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King County Elections seeks better voter turnout in historically excluded communities

$950,000 in grants to be distributed over next two years to groups

King County Elections and Seattle Foundation will commit $950,000 in grants over the next two years to more than 30 organizations working to increase voter participation and civic engagement in historically excluded communities.

The investment is part of the Voter Education Fund, a government, philanthropic and community partnership. Applications open March 1 and close April 2. Selected grantees will be announced in early May.

“As elections administrators it is our democratic duty to ensure every eligible voter has access to the ballot,” said King County Elections Director Julie Wise in a March 1 news release. “Confronting the shameful history of voter suppression—that has disproportionately impacted BIPOC communities—is vital to the work we do. The Voter Education Fund helps us get out the vote by supporting grassroots organizations, who are already putting in the work and have established relationships within their communities, with the resources needed to give everyone a voice. That is democracy in action.”

Focus communities for this grantee cycle include, but are not limited to Black, Indigenous, people of color, people experiencing homelessness, people convicted of a felony, limited-English speaking communities, people with disabilities and youth of color.

“Alongside an equitable economy and resilient environment, a just democracy is a critical pillar of any vibrant community,” said Tony Mestres, president and CEO of Seattle Foundation. “Supporting equitable representation should be an imperative for us all in order to ensure those who are most marginalized have a voice in how they engage in our democracy. We are proud to team up with King County Elections on the Voter Education Fund and appreciate their partnership in ensuring all have fair representation in our community,”

Selected organizations will work to educate, register, familiarize voters with the electoral process through nonpartisan information, and provide culturally appropriate technical assistance during the 2021-2022 election cycles.

“Our community partners are essential,” Wise said. “This year we have over 300 local offices up for election. From deciding how our taxes will be allocated to mayoral and school board positions, local elections impact us directly. Voters deserve to have a say in these decisions.”

After an initial pilot program in 2016, the Voter Education Fund was launched in 2017 with a $435,000 commitment. During the 2019-2020 cycle $950,000 was invested across 39 grantee organizations. Since 2018 Voter Education Fund community partners have reached 887,608 voters, registered 17,550 people, and held 5,423 community events.

King County has over 1.4 million registered voters and is the largest vote-by-mail jurisdiction in the state.

To apply for a grant:

Interested organizations should apply at kingcounty.gov. To be eligible, organizations must be categorized as a 501c3 nonprofit.

Applicants can apply for up to $40,000 to develop and implement a strategic, ongoing campaign to engage current or potential voters, or up to $15,000 to provide a series of targeted events. The first installment will be distributed in May 2021 and the second in early 2022.

King County Elections and Seattle Foundation will host two informational sessions over Zoom for organizations who are interested in applying.

Informational session 1:

Date: Tuesday – March 9

Time: 12-1:30 p.m.

Informational session 2:

Date: Monday – March 22

Time: 4:30-6 p.m.

To receive the Zoom link for the informational session or further inquiries on how to apply, contact Bao-Tram Do at b.do@seattlefoundation.org.


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