King County Elections and Seattle Foundation celebrate 22 organizations receiving funding for voter outreach work. • Courtesy Photo
King County Elections and Seattle Foundation celebrate 22 organizations receiving funding for voter outreach work. • Courtesy Photo

On August 16, 2015, King County Elections and Seattle Foundation hosted the kick-off event to celebrate 22 organizations receiving funding to carry out voter outreach work in underrepresented limited-English-speaking (LES) communities. The public and philanthropic partnership awarded nearly $242,000 through two funding rounds in its pilot partnership program. 

The event program included an affirming speech from Julie Wise (King County Elections Director) about King County Elections’ commitment to supporting the work of community-based organizations in voter outreach. Aaron Robertson (Seattle Foundation Senior Officer) made a presentation on the unique funding partnership and other upcoming Seattle Foundation initiatives. Cherry Cayabyab (King County Election Inclusive Engagement Consultant) introduced the grantees and language service staff. And a number of featured grantees shared information about their organizations and the impacts of this funding. Following the kickoff event, a grantee workshop and training on the “Voter Participation Community Toolkit” was held.

These investments in community outreach and language support are crucial to engaging high barrier LES communities. For nonprofit organizations working on voter engagement, some of their biggest goals include making sure that people who are eligible to vote are registered, informed about the candidates and initiatives on their ballots, and turn in their ballots. Due to language barriers, cultural differences, and unfamiliarity with the voting process, there are challenges at every step for our communities to fully participate. Voter ballots end up in trash or recycling bins because our communities do not understand the importance of their vote, are overwhelmed by the booklet information, or do not know how to fill out and turn in their ballots.

The funds provided by the partnership will enable community-based organizations to conduct educational workshops, candidate and ballot forums, voter registration drives, and other community events. By providing organizations with funding to carry out this work, underrepresented communities have a better shot at shaping the political and social environment that impacts their lives.

Ten of the 22 funded organizations serve a large number of AAPI communities, which is commensurate to the need for AAPI language support since three out of the four mandated ethnic languages are AAPI languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean). 

The public and philanthropic partnership between King County Elections and Seattle Foundation to increase the civic voice of underrepresented immigrant, refugee, and underrepresented LES communities is unique. This partnership honors community needs and expertise and contrasts the voter suppression efforts and restrictions that are occurring in other parts of the country. Through this effort, we are proud to see our region leading the country in increasing access and demonstrating how shared institutional priorities can lead to community benefit.

Organizations that received funding include:

Bao-Tram (BT) Do is APACEvotes Board President and Seattle Foundation Community Programs Associate.

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