Partnering with Teens and Dinos to Maximize West Hill’s Midterm Turnout

  Community Interest

by Devin Chicras

Our first year in King County Elections’ and Seattle Foundation’s Voter Education Fund cohort was full of memorable moments – from being blown away by the creativity and brilliance of our High School Voter Advocate partners at Renton High School and Talley High School to stopping traffic on election day with our T-Rex in front of Skyway Library.

We were thrilled to find out that after connecting with over 2,700 neighbors in person at nearly twenty different local events over just five months (and thousands more online) that the 2018 midterms saw the biggest turnout in fifty years, and that our efforts accounted for almost 20% of all new local registrations. Over 6,000 of the 9,551 West Hill residents registered turned in their ballots!

Whether some folks just needed a little reminder or needed extra help like the neighbor who was overjoyed to find his rights were restored after having served time in prison, or all the folks who thought they were out of luck until we were able to hook them up with a replacement ballot or envelope, we were thrilled to have played a small role in getting folks registered and prepared to vote. We helped break down barriers by providing materials in nearly thirty different languages and getting out from behind the screen and directly into the community we serve.

WHCA Community Coffee Hours

We debuted a new series of events in 2018 aimed at small, intimate, unstructured conversations with neighbors at Skyway Library. Our event in September drew attention to the King County Elections drop box just outside the meeting room. In November, we helped attendees track their ballots online and learn about how to handle signature challenges.

WHCA’s Annual Skyway Outdoor Cinema Festival

For Skyway Outdoor Cinema’s sixteenth season in August 2018, we made voter education a centerpiece of our preshow activities all four nights. We pumped up several hundred folks in the audience with exciting short clips about the importance of voting, handed out swag, and displayed important information about registering and voting in the preshow reel. Signe and Giselle from King County Elections even came down to help out!

Our Youth Voter Advocates Rock the Vote at Local High Schools

For the first time, we partnered with local high school students to expand outreach to younger folks in our community. Kellie Luther at Albert Talley Sr. High School was instrumental in supporting our phenomenal student partners, Jonah Gordon and Isaiah Mawudeku, as they tabled and developed a touching photo essay giving voice to their peers’ thoughts on the importance of voting.

Christina Neuschwander at Renton High School connected us to student leaders and all-around superstars Eliana Le, Zoei Hammond, Hannah Malkin and Lauren Wetzel, who used the latest social media trends to promote their tabling activities in the Commons area, and created a professional quality video of other Renton High School students discussing their views around elections.

National Voter Registration Day at Skyway Library

We participated in National Voter Registration Day on September 25th, 2018 by setting up shop at Skyway Library and helping several folks navigate first-time registration, and even helped others update their registration information, such as new last names or addresses.

WHCA’s Voter Town Hall 2018

We invited neighbors to come down to Albert Talley Sr. High School in October to eat ridiculous amounts of pizza and meet candidates for Washington State’s 37th Legislative District, including Sharon Tomiko Santos, Rebecca Saldaña, and Beth Broadway. After an open house, everyone participated in a debate that revealed which candidates support a statewide income tax and which self-identified as nerds in high school.

WHCA’s Election Day Voter Assistance Booth at Skyway Library

SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-FIVE neighbors used our Skyway Library drop box on election day, and we were there to cheer ‘em on. Neighbors (and one small lizard tucked in a coat) stopped by for high fives, hugs (especially for our T-Rex), last-minute assistance and swag. Even our hero librarians were on hand to help folks print out new ballots so we could hook ‘em up with fresh envelopes. 

It takes a village

Thank you to King County Elections and Seattle Foundation for the financial and technical support through their Voter Education Fund grant. We were honored to be a part of such a great cohort of organizations.

West Hill Community Association is and has always been dedicated to creating a more engaged, informed and vibrant community. You can help support those efforts year-round by joining us as a monthly donor. We guarantee your support is seen, appreciated, and put to good use.