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Empowering Voters: Important Civics Information from the League of Women Voters

Posted on October 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Guest Blog by Beth Pellicciotti

What Is on the Ballot?

The League of Women Voters’ mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. We empower voters by explaining how to register to vote, either online at VoteWa.gov or using a paper form that you can download and print from the Washington Secretary of State’s website. If you aren’t able to print at home, you can go to your local library to get the form printed for you.

The League of Women Voters also empowers voters by explaining the parts of the ballot:

  • The advisory votes which provide feedback to the state legislature on recent bills involving expenditures
  • The purpose of initiatives and referendums
  • How to mark the candidates of your choice on the ballot (The League is nonpartisan and does not support candidates or political parties.)
  • The importance of a consistent signature on the ballot

Understanding the Jobs that Candidates Seek

One of the most important parts of League voter education involves explaining the jobs that candidates are seeking.

None of us are born with this civics knowledge. Perhaps you never had a civics class, or you’re a first-time voter or a new American citizen. Perhaps you are new to the state, as I was in 2015, and had never voted for county commissioners. I remember asking, “What do county commissioners do?”

Before you vote for the best candidate for the job, this blog will help you understand the work done in these public service jobs and the work’s impact.

Information from Civics Textbooks

Civics textbooks are a great source of information about government jobs.

The League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA) publishes two civics textbooks—one for middle to high school students and one for elementary students—titled, The State We’re In: Washington: Your Guide to State, Tribal & Local Government. Both books emphasize the history and government of Washington state and of the tribes in the state.

The LWVWA has been continuously publishing civics textbooks for nearly 40 years. You can download a digital version of either textbook for free at the LWVWA Civics Education web page.

The State We’re In: Washington (TSWI) provides clear definitions for many jobs you will see on the November 8 general election ballot.

Here are those definitions for local public service jobs and the impact of this work:

  • “Counties have elected commissioners who are responsible for setting the county’s budgets and laws and seeing that they are carried out.“ (TSWI, page 103)

The impact: Although you might live in the City of Spokane, the county budget and laws still affect anyone living within the county. Here are some Spokane County services that you may have used:

  • “Building permits, marriage licenses, recording documents, solid waste disposal, vehicle licensing, elections, environmental programs and resources, sheriff, emergency management, fire safety & social services.” (County Services | Spokane County, WA)

County commissioners approve the budgets of elected officials who oversee these public services.

  • “The County Assessor decides how much property (land, buildings, and business equipment) is worth. The value of the property determines how much tax the person who owes it has to pay; the more valuable the property, the more tax people pay.” (TSWI, p. 103)
  • “The County Treasurer sends people bills for their property tax, and makes sure they pay it. Then he or she distributes the money – some goes to the state government, some to schools, and some to local governments.“ (TSWI, p. 103)
  • “The County Auditor keeps records of who owns all the property. He or she keeps records of all the registered voters and runs the elections. And if you want to get married, it’s the County Auditor who will issue your marriage license.” (TSWI, p. 104)
  • “The County Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. In most counties, the officer is in charge of the county jail.” (TSWI, p. 104)
  • “The County Prosecuting Attorney is in charge of representing the government in court when someone is accused of a crime. The Prosecutor also defends the county when it is sued and provides legal advice to all the agencies of county government.” (TSWI, p. 105)

Candidates for many of these jobs are on the November 8 general election ballot.

Hear from the Candidates

You can learn how applicants for public service jobs interpret the work of these jobs by reading the “Voters’ Guide,” published before the general election. You can see how candidates state their credentials in the online Generic Voters’ Guide as well.

To register to vote, update your registration, and see the Voters’ Guide for your specific ballot, visit voter.votewa.gov.

In a partnership with The Spokesman-Review, the LWVWA published the “Your Vote” newspaper section in 2021. The articles are still relevant as we enter the general election in 2022. I encourage you to check out the article “Here’s what to do as you prepare to vote” on page 5.

2022 Candidate Forum air dates list

Another way to prepare for voting is to attend or view recordings of candidate forums.

In forums, candidates are asked fairly typical job interview questions, such as “What do you see as the most important parts of this job? How are you qualified to do this work?”

Right now is the season for candidate forums. Not all candidates accept the invitation to participate, and only some candidate forums are recorded.

The League of Women Voters of Spokane Area has held several candidate forums that are being rebroadcast on CityCable 5. Here is a list of air dates and links to these recordings on YouTube and Vimeo: League of Women Voters of Spokane Area Forum Recordings (www.lwvspokane.org).

You can also search online for “Candidate Forums 2022 Spokane” to see an array of possible videos to review.

If you want to watch the U.S. Senator candidates’ debate and Washington State Secretary of State candidates’ debate, both events will be live streamed by KSPS. These recordings will also be available on the League of Women Voters of Washington website.

Beth Pellicciotti

Beth Pellicciotti is on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Washington (LWVWA). She is pictured here at Whitworth University helping with voter registration in February 2020.

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