also continue to focus on investments in education, providing a bipartisan transportation package, and a more transparent state government.

Bill Bryant was the Seattle port commissioner from 2008–2015. He claims the traditional school systems are failing and proposes to fix this through dedicating 51 percent of all state funding to education. He says he will also provide tax breaks to small businesses and address traffic congestion.

To watch the latest debate for Governor, click here

Initiative Measures

How do these get on the ballot?

“Initiative state statutes” occur when advocacy groups collect signatures for a direct initiative to be placed on the ballot. This year, a minimum number of 246,372 signatures needed to be collected in order for the measure to get on the ballot. This happens after the petition is proposed and approved by the Office of the Code Reviewer and the summary is written by the Washington attorney general. Basically, this is a grassroots path for a change in state law. If these pass by a majority vote, the new initiatives will take effect and be enacted 30 days after the election.

Initiative Measure No. 1433: Concerning Washington’s labor standards and minimum wage

This measure would increase the state minimum wage, falling in line with the $15 minimum hourly wage in Seattle. It would increase incrementally, $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020. It would also require employers to provide paid sick leave and to adopt related laws.

Didn’t we already pass a $15 hourly minimum wage law?

Yes, but that is only law within the city limits of Seattle. This minimum wage law would be for the entire state. Currently, the minimum wage of the state is $9.47 per hour, a significant difference from $15.

The argument for the increase is that a higher minimum wage will help grow the economy statewide and offer a path for people out of poverty, and that the paid sick-leave aspect will also put citizens’ health and safety first.

The argument against the increase is that it would exacerbate  make the state budget problem worse, hurt the economy, and the claim that Seattle has not benefitted from the minimum wage increase.

To read more on this initiative (and others), click here

Initiative Measure No. 1491: Concerning ‘Extreme Risk Protection Orders’ and firearm access

This measure would allow an “extreme risk protection order,” which would create a tool to help temporarily prevent certain people from accessing firearms. To break it down —  this would offer a legal path for family, police, and household members to petition to keep firearms out of the hands of people displaying signs of mental illness, violence, or other behavior that suggests they may harm themselves or others. It is modeled after House Bill 1840, Washington’s bill for domestic violence protection orders, which passed in 2014.  

The argument for passing the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) initative is that it prevents gun violence by empowering families, that it respects people’s right to due process and has wide community support.

The argument against ERPO is that it duplicates existing laws, stigmatizes mental illness, violates civil rights and gives a false sense of security.

To read more on this initiative (and others), click here

Click to see interactive map. Courtesy of

Sound Transit Proposition No. 1: Expansion of light rail, commuter rail and bus services

Sound Transit is a transportation authority that serves the Greater Seattle area. They are the ones responsible for proposing transit alternatives. Sound Transit currently has a light rail system that runs from Angle Lake in Tacoma to the University of Washington in Seattle. See an interactive map of the proposed ST3 routes here

Sound Transit proposes an expansion of light rail lines as well as adding more buses to public transit. This proposition is also known as Sound Transit 3, or ST3 for short. It will build 62 miles of light rail with 37 new stations, adding Everett, Federal Way, Issaquah, Redmond, Kirkland and West Seattle to the route. It will also add a new rapid-bus transit service in the East King County area, extend sounder commuter train service and improve parking and access to stations. Currently, 148,924 people use public transit on an average weekday. That ridership is expected to increase as the region population is expected to increase by a million people in the next 25 years. It is estimated ST3 will cost $54 billion for a project that will be completed in 2040, or 24 years. It is on the ballot because some of the funding for the expansion will come from taxpayers — $169 annually or $14 per month, according to Sound Transit’s latest calculations.

The argument for ST3 is that it will better connect our region by adding more light rail, commuter rail and rapid bus transit. It is also the only public transportation plan currently available, and will help ease congestion on our packed highways and is more environmentally friendly. ST3 will be funded through taxes as well as federal grants, bonds and other sources.

The argument against ST3 is that it is too expensive and will take too long to complete. It will also increase taxes on people who may not rely on public transit.

To read more on the issue, click here and here.

More resources

To look more into what is on the ballot in King County, check out their online guide. To learn more about election deadlines and ballot boxes in your area in King County, check out their elections guide page.

Ballot drop-boxes are open today. You can drop your ballot in any one of the 15 ballot boxes around Seattle until 8:00 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Click here to see a map of ballot drop-boxes. You can also mail you ballot from home, but will need a stamp to (or two stamps in some areas).


Megan Murnane

Megan Murnane is a freelance journalist and videographer. She has had work featured in Crosscut, KING 5, and the Global Post. She is a recent graduate of Washington State University (WSU) with specialization in multimedia journalism and broadcast production. She has a second degree in history and a minor in political science. During her time at WSU, she was also the President of Cable 8 Productions and the Association for Women in Communications. She has had the opportunity report internationally from Cuba and Nepal. You can follow her on Twitter @MeganMurnane. 

More stories by Megan Murnane