Election Day 2023: Reminder To Vote
Election Day 2023: Reminder To Vote (NPI graphic)

Read­ers, a reminder that today is the last day of the August 2023 Top Two Elec­tion, the elim­i­na­tion round of our prob­lem­at­ic, two-part first-past-the-post gen­er­al elec­tion sys­tem. Bal­lots must be post­marked or returned by a drop box by 8 PM tonight, or they won’t count. Be sure yours is in, and then remind friends and fam­i­ly to vote, too. Chances are, many of them haven’t. Don’t assume – ask!

The pur­pose of the Top Two elec­tion, which the state mis­lead­ing­ly calls a pri­ma­ry, is to win­now fields of can­di­dates with three or more con­tenders down to two.

Sup­pose a city coun­cil con­test attracts ten peo­ple who all want to serve. State law says that only two can­di­dates can appear on the autumn gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot, so eight can­di­dates must be elim­i­nat­ed from con­sid­er­a­tion. That’s the func­tion of the Top Two elec­tion. If a can­di­date does­n’t nab one of the top two spots in their race, their cam­paign comes to an end, and they don’t go on to the runoff.

In most races where not more than two can­di­dates file, that race does not appear on the Top Two bal­lot at all since there is no one to be eliminated.

In a true pri­ma­ry, vot­ers would select nom­i­nees to rep­re­sent each major polit­i­cal par­ty in the gen­er­al elec­tion. The ensu­ing gen­er­al elec­tion bal­lot could eas­i­ly have more than two choic­es. For exam­ple, the bal­lot might have a Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee, Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, Lib­er­tar­i­an nom­i­nee, Green nom­i­nee, and an inde­pen­dent can­di­date or two. But Wash­ing­ton uses a sys­tem that lim­its vot­er choice in gen­er­al elec­tions. The gen­er­al is restrict­ed to two named can­di­dates — the top two vote get­ting can­di­dates from the qual­i­fy­ing round, regard­less of party.

Although there can be two vic­to­ri­ous can­di­dates in each con­test in the Top Two elec­tion, vot­ers in Wash­ing­ton are present­ly required to vote for just one can­di­date per con­test. Vot­ing for more than one can­di­date will result in a spoiled bal­lot. How­ev­er, in Seat­tle, this require­ment will soon be lift­ed thanks to the pend­ing imple­men­ta­tion of ranked choice vot­ing. Vot­ers in the Emer­ald City approved a mea­sure to bring ranked choice vot­ing to Top Two elec­tions for city posi­tions last year, an idea that NPI sup­port­ed and endorsed.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion so far in this elec­tion has been pret­ty low, which is typ­i­cal for Top Two sum­mer­time elec­tions and all elec­tions in odd num­bered years.

As of yes­ter­day evening statewide turnout stood at 18.57%. 717,913 bal­lots had been returned to elec­tions offi­cials, with 690,337 accept­ed and 7,231 chal­lenged. 3,866,640 vot­ers are eli­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in this Top Two elec­tion. Yes­ter­day was the best day for returned bal­lots so far, with over 100,000 turned in.

The team at NPI urges you to be a vot­er and get your bal­lot in.

If you would like to use a drop box to return your bal­lot, which we strong­ly rec­om­mend — Louis DeJoy’s sab­o­tage of the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice has made USPS less reli­able — here is a list of loca­tions for major counties:

Need help vot­ing? NPI doesn’t endorse or rate can­di­dates for office, but the Pro­gres­sive Voter’s Guide is avail­able if you want to learn more about who’s on your bal­lot. You can also use the offi­cial voter’s pam­phlet pub­lished by your coun­ty. And for judi­cial races, there’s VotingForJudges.org.

Start­ing tonight, after 8 PM, we will be offer­ing live cov­er­age of elec­tion results here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate. Most coun­ties will only report one batch of results tonight, and not update again till tomor­row afternoon.

We will be watch­ing a num­ber of races close­ly, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Seat­tle City Coun­cil races, the King Coun­ty Vet­er­ans levy, the Spokane may­oral race, and coun­ty-lev­el races in King, Sno­homish, and What­com coun­ties, the only char­ter coun­ties that fill posi­tions in odd-num­bered years. (Thanks to a suc­cess­ful char­ter amend­ment con­ceived here at NPI and prime spon­sored by King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, King Coun­ty will soon be mov­ing its elec­tions for Exec­u­tive, Asses­sor, Elec­tions Direc­tor, and Coun­ty Coun­cil to even-num­bered years.)

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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